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History is for Making Great Men

National Review asked me to write about how to teach U.S. history to young people. I was happy to do so! In the piece I set out a person-first approach to history, making reference to my work with Great Hearts academies and my experience of the Museum of the American Revolution. In the end, I say, the study of history should help its students become great men and women themselves, capable of virtuous, responsible civic engagement.

The piece is behind National Review's paywall. [UPDATE 7/4/18: NR has changed their paywall, so you can read the piece for free!] It appeared in the special Education Section of the October 16th, 2017 issue. Here's how it begins:

"How ought we to teach U.S. history? Well, why do we think young people should learn U.S. history? To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, or to fill in facts and figures on a mental timeline? Perhaps we, with Tolstoy, look back on history as a fatal wave sweeping along princes and powers willy-nilly. But perhaps the study of history can ennoble and inspire us — if we allow ourselves to meet the great individuals of the past and learn from their choices and characters.

As students troop back to classrooms this year, there’s a teachable moment to be salvaged from our national distemper over public statues of historical figures. Every fight over an image of Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee, or Roger B. Taney gives us a chance to discuss whom we remember and whether and how we should honor them. It is easy to set out the stakes: Should we keep up a statue of this explorer, that statesman, those rebel generals? Students should be encouraged to read and think critically about the men and women whose legacies are being debated."

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