Letters to the Editor

Distancing from “Ignorance” Suggestion

James R. Lehning, September 1994

Readers of Maxine Lurie's article in the April 1994 Perspectives ("Revitalizing State History in the Classroom," p. 17) may gain a distorted impression of the argument I made in the November 1992 issue. Referring to my article, Dr. Lurie suggests that University of Utah students were "ignorant" about history, even the history of the settlement of Utah or the history of Mormonism.

"Ignorant" is a word I would never use to describe a student, but beyond that point, I would emphasize the following: My students are not, and I did not characterize them as, ignorant; in contrast, I do think, the evidence of my survey showed, and I argued that students come into history classes with a version of history already in mind, not as the ignorant tabula rasa that much of the debate about history teaching assumes. Perspectives readers who are interested in what I said would do well to consult my article rather than Dr. Lurie's extrapolations or misrepresentations.

James R. Lehning
University of Utah