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The historians vs. American history

By C. Bradley Thompson
web posted March 3, 2003

It is now obvious that American children know very little about the history of their own nation. This past year the U.S. Department of Education released its History Report Card and the results were predictably awful: 57 percent of high school seniors flunked even a basic knowledge of American history, and only 10 percent tested at grade level.

What is less obvious--and more dangerous--is that the history they do know is utterly subversive of American culture and values.

I recently attended the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, the nation's largest and most influential organization of academic historians. What goes on at this meeting will eventually make its way into your child's classroom. I was shocked by what I saw and heard.

Of the roughly two hundred panels, there was virtually nothing on subjects such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, or America's involvement in the two World Wars. Instead, there were dozens of papers on subjects ranging from the banal to the bizarre and perverse.

Participants were subjected to scintillating presentations on topics such as "Meditations on a Coffee Pot: Visual Culture and Spanish America, 1520-1820," or "The Joys of Cooking: Ideologies of Housework in Early Modern England," or "Body, Body, Burning Bright: Cremation in Victorian America."

But without question the dominant theme of the conference was sex. Historians at America's best universities are obsessed with it.

One historian from an Ivy League college delivered a paper on "Strong Hard Filth and The Aroma of Washington Square: Art, Homosexual Life, and Postal Service Censorship in the Ulysses Obscenity Trial of 1921." Another scholar from Berkeley spoke on "Solitary Self/Solitary Sex." And one spoke on "Constructing Masculinity: Homosexual Sodomy, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Penetrative Manhood in Early Modern Spain."

But historians' obsession with sex is the least of their vices. Academic history has become thoroughly egalitarian. It seeks to elevate the history of ordinary men and women doing ordinary things at the expense of great men and women doing great things. Thus, the history department at Harvard University no longer offers a course on the American Revolution. In its place, it now offers a course on the history of midwives and quilting.

Worse yet, mainstream historians are driven by a pernicious political agenda that seeks to elevate "group rights" over individual rights. By sanctifying the stories of oppressed and "marginalized" groups, historians subtly indoctrinate students with the idea that justice and rights are synonymous with one's group identity, be it one's race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

But what of America's founding ideals, such as the principle of inalienable individual rights?

Ultimately, academic history is driven by a hatred of America and its ideals. It is common these days for students to be told that the colonization of North America represents an act of genocide; that the Founding Fathers were racist, sexist, "classist," "homophobic," Euro-centric bigots; that the winning of the American West was an act of capitalist pillage; that the so-called "Robber Barons" forced widows and orphans into the streets; that hidden in the closets of most white Americans is a robe and hood.

To help put over this slander, historians dissolve American history into a chaotic hodge-podge of trivial stories about politically correct victim groups. It is no wonder that our children no longer learn the truly important facts about their nation's history.

There was a time, not too long ago, when students were required to study the great events, the magnanimous statesmen, the brave warriors, the brilliant inventors, and the ingenious industrialists of American history. There was a time when American students knew in intimate detail the heroic story of the American Revolution and the tragedy of the Civil War.

American children once learned about honesty from George Washington, justice from Thomas Jefferson, integrity from John Adams, independence from Daniel Boone, oratory from Daniel Webster, ingenuity from Thomas Edison, perseverance from the Wright Brothers, and courage from Sergeant York. They memorized and learned the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. American history was taught as a grand story of epic scale and heroic accomplishment. The history of America was the history of freedom.

Today, our children are being taught to be ashamed of America. By denigrating the principles and great deeds of America's past and dethroning its heroes, today's college professors are destroying in our youth the proper reverence for the ideals this nation stands for. And a nation that hates itself cannot last.

C. Bradley Thompson is the author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, chairman of the Department of History and Political Science at Ashland University in Ohio, and a senior writer for The Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send comments to reaction@aynrand.org.

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