Thursday, December 15, 2005

David McCullough

My lovely wife, Rowan, gave me an early Christmas present this past Sunday: attendance at a lecture by historian David McCullough. It was a lecture to raise funds for the Camden Public Library, and was sold out. In person, McCullough is as unpretentiously thought-provoking as I imagined he might be from having read a few of his books. There was supposed to be a Q&A at the end of the talk, but the old chap used up all the time in his lecture.

There is one question I would have liked to ask him. Early on in his talk, he spoke of the fact that historic persons didn't live in some historic costume pageant. They lived in their present, with uncertain outcomes from their actions. He disparaged the way history is taught these days, with the seeming notion that A necessarily begat B, which evolved inevitably into C. As he was speaking these words, I noticed shadows of Hegelian, specifically Marxist, notions of the unavoidable progression of history. Since the American educational system is one of the few almost totally socialist sectors of our society, I can't help but wonder if that has something to do with it.



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