Although history as entertainment in the movies and television is at an all-time high, its appeal as a major on college campuses across the country is at an all-time low (“History As Seen on TV,” Washington Examiner, Apr. 9). Since 2008, there has been a 30 percent decline in the number of undergraduate degrees in history, according to the American Historical Association. In sharp contrast, however, during the same period five of the Oscars have been historical or biographical dramas.
How to account for the disparity? Entertainment focuses on great men and women who have faced daunting conditions and yet triumphed. That “great man” approach has captured the attention of the public. In the academy, however, social and economic determinism, with emphasis on oppression, is the how history is taught. The entertainment industry’s approach to history is far more engaging because it makes history come to life.
I doubt that things will change on college campuses. Indoctrination seems to be more important than a balanced approach to the subject. Anyone doubting that needs to remember how speakers with politically incorrect views are either disinvited before they appear or harassed after they arrive.
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