October 2, 2020

Reclaiming Our American History

We’re teaching our children to hate their country, and the results are disastrous.

James Madison, our nation’s fourth president, had a personal motto that he used to seal his correspondence: Veritas non verba magistri. Loosely translated, it means, “Think for yourself.” But this doesn’t quite do it justice. The more literal and more powerful translation is, “Truth, not the word of teachers.”

Madison, of course, was also the principal author of our Constitution. So it seems fitting that President Donald Trump would convene on Constitution Day, September 17, at the National Archives Museum, the White House Conference on American History — a subject that for years has been hostage to the word of leftist teachers.

The conference was hosted by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, and it included presentations by Dr. Ben Carson, Peter Wood, Wilfred McClay, and others, as well as remarks by President Trump, who took dead aim at the leftist lies our children are being taught about their country and its remarkable history. “Our mission,” he said, “is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”

Clearly, this isn’t what our sons and daughters are being taught. Instead, they’re being taught that their country is oppressive, rapacious, imperialistic, and irredeemably racist. In short, they’re being taught to hate their country rather than love it. And who among our children will grow up to support and defend a nation that they’ve been taught to be ashamed of?

“The Left has warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies,” continued the president. “There is no better example than the New York Times’ totally discredited 1619 Project. This project rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s founding set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal, and prosperous nation in human history.”

President Trump saved some of his sharpest criticism for critical race theory, a Marxist doctrine that is running rampant through our colleges and universities. The president accurately points out its core teaching: “that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”

Perhaps the principle architect of this poisonous history is the late Howard Zinn, an America-hating communist and the author of A People’s History of the United States. First published in 1980 and since reprinted numerous times, Zinn’s book has sold more than 2.5 million copies and can be found in virtually every American school and public library. Is it a stretch to say that this single book has done more damage to the United States than any other work?

To paraphrase Madison, We need truth, not the word of teachers like Howard Zinn.

Mary Grabar, who spoke at the conference, is a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization and the author of a long-overdue rebuke of Zinn’s scholarship titled, appropriately, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation against America. According to Grabar, Zinn “misrepresented sources, omitted critical information, falsified evidence, and plagiarized.” And he promoted communist revolution while denying his own ardent communism. And yet, according to the Zinn Education Project website, “Tens of thousands of teachers, in every state in the United States, access people’s history lessons from [our] website. An average of 20 to 30 more sign up every day.”

Clearly, American history is under siege. And if we’re to rescue it, we should start by tossing Zinn’s rotten tome into the dumpster and picking up Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope, which Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, calls “an extraordinary new American history textbook [that] is unlike any text currently available.”

Kurtz continues, “Land of Hope is learned, inspiring, and honest. That combination may strike a generation of skeptical postmodernist historians and their progeny as implausible, but it’s not. The conviction that our core national narrative is false, while only its cynical debunking is true, is a prejudice like any other. To endure and flourish as a constitutional republic — respecting the fundamental liberties of our citizens and modeling all this for the world — is an accomplishment to be acknowledged and explained, every bit as much as America’s periodic failings and strife. McClay’s textbook does justice to all sides of the ledger, in a way that both informs and inspires.”

“If destruction be our lot,” said Abraham Lincoln, “we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”

Lincoln uttered those words in 1838, 23 years before he became president. Dr. Ben Carson uttered them again during his remarks at the conference two weeks ago. But while Lincoln was speaking of slavery, he might just as well have been speaking of history. Then as now, no nation can long endure without the love and affection of its citizens. We’ve been teaching our children to revile these United States, and we need only look to our streets and our toppled statues to see the fruits of this folly.

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