I had the good fortune to take a class with the author of Victor's Justice, Dr. Seuss Goes to War and many other titles. He had the unenviable task of trying to present about 2000 years of Japanese history and mytho-history in fourteen weeks. He did an admirable job of giving us background on the main currents leading up to his period of interest: pre-/post-war Japan. We read some eye-opening books and heard some stunning seminar-style lectures -- though he managed to make a 20-plus person class interactive -- and, all the while, he was trying to teach us about his discipline: the study of history. We were given a sheet that had short bios of all the authors that we read as well as some more authors and people of interest mentioned in their books. In our sections (the only time the ratio was closer to 1:10) we had quizzes each week about the salient details of that week's author's bio and other nuts-and-bolts background stuff. It was my first exposure to systematic, academic skepticism. "Who writes history?", he would ask involuntarily.
The class might have been large in spite of his charisma and rigor because it satisfied a history requirement. Nonetheless, I'm sure he scared away a few folks early with the reading list and three papers, but still likely, over the years, gained more, by word of mouth, than he lost.
The following clip and my immediate reaction to it left me thinking about Minear and his insistence that we be critical -- his bio was included on that sheet as well -- and how he gave name to and sharpened my embryonic scrutiny.
Two divergent views of past events and circumstances. With no clear victor, whose story is (should be) given more credence? Why?
Colin Powell's former chief of staff comments about Dick Cheney's new memoir.