Penn State laureate speaks on history versus heritage at Penn State Abington

October 12, 2015

ABINGTON, Pa. — Noted military historian Carol Reardon, the 2015-16 Penn State laureate and professor of American history, weighed in on how scholars contribute to resolving the ongoing Confederate flag controversy during her visit to Penn State Abington Oct. 8.

"We have a problem of history versus heritage," she said. "For students of history, critical analysis needs to kick in — we need to look for points of bias and controversy and figure out why.

"As historians our most important question is why. We can't just examine the facts of the past. We must embrace all of the liberal arts to complete our understanding of history. In the end, it makes us smarter people."

"We must embrace all of the liberal arts to complete our understanding of history. In the end, it makes us smarter people."

-- Carol Reardon, Penn State laureate and professor of history

Reardon, who also discussed veterans issues during a private meeting at Abington, told the audience that the controversy this summer that led to the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds bolstered the consideration of history as a tool for greater understanding.

"They started to ask historians in an effort to explain why certain symbols have multiple meanings at different times and places," she said, "The context maybe didn't lessen tensions, but at least it explains it."

Reardon serves as the George Winfree Professor of American History at Penn State University Park, and she is a noted military historian who specializes in the the Civil and Vietnam wars. She is the first woman to win election to the presidency of the Society for Military History.

She wrote the award-winning book "Pickett's Charge in History and Memory." Reardon cited the Confederate attack that ended the Battle of Gettysburg to explore how we remember, alter, or even forget our military past. She leads academic and public field programs at Gettysburg, drawing upon the site and its history to encourage a deeper reflection and understanding of the ways in which armed conflict touches our civic and personal lives.

The Penn State laureate is a full-time faculty member in the humanities or the arts who is assigned for one academic year. Past laureates include Abington's Linda Miller, professor of English and scholar specializing in the study of Ernest Hemingway and modernism.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 10, 2017