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The Corner

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Who Says Americans Don’t Know Their History?



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For a few weeks, I kept hearing an ad on NPR for The Nature Conservancy. I’m sure it’s a fine organization, but as an historian, I couldn’t help admiring their tag line: “The Nature Conservancy, partnering with the private sector to prevent catastrophic events like the Dust Bowl” (or something close to that). Now, if you think dredging up memories of an 80-year-old event that most Americans under 40 have never heard of is good for business, then you’re my kind of non-profit organization.

If only other groups would follow this lead, it could become a parlor game:

The Council of Christians and Jews, working together to prevent catastrophies like The Inquisition;

The National Gardening Association, working with green thumbs to prevent mass hysteria like the Dutch Tulip Mania;

The National Genealogical Society, working with parents to prevent tragedies like the False Dmitri;

The Paleoanthropology Society, educating scientists so as to prevent mistakes like the Piltdown Man;

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, plumbing the depths to prevent hoaxes like Nessie.

Speaking of which, haven’t heard about Nessie for a while. Used to be a staple of news’ odds and ends. Maybe have to donate to Woods Hole.



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