I have recently been asked to comment on my web entry on prohibition, answering specific questions for a history day project.
I want to make clear in regard to all such requests that the following applies:
I’ve thought about this question, and, as a senior professor in American history internationally, I respectfully cannot participate. My reason is not lack of time but an ethical one. If I were a teacher in any high school in the United States or anywhere else, I would not like to hear that a student had developed a (good and interesting) framework for an answer to this question, then asked an expert to supply answers. The same would apply for college and university assignments. The point of doing history is to sharpen critical skills and enhance knowledge by discovering the evidence yourself from the available sources. The sources on the web, including my own, can be mined to find answers to such questions. It would be unethical for me to do research or supply this evidence/material to individual students.
The role of the academic historian is, in part, to do the research that will provide the material that tells the fullest truth possible about a subject. The task also includes communicating these ‘truths’ to public audiences in whatever means possible, including the web, and to debate such matters with others, but it must not involve doing the research for students’ papers.
I would draw attention to my paper: “The US Prohibition ‘Experiment’: Myths, History, and Implications,” Addiction, Vol. 92 (No. 11, 1997), pp. 1405-1409 for further evidence and argument on prohibition.