The Future of History

God once offered to spare the city of Sodom from destruction if He could find but fifty righteous men there, a figure that Lot shrewdly but to no avail negotiated down to ten, so there’s hope yet that modern America academia might also avoid His wrath. A full 55 well-credentialed scholars have signed a letter protesting the College Board’s cockamamie Advance Placement U.S. History framework, and even such less merciful sorts as ourselves can hope they’ll redeem all the rest of their profession.
There’s already a grassroots resistance to the framework, which dictates what will be on one of the two most important college admission tests and the most common advance placement examinations, and thereby effectively dictates what will be taught about American history to America’s most promising high school students, and dictates that it will be the anti-American Howard Zinn version that already predominates in public education, while a few of the Republican presidential contenders are already making an issue of the similar Common Core curriculum that the same dictators are hoping to impose on America’s schools, but it’s good to have some allies with elite academic resumes on board. Grassroots groups of concerned moms and dads and Republican presidential candidates are easily caricatured as jingoist know-nothing yahoos trying to “organize an educational system around what can’t be taught to children,” just like those Bible-thumping hillbillies in the Scopes Monkey Trial, so we’re happy to be able to appeal to the sorts of authority that usually are immune to such libel. It’s still 33 less than the “Gang of 88” faculty members at Duke University who signed on to that Ox-Bow incident involving the university’s lacrosse team, but it’s a start.
Among the signatories on that letter of protest from the National Association of Scholars are Charles Kessler of Claremont McKenna College, Jean Yarbrough of Bowdoin College, Ronald Radish of the City University of New York, Stephan Thernstrom of Harvard University, and Victor Davis Hanson of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a particular favorite of ours, along a couple of National Endowment for the Arts chairpersons and others familiar to right-wing nut-cases such as ourselves as the last bastion of common sense in American academia. There are also the likes of historian Robert Merry, a fierce critic of Bush-era foreign policy, the University of Oklahoma’s Wilfred McCLay, known for questioning the traditional individualist ethos of American society, and Harvey Mansfield, whose distinguished career has been accommodating enough to remain a fixture of Harvard’s Faculty since 1962, along with many others who can’t easily be accused of being know-nothing jingoist rubes. They’re an infinitesimal slice of academia, to be sure, but collectively they come out far more diverse and markedly superior to the academic average, and it can only help in the coming fight.
Someone or another –probably Winston Churchill or one of those smart English fellows — once famously remarked that academic disputes are so fiercely fought because they are so very petty, but the fight those 55 academics have joined is of the greatest consequence even here in the real world. The framework that the College Board hopes to dictate to America’s schools is a history devoid of heroes, any mitigating explanations for America’s actions over its long history, or any acknowledgement that this desultory tale has somehow culminated in the richest and freest and most powerful nation in that broader world history the College Board’s curricula purports to teach. Our own high school education culminated way back in the mid-to-late’-7s, but even then we were intellectually marinated in the academic skepticism of that post-Vietnam era. the inevitable result has been an American president who likens America’s exceptionality to that of Greece or Britain and who later insists that we are only exceptional to the degree that we comply with international restraints, and a world from China to Russia to the Middle East that suddenly realized that a post-American age has at long last dawned, and a moribund economy that no longer entices that risk-taking entrepreneur who is now told he didn’t actually build his life’s work.
Reversing course will require a generation or two of differently educated men and women, especially the most promising high-schoolers among them, and we’re grateful that a grassroots movement and a few Republican candidates and an infinitesimal slice of academia are among those manning the barricades.

— Bud Norman

The New Un-Americanism

We were not surprised to hear Howard Dean saying that we’re not Americans and should relocate to Russia or Ukraine. The former Vermont governor, Democratic National Committee Chairman, and progressive standard-bearer is an excitable fellow given to such ill-tempered outbursts, and his sentiments are nowadays all too common on the left. We frequently encounter such vitriol in our social encounters, usually from lefties who are fooled by our disheveled appearance and lack of horns and pitchfork into thinking we share their hatreds, and these days even the Senate Majority Leader and the President of the United States are casting the same sorts of aspersions.
Still, Dean’s rant at a rally for a congressional candidate in Colorado was both hurtful to our sensitive feelings and confounding to our logical brains. Dean wasn’t referring to us specifically, just to Republicans and conservatives in general, but we couldn’t help taking it personally. We were also flummoxed how such wholesome Kansas boys and bona fide Eagle Scouts as ourselves could be considered un-American, and even more so by why we should feel more at home in Russia or Ukraine. Back in our childhood days it was the commies who were advised to go back to Russia, and you won’t find anyone less commie than us. The slur seems especially odd given that Dean was speaking on behalf of a candidate named Romanoff. “Go back to Ukraine” is an entirely unfamiliar slur, and we haven’t the slightest idea what it means. If Dean means to imply that we should go to a bankrupt country run along crony capitalist lines that is being bullied by the Russians, we see no reason to inconvenience ourselves with a move.
Dean’s insults were preceded by a claim that Republicans are engaged in some sort of nefarious plot to deny voting rights, but we’re not aware of any such effort and are certainly not involved. We assume he’s referring to checking voting registrations and requiring photo identification and other rules intended to prevent people who don’t have a legal right to vote from casting a ballot or two, but that hardly seems a reasonable cause to deport anyone, especially to such uninviting locales as Russia or Ukraine. We suspect that Dean’s wrath was inspired by the broader range of our constitutionally-limited government and free market capitalist opinions.
Modern liberals such as Dean, Reid, and Obama are so cocksure of their moral and intellectual superiority that anyone who disagrees with them must be so very evil that they’re no longer entitled to share space in their country. Recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservatives, intrusive search warrants based on criminal conspiracy charges against nosy journalists, the banning of right-leaning speakers from academia, and the occasional beatings of protestors by union thugs suggest that they’re intent on enforcing their prejudices. This strikes us as a rather illiberal attitude, but maybe that’s just our evil streak. There’s always an outside chance that massive deficits, strangling regulations and bureaucratic control, a foreign policy based on betraying allies and sweet-talking adversaries, libertine social policies, and bossy rules about everything from light bulbs to school lunches are indeed the way to achieve heaven on Earth, and our inherent evilness simply keeps us from grasping this obvious truth.
Even so, that “un-American” slur seems odd. Anyone who has read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” as all good liberals have done, should know that Americanism is a creed of avaricious capitalism and unrelenting racism and militaristic imperialism, in dire of need of the transformation that the president promised, and it’s a little late in the game to start claiming that those rich white slaveholders who founded the nation were all up-to-date collectivist Democrats who didn’t add Obamacare to the constitution merely because of an oversight. Reid considers the Koch brothers “un-American” because they exercise their free speech rights to advocate free markets, and Dean thinks it traitorous to restrict voting in American elections to American citizens, and the president seems to think it unpatriotic to oppose anything he does no matter how far it might stray from the Constitution, but it’s hard to reconcile any of that with the liberal critique of America or any historically accurate notion of the country’s creed.
In any case, we have no plans to move to Russia or Ukraine, nor do we intend to stop advocating sensible rules against voter fraud or the economic systems that once made America the most prosperous and free nation in the history of the planet. Dean his his fellow liberals can try to evict us, if they truly want to, but they’d better get on the job before the mid-term elections.

— Bud Norman