"History is often taught in categories—women's history, African American history, environmental history—so that many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what."McCullough sounds a bit self-promoting or self-defensive there. He knows he writes well. He's popular. And other historians disrespect that, perversely. But keep to the point. Who writes textbooks for schoolkids? Not the lofty scholars McCullough has a gripe about. There should be an immense amount of care taken with respect to school textbooks. Why wouldn't those things be written especially well? The whole point is to digest material and present it for the consumption of children.
What's more, many textbooks have become "so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence farther back"—such as, say, Thomas Edison—"are given very little space or none at all."
Mr. McCullough's eyebrows leap at his final point: "And they're so badly written. They're boring! Historians are never required to write for people other than historians."
Also, it seems to me that McCullough himself gives "considerable space" to "minor characters" to satisfy the "fashionable" interest in women's history. I read his tome about Truman, and there was an insane amount of material about Bess Truman. I mean, there's no historical significance at all to Bess Truman as far as I can remember. It just doesn't matter. It was pablum for female readers. And then he did it again with his book about John Adams. Abigail Adams is more important than Bess Truman, but nevertheless, why are we reading a thousand-page book about a reasonably nice marriage? Clearly, McCullough isn't following some rule about giving characters attention in proportion to their historical significance.