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Making History Matter: From Abstract Truth to Critical Engagement

February 22, 2022

A report from the American Association for State and Local History, FrameWorks Institute, National Council on Public History, and Organization of American Historians offers a framing strategy for building a broader understanding of what inclusive history looks like and why it is important for all of us. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation, the report, Making History Matter: From Abstract Truth to Critical Engagement, provides historians, educators, museum professionals, and history advocates with evidence-backed recommendations for more cohesively and convincingly communicate about history. To enable productive public dialog about history, which in recent years has become the subject of divisive political discourse, the report's authors call for shifting the focus in three ways: from truth to critical thinking, from abstract debate to concrete engagement, and from winning the debate to progress toward justice. For each recommendation, the report suggests concrete steps to shift current patterns of thinking, for example: explain how the practice of history requires using critical thinking to evaluate different sources and perspectives about the past and different understandings, focus on the process of historical interpretation rather than the goal of interpretation, and connect progress to the idea of learning from past wrongs.