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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Saturday, September 26, 2020

White House Conference n American History

On Constitution Day , September 17, 2020, posted by Mary Grabar (September 25, 2020): The Dissident Prof had the distinct honor of participating in the White House Conference on American History Day on September 17, 2020. See the panel discussion here (also posted at under "media"). Before signing an executive order “establishing a national commission to promote patriotic education” President Trump remarked, "We are here today to declare that we will never submit to tyranny. We will reclaim our history and our country for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed."

300px Washington Constitutional Convention 1787

"The radicals burning American flags want to burn down the principles enshrined in our founding documents, including the bedrock principle of equal justice under law. In order to radically transform America, they must first cause Americans to lose confidence in who we are, where we came from, and what we believe. As I said at Mount Rushmore — which they would love to rip down and it rip it down fast, and that’s never going to happen — two months ago, the left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution."

"As many of you testified today, the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history."

Yours truly spoke about the "propaganda tracts" of Howard Zinn.

Zinn Education Project Finally Admits to Tracking Me! Some people had a problem with that.The Zinn Education Project, the major purveyor of Zinn propaganda, sent out a fundraising letter the same day, announcing,

On Thursday, Sept. 17, at the White House Conference on American History, right-wing historians took aim at the Zinn Education Project, Howard Zinn, and the New York Times 1619 Project. President Trump said, “Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”

They claimed, "Teaching people’s history is about empowering and invigorating students to better understand the perspectives of workers, women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, whose voices are too often erased in the corporate-produced textbooks."

But Mary Grabar doesn’t want young people to hear those voices. Grabar, who has written an anti-Howard Zinn book and travels the country attacking Zinn and the Zinn Education Project, said at the White House Conference on American History that Zinn’s writing imposes the false idea that the United States is characterized by “systemic racism, wealth inequality, and police brutality.” Grabar offered no evidence to refute this critique of U.S. society.

Funny, they didn't mention the title of my book or how they knew that I had been "travel[ing] the country attacking Zinn and the Zinn Education Project." Nor did they mention one single point from my book that would show why Zinn's book is worthy of attack, e.g., falsification of evidence, shoddy sources (including a Holocaust denier), misrepresentation of others' words, plagiarism, etc. My book is available to read (which I am sure they already have) and there is plenty of "evidence to refute" Zinn's critique.

Oberg 1S.U.N.Y. Geneseo "Distinguished Professor" of history Michael Leroy Oberg (pictured on the right) did no better in his  blog post, where he claimed that President Trump wanted to “'preserve our glorious inheritance: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights,' though nothing has threatened them so much as his administration."

And that

He denounced Howard Zinn, whose forty-year old People’s History of the United States terrifies the right. Zinn has lived rent-free in the minds of think-tank denizens like panelist Mary Grabar for many, many years. Zinn, Trump said, wrote a “propaganda tract” that tries “to make students ashamed of their own history.” The 1619 Project, meanwhile, “rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principles of oppression, not freedom.”

The distinguished professor got quite worked up about the panelists, who were, thanks for informing me, "mostly white men." Our presentations "played variations on this theme."

"There was absolutely nothing new here," declared Oberg."They could have plugged in the National History Standards in the place of the 1619 Project, and it would have been a 1990s flashback, or 'multiculturalism' for 80’s Night. With no sense of irony these well-compensated denizens of Right Wing Think Tanks and ideologically-connected [sic] Colleges [sic] lamented their marginalization. And, one by one, they expressed their fear of ideas, taught by historians, that they know they cannot refute."

Has this "historian" somehow acquired our IRS forms? Did I earn money that I don't know about?

The irrefutable historian called it "a disgraceful affair, capped by the President signing an unconstitutional executive order establishing the “1776 Commission” to indoctrinate American children with 'patriotic' values."

Michael Oberg, a "Trained Historian": See, we are not "trained historians" in Oberg's opinion: "The response of these 'historians,' for few of them actually had any training in history, is not to engage with the evidence or to present interpretations of their own rooted in primary source research."


Much of what Trump’s chosen panelists said about Howard Zinn’s People’s History and the 1619 Project was said about the National History Standards twenty-five years ago. History as academic discipline versus history as civic education and indoctrination; history as a scholarly pursuit versus a set of comforting myths we tell ourselves about our past; history as a method for studying change over time versus history as a dogma, the challenging of which is dangerous and subversive. . . .

The "Distinguished Professor" at the state university has not even looked at my end notes, for there he would see quite a bit of "primary source research" (and absolutely none in Howard Zinn's book). He also defended The 1619 Project, a magazine supplement, not written for the most part by historians, but by opinion journalists and "poets," though it has received harsh criticism from dozens of real historians.

Oberg's Tweets Calling Us White Supremacists and Fascists: Oberg was worse in his Tweets, claiming that “On that stage you’ll see frightened white people, afraid of free inquiry and expression, of facing dissent, of having their beloved #WhiteSupremacist hierarchy challenged in any way. This is fascism.” (Ben Carson did not seem frightened to me.)

Oberg also Tweeted, "One of the speakers at the #WhiteHouse Conference on #AmericanHistory is @MaryGrabar (Rochester’s own!) who is not a historian at all, but a right-wing think tank denizen who wrote a polemic against #HowardZinn and the @ZinnEducationProject."

When I asked him in a Tweet what points I got wrong in my book, he replied “Every premise from which you reasoned was wrong, to begin with.” I replied, “It’s not philosophy. It’s history. Please give pages and quote.” He replied, “You’re trying to avoid my point. Every claim you made at that embarrassing fascist conference yesterday at the NA was based on faulty premises, and you would understand that if you had been trained as a #Historian and spent any time in an academic history department.”

Well! The "trained historian" speaks! I fail to see how I could have had "wrong premises" when I exposed Zinn's plagiarism and lies. Quite obviously, Oberg is refusing to consider the points I made in my book. So much for claiming to "engage with the evidence."

But charges of "white supremacy" and "fascism" are something else. Those are quite harsh words in today's climate of rioting and physical attacks on people just minding their own business.

Another "historian": In Slate Magazine, “historian” L.D. Burnett cleverly begain,

From sea to shining sea, historians across the U.S. were doing shots of whiskey, mixing stiff cocktails, and binge-eating chocolate in the middle of the day on Thursday—not to celebrate any sudden interest of our fellow citizens in learning about the American past, but to fortify ourselves to watch the White House Conference on American History. This event . . . was, like all things Trump, part infomercial, part self-indulgent whining, part 1980s nostalgia, and 100 percent anti-intellectual.

We historians who are observing this regime rather than enabling it have long realized that the Trumpian approach to history is a muddle of confused hagiography. But how did Trump find a panel of so-called experts to back him up? As a historian who writes about the field of history’s place in the culture wars of the 1980s, . . .

At least four panelists, including the lead discussant Larry Arnn, have connections to Hillsdale College, the alma mater of many a cultural conservative and a school proudly hewing to “the classical curriculum” (as if there had ever been only one). And two of the panelists, historian Mary Grabar and political activist Peter Wood (not to be confused with the other Peter Wood, an actual historian), are affiliated with privately funded neoconservative organizations trying to mint their own academic legitimacy, Grabar with the Alexander Hamilton Institute and Wood with the National Association of Scholars.

Another "flashback": Wood's "connection with the NAS," she claimed, referring to the organization's founding, "is one of the things that gave me 1980s flashbacks."

Again, nothing specific from L.D. Burnett, though she called me a historian. 

Such articles and missives only prove the need for the President's Commission and for an alternative curriculum to Zinn and the Zinn-ian textbooks.

The lack of specific criticism and ad hominem and political attacks reveal the shaky ground upon which these "historians" make their claims.

For an Accurate and Fair Account: Stanley Kurtz, in his article, "How to Take Back American History," explains exactly why the new curriculum based on Wilfred McClay's excellent new textbook is needed and what it is intended to do. Read it.  

Should professors slur colleagues as white supremacists and fascists? In these times, it could be taken as an invitation to violence. Here is the web page for the Office of the President at S.U.N.Y. Geneseo, the public college that employs Professor Oberg, with all the contact information.


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