History’s Promise

“If you want to destroy a nation, you find a way to denigrate its belief in itself. Smear its founders. Belittle its accomplishments. Pillory it for failing to live up to its ideals. Mock its most sacred traditions. Deride its heroes.  In the end, you will no longer have a nation, but only a collection of tribes, who occupy the same space but share no common concepts. There is nothing to unify them. In other words, you will be able to pinpoint that country with geographical data, but you will not find a national people.”  Randolph Parrish

The fundamental premise of our Republic is that political power derives from the informed consent of the people and informed consent requires a citizenry that is rational and knowledgeable.  If knowledge of the past is in fact relevant to our ability to understand and exercise freedom of mind, then there is genuine cause for concern. 

The reality is that American history, a once valued subject, is no longer a priority in public schools.  This erosion of historical understanding seems especially pronounced among the under 35, those schooled during the period of sharp decline in basic skills.  The denigration of history will have dire ramifications as our children grow up ignorant of the essential beliefs which guided our nation for nearly three centuries.  How can we expect to preserve our Republic if our children cannot define who they are or why this country was established?

We study history, at least in part, to commemorate and remember all of those who gave their lives to preserve the liberties and freedoms we cherish as Americans.  To forget the suffering of Washington and his army at Valley Forge, the determination of the soldiers at Normandy, or the courage of passengers aboard Flight 93 would be an affront to their legacy and reflect the narcissism and ingratitude of our own people.

The study of history is important because it allows us to make better sense of the current world, to use our critical thinking skills to understand the linkage between past and present.  But history is not just about things that happened long ago, it is about all that makes humanity human, it gives us a sense of identity. 

History contributes to moral understanding of how past,  present and future ideologies have and will affect our lives and the lives of future generations.  It gives us enhanced capacity for informed citizenship, critical thinking and simple awareness.   Most importantly, studying history encourages habits of mind vital for an informed voter.

How can we evaluate war if the nation is at peace, unless we use historical materials? How can we understand genius, the influence of technological innovation, or the role that beliefs play in shaping family life, if we don’t use what we know about experiences in the past?

History must serve, however imperfectly, as our laboratory,  just as data from the past must serve as our most vital evidence in the unavoidable quest to figure out why our complex species behaves as it does in societal settings. This, fundamentally, is why we cannot stay away from history: it offers the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives.

Is it any wonder why the left wants to rewrite history? 

To loosely quote Walter Williams: The job of tyrants and busybodies is never done.  They will use every tool at their disposal to achieve their agenda of discrediting and demeaning our history.  If we give them an inch, they’ll take a yard so don’t give them an inch in the first place. 

Source: Decline and Fall of Teaching History, New York Times Magazine;  Why Study History? By Peter Stearns, American Historical Association; The Decline of American History in Public Schools by Daniel Doherty, Townhall; How to Destroy a Nation By Randolph Parrish, American Thinker

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