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The Stakes of American History




The battle over American history has high stakes. Larry Arnn writes:

Today our children are being raised in the gloomy light of a false view of our history. This view is legislated and enforced through centralized standards and textbooks that proceed from Washington, D.C. and the capitals of the biggest states. It is reinforced in schools of education across the land where teachers are trained. It is ingrained in graduate schools, where the teachers of teachers are trained. In its most radical statements it does not even pretend to be true. It is a perspective committed entirely to fashionable and “correct” attitudes. Here is a simple example: students all learn that Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder and that he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Therefore he was a hypocrite. In some ways he was, but you cannot quite claim him to be a hypocrite unless you study what he says. And what he says consistently about slavery is that it is wrong and must be got rid of. “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just…. The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII: Manners, 1781)

Children today do not learn this, nor do they learn that Jefferson the slaveholder understood the Declaration to condemn the practice of slavery, and that Jefferson the slaveholder was the prime agent in assuring that the first land upon which our union expanded, the Northwest Territory, would be forever without slaves. If they learned this it would open the way for them to love and know their country better, but also it would open the way for them to understand things better, because things are like that: never perfect. The soul that knows this growing up knows that life will be full of challenges and that it must try to do well, even if it cannot do perfectly. Nevertheless, it is worth the striving.

[Larry Arnn, "The Stakes of American History,” The American Mind, September 30]


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