Lessons In History
June 23, 2011 by Bob Livingston
In his column this week, Patrick J. Buchanan wrote about the ignorance of today’s American schoolchildren, as revealed by the results of the National Assessment of Education Progress test.
On a history test given to 31,000 pupils, most fourth-graders could not identify a picture of Abraham Lincoln or why he was important. Most eighth-graders could not identify an advantage American forces had in the Revolutionary War, most 12th-graders did not know why America entered World War II or that China was North Korea’s ally in the Korean War.
One of the questions on the test showed a poster put out by the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies in 1940 that depicted a boot with a huge swastika on its sole about to trample the Statue of Liberty and asked which country the boot represented. Four countries were listed as possible answers. But a majority of students failed to pick Germany.
“We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” historian David McCullough told The Wall Street Journal.
“History textbooks,” added McCullough, “are (sic) “badly written.” Many texts have been made “so politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space, whereas people of major consequence” — such as inventor Thomas Edison — “are given very little space or none at all.”
Trendies and minorities have their sensibilities massaged in the new history, which is, says McCullough, “often taught in categories — women’s history, African American history, environmental history — so that many students have no sense of chronology … no idea of what followed what.”
But if the generations coming out of our schools do not know our past, do not who we are or what we have done as a people, how will they come to love America, refute her enemies or lead her confidently?
This ignorance of history is a plague that is leading America down the road to ruin. Socialism (and its related “isms” communism and Marxism), which just 30 years ago was rightly considered a danger to America, has not just become an acceptable alternative to a growing number of today’s youths, but is actually something many are striving for.
Few are the people today younger than 40 who appreciate the Constitution and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, and fewer still are those who have ever read it, much less understand what it means and says. And an even smaller number know that the tyranny of the British Empire the Founders rejected and defeated is no less than the tyranny our own government now imposes upon us.
The result is an acceptance — even an embrace — of the growing police state in exchange for a life of government handouts.
Noah Webster (who authored the first American textbook and dictionary) once said: “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”
Parents who expect their children to learn the real history of America in a government school are deluded. It’s something that must be taught at home. And that teaching is vital to restoring the American Republic.