History Is Our Heritage: The Past in Contemporary American Culture
One of the most curious anomalies in contemporary American culture ought to be a matter of considerable concern to historians and other educators. New museums and historic sites open to the public at regular and frequent intervals. After a decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s, attendance at many historical museums, villages, and other sites is on the rise. Their educational outreach programs have been redefined and the quality of interpretive activities is more thoughtful than it was fifteen or twenty years ago. The bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution provided an occasion for new curricula to be developed for the teaching of civics, history, and the genesis of American government. Consequently, many more students have been asked to think carefully about the evolution of the present state of our political system.
Looked at more closely, however, the place of history in modern American life is both superficial and precarious. Recent studies have revealed an alarming degree of ignorance and apathy. Our students know only a fraction of the history that we would like them to know, and much less than