Sunday, June 5, 2011

Betraying Our History

By Alan Caruba

June 6, 1944 is a significant day in American history; the day that the Normandy invasion began, leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany. I was seven years old at the time and blithely ignorant of it.

Though it occurred 67 years ago, I am sure it is regarded as “ancient history” to the current generation in our nation’s public schools. In point of fact, the American Civil War had ended just 72 years before I was born, easily the lifetime of a man born at the end of that war or even one who had served in it.

June 6, 1944 marks D-Day and is the subject of many books and films, but many wars were being fought on the same day in different years.

In 1813, U.S. forces suffered a defeat by the British at the Battle of Stoney Creek in what is now called the War of 1812.

In 1862, during the Civil War, the Battle of Memphis was fought and the Union captured the city.

In 1918, during World War One, it marks the day the Battle of Belleau Wood resulted in the worst single day’s casualties for the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1942, during World War Two, the Battle of Midway took place, turning the tide of war against the Japanese as U.S. dive bombers sunk a cruiser and four carriers in the Pacific theatre.

Like every single day of the year, a litany of battles and wars fills the history books and on any single day—like June 6, 1944—the lives of people and nations are changed forever in the ancient battle between good and evil.

It is understandable that children should be ignorant of history until they have been taught its highlights in school, but what are they being taught these days?

Most history books represent a national curriculum because what they include is determined by statewide purchases in Texas, California, and Florida. They account for thirty percent of the K-12 market.

In 2000, at the beginning of the decade, a study by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation involving 1,000 teenagers nationwide found that:

• 22% could not name the country from which the United States declared its independence!

• 17% did not know there were 13 original colonies.

• 15% did not know the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

• 24% did not know who fought in the Civil War and 13% thought it was between the U.S. and Great Britain.

• 19% could not identify the three branches of the U.S. government.

• 31% did not know who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The questions asked in the survey represented a fourth grade-level test for 8-9 year-olds, but this level of ignorance must also be seen against a larger figure. By the time it was administered, the U.S. had spent more than $125 billion on education over the previous twenty-five years. During that time SAT scores had dropped 37 points.

Is it little wonder that, in May 2011, the Bill of Rights Institute issued a call for support of civic education based on the discouraging results from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)?

The NAEP had found that fewer high school students reported being taught about the Constitution than in previous years. Only 67% reported studying the Constitution in 2010, down from 72% in 2006. “This leaves nearly a third of American students with no exposure to the Constitution, and 40% of those students are a voting age.”

So, yes, we should pause and recall the courage of those men who stormed the beaches of Normandy and we should keep in mind that it is not “ancient history.” Though that generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines is passing from the scene, some still live. Some veterans of the Civil War were still alive when I was born.

A nation has to have a collective memory of the events that shaped it and a collective knowledge of its most important, essential documents. If the statistics about more recent generations passing through our schools are any indication, they do not.

That is an act of betrayal. I can’t prove that it is deliberate, but it surely does not bode well for a nation so poorly led by its elected representatives since June 6, 1944 that it constitutes an insult to the sacrifices and acts of valor that day represents.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


Carolyn said...

I'd say it is deliberate as progressives have been ruling over the dept. of education and the NEA has had massive influence on what is taught in public schools. It's sad to see such an ignorant few generations- which is why come every election year, you ask young people who are able to finally vote who they are voting for. They usually will say the person whom their teachers told them about even though they don't even half the time know who the opponant is, or what each one stands for!
I am grateful that I am homeschooling, and that the homeschool movement is growing quickly, but it still can't compair to those who are indoctrinated in government schools. God Bless you Mr. Caruba!

TexasFred said...

All that stuff the kids didn't know, that's what made Jay Leno's *Jay Walking* segment so popular...

People watched it, pointed and laughed, called the people 'stupid', and worse, but I have to wonder, how many questions did THEY get correct??

Alan Caruba said...

Good for you, Carolyn! Your kids are the lucky ones!

Ir'Rational said...

We have the same problem - well identified by Carolyn - in England. A very high percentage do not know who Winston Churchill was, yet they all know all about Mary Seacole (q.v.)(they also don't know about Florence Nightingale - but I would guess most Americans don't,either!).
I guess most of your samples would know about Rosa Parks and MLK (don't get me wrong - fine people both - but priorities?)

Conway said...

I wager the "dumbing down" of the populace is a deliberate action by those in power to keep the people completely uninformed when it comes to things that matter. They studied Dr. P. J. Goebbels, and read George Orwell, AKA Eric Arthur Blair.

Drawing on Dr. Goebbels' example, they have replaced true knowledge with the mindless drivel of "entertainment" i.e., radio, television and the movies, along with sports, computer games and celebrity worship.

They now literally promote:

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery


Ignorance is Strength.

All cunningly disguised with a yellow "smiley face" of course. The young ones have bought it hook, line and sinker, parroting it back to me as if it were gospel.

Unlike your eloquent prose, on my blog I denounce all of this debacle using foul language, bitter invective, and epithets directed at every form of man, comparing all of them to apes in the end.

I swear to Christ, if I had any tears left, I would cry, and then probably apologize to the apes for daring to compare man to them.

Rich Kozlovich said...


As my kids went through school I was always amazed at what they weren't taught. If this is any consolation, in England a few years ago they released the outcome of one of these surveys and found that (I am not sure of this number, but this is pretty close) around 40% thought Winston Churchill was an astronaut.

I have the answer to all of this though. Raise teacher salaries, expand benefits and reduce class size. Oh wait! Those kids who did actually get an education that informed them of all of this stuff had really large class rooms, low paid teachers with minimal benefits.

Ummmmm…. Maybe we need to start cutting wages, benefits and expanding the classroom sized once again. That will force a lot of issues to the fore front requiring real change in what is taught, who does the teaching and how much these kids will be allowed to get away with in the schools, which is the one legitimate claim by the teachers. The kids are out of control and their parents are responsible. Of course much of this came about because of those leftists who set policy in schools and are allies of the teachers unions. It is a real snake pit.

Until society returns to traditional values none of this is fixable.

Anonymous said...

Just to throw some ideas out: While the decline has been brought about in deliberate fashion, I don't believe the actual goal is dumbing down as such. I see it as a by-product of such things as wanting to "give" self-esteem by reducing challenges. And, to cite the recent very-non-PC column by "Fred On Everything", a feminization of school behavior. (One example is the furor over boys using a forefinger as a pistol, or drawing a picture of a firearm.) There's more to it, of course, but I don't want to write a book...

However, the decline will continue so long as there is the U.S.Dept/Ed and the NEA.

Ir'Rational said...

"Conway" rants, but has it broadly right. FWIW, I agree totally with the last sentences of each of "Rich Kozlovitch" and "Desertrat" (7th. Armoured?).

Andrew Leatherland said...

Unfortunately it is deliberate but done so with consumate skill. Trying to prove it leaves you wide open to being labelled a reactionary who has taken leave of their senses.

There is a twofold aspect to this. The first is the underlying need to detach the population from its identity and its sense of where it comes from as a nation. Once you do that you can then start to rewrite an alternate. in the 'preferred' image. Your history is a key source of your identity and your values.

The second aspect is the youth. I forget who it was that said it but someone is once quoted as saying "give me the boy and I'll give you the man". The essence being that influencing how a child thinks is a massive determinant of how the resulting adult will think.

It will not take too long before you have more than one generation detached from its ability to recall history.

Donna Harris said...

@ Conway, you forgot Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free). Get a "good" education, a "good" job, and be a "good" cog in the machine. No thinking required, or indeed permitted.

@Carolyn, I homeschool as well. I can only hope that my children will be able to educate their peers over time, and that the movement will continue to grow. The older my kids get, the more gratitude they express that they don't go to prison (uh, I mean, school) all day and then have to bring their work home as well.