I’ve been worried about this for many years. The loss of social studies eclipses our memory of historical atrocities; it eclipses our memory of the damage done to social orders by extreme racists and xenophobes.The humanities at their best, especially fiction and poetry, refine the souls of human beings. They open our hearts to compassion, give a profound sense of human vulnerability, and open our hearts to identifying with those who suffer most. The virtual decapitation of humanities and social studies in our public schools over the past 15 years has, I think, helped to narrow our sense of civic decency, collective responsibility, and moral generosity. I don’t think the decline of social studies and humanities explains the election, but these two factors heightened the distrust between the races and the classes in this country.
Much has been made of the incoherence of Mr. Trump’s proposals, but what really matters is who does — and doesn’t — need to fear them. None of the ideas that Mr. Trump has put forward would endanger me, and I once enthusiastically advocated for most of what he says. No proposal to put more cops in black neighborhoods to stop and frisk residents would cause me to be harassed. A ban on Muslim immigration doesn’t implicate all people who look like me in terrorism. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not force me to make a dangerous choice about my health, nor will a man who personifies sexual assault without penalty make me any less safe.