History as Contest: American Ignorance

An interesting blogger named Sam Ryan responds to my post on the futility of teaching civics by saying:

In other words, history isn’t interesting until it’s contested. Hogeland’s example is the argument that the Articles of Confederation were only really bad for the “founding fathers” and other members of the upper class, and that most of the country didn’t need a new Constitution. Which is an interesting and clever thing to consider, even if it’s wrong.

Nicely put. Although I’m not saying the country didn’t need a constitution. I feel no need to have an opinion about that. The comforting idea that big things happen because a country, for example, “needs” something, in the best judgment of the supposedly most judicious people around, and of those who follow them in the ensuing centuries, just seems to fly in the face of all experience. And the dull, rote foregone conclusion that the country did “need” a constitution, and that that’s why we have one, reveals, under examination, interests that are … interesting.

But I think Ryan gets that’s what I meant.

He did inspire me to fine-tune. What I’m really saying isn’t just that history isn’t interesting until contested. It’s that history doesn’t exist independently of contest.

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