The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The importance of historical accuracy in the present day

When thinking about a certain country, the images that appear come from a history that has been laid out in front of us from a variety of sources. The question, though, is who exactly is writing that history, and how is it being presented to the general population?

History is presented to the public in a variety of different manners. Academic monographs, popular film, commercial textbooks and public museums are only a few of the outlets that are utilized to present the history of one’s country. All of these methods have their own governing rules, missions and guidelines that must be followed in the process. With this context, the groundwork for comprehending the process of writing the history for America can be better understood.

When it comes to textbooks in schools, there is one main organization that has controlled the power of deciding which books are suitable for students. Founded in 1989, the American Textbook Council reviews history textbooks and other educational materials and is “dedicated to improving the social studies curriculum and civic education of the people.”

Tom Foster, Associate Chair and Professor of DePaul’s history department addressed key concerns that must be considered before accusations are made at the individuals in charge of deciding what history is suitable for the citizens.

“In particular, they have to wrestle with concerns of how to best present history to the public, and whose perspectives and stories get told, and whose do not,” Foster said.

Intertwined within the history of a country lies the good and the bad. Success within a country does not come without the presence of some sort of tragedy laced in the background as well. With these positive and negative aspects, measures must be taken to remember and memorialize these events.

Located in a small section of high desert in California’s Eastern Sierra region, the Manzanar National Historic Site has paired multiple different stories together to explain the painful narrative of relocation that occurred within the United States’ past. Stewarded by the National Parks Service, the group has aimed to remember and take ownership for the relocation of the indigenous Paiute people, along with the War Relocation Center than confined more than 100,000 Japanese Americans in the early 1940s.

The mission statement behind this camp is centered on the hope that a constant reminder can be present for current and future generations about the fragility of American civil liberties. A statement like this is powerful, but in a society where the civil liberties of its citizens are still being jeopardized, the site’s impact is questionable without some form of action being taken.

Specifically, the controversy surrounding the civil liberty of gay marriage – which the state of Illinois has thankfully voted to allow – is still being contested in countless other states, which directly challenges the civil liberties of its citizens. The resources are there, but actions must be made to reinforce these words that have been presented to the public.

On the other hand, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was opened in 1993 in Washington D.C. to broaden public knowledge and commemorate the unthinkable tragedy that unfolded during World War II. Although the right intentions are clearly evident, it seems that the museum as a whole is lacking the inclusion of the painful narratives that are related to World War II.

Amy Tyson, an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at DePaul, summed up the process of remembering national history.

“Digging into the history of the various remembrance sites in the United States sheds light onto the complicated nature of national remembering, as well as (shedding light into) how referring to a unified national remembering is problematic,” said Tyson.

American history will continue to be a debated topic that occupies the minds of scholars, students, and citizens of all walks of life. The effort put forth by the United States in capturing the true history of the country while also addressing the many tragedies that have occurred, although remarkable, still has room for improvement. DePaul University’s Department of History has long been committed to helping students address the correct questions and gain a complete understanding of the history of America.

“Questions regarding how history has been publicly remembered – and sometimes erased – are central to the field of Public History,” Foster said. “Professor Amy Tyson is the Director of the Department of History’s Public History concentration, which offers classes in historical memory; oral history; local and community history; public programming and historical interpretation; as well as a seminar taught at the Chicago History Museum by museum staff. Each of these courses focus on experiential, hands-on course projects that aim to connect students and their work with an audience beyond the classroom.” 

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