Respect the Evidence

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I tell my students all the time - ask the questions first then go to the archives. And above all else...respect the evidence. Academic honesty means we need to follow the paths set before us by the historical record, even if it runs counter to what we want to believe. 

This can be a challenge...we want the record to reflect our worldview, to validate it, and to justify our actions. But what if it doesn't? Students sometimes have a hard time coming to terms with the idea that we might need to revise our thinking on this event or see a theme, institution, or movement for something that they might have never considered - perhaps even something they outright rejected as false. History is a discipline, I tell them...not a Twitter meme. And our conclusions must reflect the evidence.

Could we cobble together data to illustrate some point or another that aligns with a particular perspective? Probably. But only by ignoring everything else. And that, my friends, is nothing less than academic dishonesty.     

And just to prove that I'm not kidding about this, I tell them my own story of how I set out to demonstrate something that I knew in my heart of hearts to be true...and then turned out not to be. I'll tell you the same story - just ask :)