Response to Temkin

November 28, 2018 |  Tagged , | Comments Off on Response to Temkin

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Rebecca Voisich

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In his New York Times article, Moshik Temkin claims that ‘Historians Shouldn’t be Pundits’. His article exposes historians as stepping outside their sphere, at least in his opinion, by commenting on current events and politics on news channels and media outlets. While I would be remiss to make a comparison that would only infuriate him, his rhetoric does remind me somewhat of the speech going around currently, whether it’s right-wing politicians seeking to call out athletes or celebrities for getting ‘involved’ in politics that they ‘don’t understand’, or very recently, the NRA tweeting out to doctors about ‘staying in their lane’ when it comes to the topic of gun control. Why can’t historians comment on current events and politics? Why does this involvement in debate and discourse make them a pundit?

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I would agree with Temkin’s loathe for a bad comparison; the work of a historian is not simple, therefore an over-simplified answer is frustrating to them. I also understand the distaste in seeing professionals used for their knowledge to become clickbait, or an easy headline cover. I however, do not put this blame on the historians. While not condoning ‘bad’ histories, or historians who have allowed themselves to be used for specific political agendas, I think it is important to understand why so many historians are suddenly feeling the urge to get involved in the discussion and why it is not necessarily a bad thing.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Historians are traditionally great researchers and avid students of the written word and factual evidence. This combination appears to be a surefire guarantee that, when done in good faith, the work of a historian will be a product of intelligence and eloquence. These qualities are not what most people seem to find in the regular news cycle on TV or social media outlets,, including the bits from historians. This, in my opinion, does not mean that historians should ‘stay in their line’ but instead it clearly shows that they need to learn how to interact with other disciplines on a more effective level. Do historians have important and beneficial opinions to share about current events? Yes. Do they always know the best way to express those opinions? No. There seems to be, in my opinion, two simple solutions to this problem: education and different medias.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Maybe Fox News or MSNBC are simply not the proper outlets for presenting historical opinions because they do not provide the means for individuals to express themselves in a time-effective manner. Are there other media outlets that historians can start tapping in to? If there is, they should start seeking out those opportunities instead, if albeit they first appear less glamorous. Maybe there is no good media outlet currently available for them; this only means that members of the public history domain, like museums and cultural institutions, need to begin to support the academics in their field by possibly sponsoring history-related podcasts or other media-related events. This collaboration promotes solidarity within the field, while also drawing historical, and well-researched connections and ‘comparisons’ to the past and present events.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Education is also an option; if historians do not know how to discuss the past in relation to current events in a intelligent manner, then we should start teaching them how. Is this type of teaching found in History MA or PhD coursework? Not really. This is probably because many academics, like Temkin, believe it to be outside the world of proper and traditional academia. This should not be the case; coursework on rhetoric and public speaking, outside the classroom, would seem like a very beneficial skill for future historians to possess, regardless of where their career takes them.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I do not claim to have the academic or educational background that Temkin possesses, but, again, should that keep me out of the conversation? Not all disciplines or fields would benefit from historians asking for a seat at the table; politics, however, has always been one of them. Today, political discourse tends to be found more frequently on twitter than it does in the pages of peer-reviewed journals. It is simply time for historians to adapt, if they choose to be involved in the conversation, and I would argue that there is nothing wrong with that.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0  


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