“Questioning What I Know”

It has seemed impossible to avoid confronting rampant ignorance about the United States constantly being spouted on-line by whoever is taking the time to post. I have often felt smugly comfortable that I knew U.S. history fairly well. But some time ago, I began to question what I actually did know. I picked up the book above, The Accidental President by A.J. Baime, and began to read about the first four months of President Harry Truman’s presidency from April through August 1945.

But first a clarifying point that might help you know me a little better. In high school, “English” class freely mixed authors from various places. In other words I read American writers in “English” class. When I arrived a totally clueless college freshman in 1960, I enrolled in English 10, the introductory course at Harvard at the time. An astute reader can predict what happened. I read Chaucer to Eliot(remember Eliot was still fairly “modern” in 1960.) Not an American author anywhere. To read them I would have had to take English 70. And I hadn’t. Accordingly I had to learn a great deal of English, not American, history.

My English major continued apace, as I read the War Poets, 19th Century English novels and so on. My reading of English history went along with the literature. I learned about monarchs, laws, enclosures, Prime Ministers, struggles with Ireland, political parties and so on. The same astute reader will now understand a problem about my knowledge of United States history.

The only time I formally studied American history was in 1962/1963 when I was 15. Keep that in mind as I begin to share my readings in the next several posts.

9 thoughts on ““Questioning What I Know”

  1. I have come to believe that “Fake News” has been around for ever. History changes according to who wrote it, when it was written, and whose side they were on , either in war or in politics. Heroes suddenly become villains, good ideas become idiotic decisions, sound fiscal policy is suddenly a profligate decision. Will things change? Will it get better? Sadly, I fear not!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most of the English I was taught was based solely around British authors, and the History was mainly about Britain too. I was left to seek out American (and other foreign) writers myself, reading Hemingway, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, and Camus, among others.
    Best wishes, Pete.


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