June 8, 2006

Jeb Bush tells us what is and isn't history

Jeb Bush, the proclaimed "Best Governor Ever" by my favorite author, Fred Barnes over at the Weekly Standard, recently signed the state's Education bill into law. Turns out that part of the bill has a tiny section that establishes what is and isn't history (here is a more extensive news article about it):

The history of the United States, including the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present. The history of the United States shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth. American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Now I am sure that this bill has nothing to do with the most effective way of teaching history—as the drafters of the amendment claim. Words like "genuine" and "universal" are not the sort that will excite students to suddenly want to learn history. This is clearly a case of ludicrous wording getting inserted into a massive bill so that a couple of state representatives could grind their ideological axe.Much to my amusement, they don't even manage to logically grind that axe. Over at Balkinization, Sandy Levinson mocks the bill's call for factual, as opposed to "constructed" history:
Note that the young must be taught that that it is simply the case (and not a constructed notion) that the "new nation [was] based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence."
In fact, I think Levinson doesn't go far enough. What type of history can actually be taught if "constructed" history is forbidden? None, and I think forbidding the teaching of history in Florida isn't going to do much for the historical knowledge of Floridians.