← Back home

Gingrich Fires Newly Appointed House Historian

New York Times
January 10, 1995
By Stephen Labaton

WASHINGTON—Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday night dismissed the historian of the House of Representatives ... after learning that she had once helped to deny federal financing of an educational program about the Holocaust on the ground that it did not present the views of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Gingrich made the announcement on Monday evening after he learned of the evaluation by Christina Jeffrey, which had outraged many Jewish groups when it became public in 1988. He acted on Monday evening after House Democrats called upon him to dismiss her....

On Monday afternoon, as Democrats learned of her past, they sharply criticized the appointment. "It's just appalling," said Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts. "He ought to get rid of her. This is outrageous." Professor Jeffrey ... was an associate professor at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga. She teaches public administration and American government.

At the time she evaluated the Holocaust program in 1986, her name was Christina Price. "It wasn't the kind of thing I would have said if I had known it was going to be in The New York Times," she said earlier in the day on Capitol Hill. "It has never been my position that you ought to be going out and finding the KKK and bringing them into middle-school classrooms."

Professor Jeffrey's evaluation of the "Facing History and Ourselves" project for the Education Department appeared in a record of a 1988 congressional subcommittee hearing. She wrote: "The program gives no evidence of balance or objectivity. The Nazi point of view, however unpopular, is still a point of view and is not presented, nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan."

"The selection of only two problem areas, Germany and Armenia, leaves out many of which are more recent. I'm thinking of the U.S.S.R., Afghanistan, Cambodia and Ethiopia, among others. My impression is that the program, based as it is on the resource book 'The Holocaust and Human Behavior,' may be appropriate for a limited religious audience but not for wider distribution."

The program, Facing History and Ourselves, is a training program for high school teachers and their students and is about morality and society and the citizen's role in preventing tyranny. It included an examination of the genocide of Jews and Armenians in this century.

About the program, she wrote: "It is a paradoxical and strange aspect of this program and the methods used to change the thinking of students is the same that Hitler and Goebbels used to propagandize the German people. This re-education method was perfected by Chairman Mao and now is being foisted on American children under the guise of 'understanding history.'"

An initial review of the educational program in the early 1980s called it "exemplary," and Holocaust scholars said on Monday that it is not ideological or religious, but teaches students about how ordinary citizens can get swept up into tyrannical and genocidal movements.

"It tries to teach about evil in the 20th century, looking at genocide and the dehumanization of people in various places around the world," said Prof. Sol Gittleman, the provost and a scholar of German studies at Tufts University, and a member of the board of the "Facing History" program.

At various points during the 1980s the program was denied funding, although it had been accredited by the Education Department and is now widely taught. It was heavily criticized by conservative critic Phyllis Schlafly, who asked the Education Department to reject the grant application and accused the program of "psychological manipulation, induced behavioral change and privacy-invading treatment."

Professor Jeffrey said she was chosen for the evaluation because "they assumed I would oppose that, because I was at Troy (State University in Alabama) which had a conservative reputation. I didn't know anything about the Holocaust."

Jewish groups and scholars of the Holocaust on Monday praised the program and denounced Professor Jeffrey's evaluation.

Calling for equal time to present Hitler's point of view is outrageous and bizarre,

said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "To come out against the program on the ground that the Nazis were not given their due, if we used that standard on all educational grants, we'd probably have to cut out all grants."

The program, which is accredited by the Education Department, receives private and public financing and is widely taught in high schools.