Who’s ignoring history?

In the News’ recent interview with Joe Staley Jr. ’59, Mr. Staley, from what I can tell, describes current Yalies as historically ignorant: He claims that students have forgotten that John C. Calhoun was elected to the vice presidency by popular vote. Accordingly, his views (like those of Donald Trump) represented the consensus of the nation at the time.

A few questions for Mr. Staley:

First, what nation, precisely? In 1824 and 1828, when Calhoun was elected to the vice presidency, suffrage hadn’t even been extended to non-property-holding white men nationwide. In much of the nation, only property-holding white men — the class most likely to own slaves — were allowed to vote. The majority of Americans, then and now, are not property-holding white men, or even white men; Calhoun was not elected by the majority of the nation and did not represent a consensus.

Second: what views, precisely? The renaming of Calhoun College was based in large part on Calhoun’s “positive good” speech, which he didn’t deliver until 1837, four years after leaving the office of the vice president.

Third, in response to Mr. Staley’s awkwardly introduced point about Donald Trump, it’s a real stretch to say that a man who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million ballots reached the nation’s highest office by virtue of national consensus.

Ignoring history is a serious problem in our nation, but so is cherry-picking.

Micah Osler is a junior in Pierson College. Contact him at micah.osler@yale.edu .