America: The Last Best Hope
by William J. Bennett
Until recently it was a commonplace—and an unobjectionable one—that the study of American history was a form of civic instruction. Since Thucydides, historians have searched in the tumult of the past for a meaningful pattern, taking warning from acts of folly and inspiration from acts of virtue. But, a generation ago, American historians began to understand their vocation in radically different terms.
For complex reasons, and virtually overnight, it became unacceptable to employ history in order to inculcate civic virtue, to impart moral lessons, or to foster patriotism. Instead, one was to teach the history of America in the same spirit of rigorous detachment and moral neutrality one would bring to the history of modern Switzerland, or ancient Sumeria.
About the Author
Michael J. Lewis, a frequent contributor, teaches at Williams College. He is the author most recently of American Art and Architecture (Thames & Hudson)