HIST 698 Week 2 Pt. 2: Some Apostate in Carleton Criticizes Me for My Hubris

or “How I learned to stop worrying about my overdue Week 2 post and love to blog”

I thought this was worth putting on the blog. My last post got “pinged” by a student who is like, not even in our class, tch! I didn’t know our professor was handing out URLs to Dr. @Electricarchaeo.

Anyway, I’m flattered that Alex, whose blog you can find here, mentioned my last post. Alex is a Carleton University student studying “National Socialist architecture and the use of architecture as a tool for creating historical consciousness,” a topic so cool that I have a plan to come up with it first.

What follows is my response to Alex, slightly edited for readability. Read it, if you like. Or don’t. I’d rather you check out Alex’s blog. In fact, if everyone leaves a comment on Alex’s blog by next class, I’ll bring cookies.*

Hi Alex. Thank you for responding to my post. I apologize for sounding like a crazy cleric who wants to bludgeon people with his Iron Mace of Facts. As fun as that sounds, that was not my intention.

 Chaplain of History’s Holiness Andrew, GMU student and self-appointed Remembrancer of Absolute Historical Truth.

What I really want historians to do is to help public institutions stop fact-spewing and promote critical thinking instead. I do not want to plaster my interpretation of history on the museum wall; I want to plaster open-ended questions that encourage the visitors to think hard and discuss. What the public needs to learn is not academia’s conclusions, but academia’s methods. The last thing I want to do is force my own truths upon others. If you’re looking for someone to do that, however, I do live a few doors down from an idiot priest who does have a holy imperative to tell people what to think.

I hope you can see we pretty much agree on what historians need to do. As you say: “What needs to be done is to raise the public’s understanding to a level that allows them … to formulate their own theories.” I couldn’t agree more.

I want to ask you, though, why do you think that needs to be done? I said historians have a moral duty to do it. Do you have a motive besides your own conscience? I am really hoping that’s not it, because if there’s a way to make serious cash from teaching people how to think for themselves, PLEASE HELP ME ABOARD THAT GRAVY TRAIN, MY STUDENT LOAN BILL IS REPLACING THE TRADITIONAL MONSTERS FROM MY NIGHTMARES.

ImageAt least I’m not  dreaming about being gunned down by Hans Wermhat anymore.

I hope you enjoyed my neurotic reply as much as I enjoyed reading your post, and several others of yours. I would like to add that you and I appear to have something unusual in common: That our interest in history was partially founded by wanting to know more about the settings of video games. I rarely bring up the value of learning from video games for fear that I might reveal that my interest in history emerged from childhood games of Age of Empires and Civilization.** I agree that once game design evolves beyond the Do X to collect Y so you can build more Z formula, they’ll offer society a lot more than mere entertainment. By then, you and I may well be the new Old Guard of academia. Together we can hoist open the ivory tower gates like our own professors are doing for other new media.


Tonight on Fox: You won’t believe what liberal college professors are doing with YOUR tax money.

(we should have at least one land in play by then.)

*Edibility not guaranteed.

**PS. Few of the New Left like anything that appears to glorify historical violence. Rightly so, given their birth pangs of Vietnam and the Cold War. I think, however, that games featuring historical violence almost always represent a better version of history to the public than, say, putting the Enola Gay and other weapons on display with little/no context. The idea that playing or collecting military games/miniatures/etc. turns you into brainwashed cannon fodder sounds like something invented by conservatives in the MPAA or NRA, not the educated.


4 thoughts on “HIST 698 Week 2 Pt. 2: Some Apostate in Carleton Criticizes Me for My Hubris

  1. No shame in admitting that video games had an influence! I for one lost days of my life to Civilization 1 and before that, Zork. Didn’t do me any harm. See also playthepast.org

    • Thanks for the reassurance! And thank you for showing me Playthepast.org. It’s fascinating, and I had no idea this kind of discussion was acceptable, much less that someone like yourself was participating. I’ll be sure to keep up with it!

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