I have been thinking about something way more than it deserves. You may or may not be aware that I am an avid student of history. While my major was history (my degree is Liberal Arts), I claim only rudimentary skills or training as a historian. Still, I am certain that if I was a parent of a student taking a history class at Rutgers University I would demand answers from the faculty, the President, and the Board of Trustees.
Several members of the faculty that lead the protest against honoring former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as a commencement speaker and an honorary degree were members of the history department -- including Professor Jackson Lears and Rudolph Bell. I find it utterly amazing a purported historian would forgo an opportunity to discuss and hear the words of someone intimately involved in a significant historical event of the past decade. Politics aside, here is a chance to see and hear the words of person who was a decision maker in world politics. Further, it is an opportunity interact with the first female African-American Secretary of State. This is a case of historians literally holding their hands over their ears and chanting nah, nah, nah in order to keep from possibly hearing something with which they personally disagree.
One of the first lessons I learned in my upper-level historiography classes* was that a historian must recognize and try to eliminate his inherent bias'. Clearly, the members of the history department at Rutgers skipped class to watch General Hospital the day that lesson was taught. Ignoring history because you do not like the outcome is malpractice at best. What historian would skip the opportunity to witness Hitler's Munich Rally? Who would protest a chance to listen to Robert E. Lee? What real historian would ignore a chance to listen to Bin Laden express his reasons for 9/11? I am certainly not making any historical equations, but only a greater point. Would I skip a opportunity to listen to President Obama had he spoke at my commencement? No, I would go if only to view the words in a historical framework.
The role of a legitimate historian is not ignoring facts and evidence and historical personages that he does not like. Would a legitimate historian ignore the words of Castro, or would she contrast his words with events of the Cuban Revolution as described by those who fled the Island? Documenting the past is the job of a historian. Refusal to listen to a person intimately involved in history is beyond my comprehension. Are these so-called historians ignorant of the term "primary source"?
I bet Professor Lears** or his equally outspoken fellow in the history department at Rutgers, Rudolph Bell*** occasionally publish in magazines, scholarly works, or perhaps write books. How can any reader believe any of their findings and research? Clearly these so-called historians are so filled with political bias they are suspect of leaving out key facts and pieces of evidence in order to support their thesis. That is not scholarly academic work. That is not history. That is propaganda.
As such, Rutgers is cheating its history students.
Notes a re below the jump
* historiography is the study of the methodology of historians -- in other words "how to be a historian".
**Here are the publications that you should view with suspect from Professor Lears:
T.J. Jackson Lears (born 1947) is an American cultural and
intellectual historian with interests in comparative religious history,
literature and the visual arts, folklore and folk beliefs. He is the
Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University and Editor in Chief of the Raritan Quarterly Review. His books include No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1981), Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America (1994), Something for Nothing: Luck in America (2003), and Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (2009). He has written essays and reviews in The New York Times, The Nation, The London Review of Books, The New Republic and other magazines. Source
***Here are the publications that you should read with skepticism from Professor Bell:
PS, while I think the students who protested MS Rice are dimwits, at least they are not pretending to be historians. They are just typical ignorant students. I was one too.