The swindlers who used invisible cloth to clothe the Emperor in Anderson’s timeless tale are small potatoes compared to the swindlers dressing up the minds of our children in the public schools. It is one thing to swindle a foolish and vain king out of his gold and gravitas, but quite another to swindle the American people out of the minds and souls of their children. The self-proclaimed “experts” in public education are the swindlers writ-large. They have been consistent for generations in creating imaginary educational garments in a venture pretending to outfit society for success. They have utterly failed and we remain mute for fear of appearing ignorant concerning the latest educational fashions. The children see the Empress is naked and cry out, but their laments fall on deafened ears.
One particular invisible garment is National History Day. It “is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students.” National History day was awarded the “prestigious” 2011 National Humanities Medal by none other than Obama. I learned much about this blindly applauded scheme when I was assigned a classroom full of innocent children to be exposed to the National History Day experience. It was at once dreadful and heartbreaking.
This year’s theme was “Rights and Responsibilities.” And by this they mean, not a return to that properly ordered justice that seeks to render to the other what is due him by way of natural rights and attendant duties, but the rights of the downtrodden and the responsibilities of the oppressors to indulge their “rightful” demands. This is a theme that has been woven throughout many of the National History Day projects from its inception.
It is a characteristic of invisible cloth to be called something it is not, and National History Day is no exception. That it is national is true enough but peripheral. It is the invisible “history” that is so troubling. History it is called, but history it is not. If American Public education were concerned with truth in representation, then at the very least it would change the name of this dreadful program to “National Ideology Day.”
The National History Day website holds out examples of projects. It seems that they are unembarrassed about the ideological nature of their output. Undoubtedly there are some well-done history projects out there, but they come from good homes not the program. Sadly, at their roots the majority of projects are liberal leftist discourses intending to bash America, or further break down traditional morals. Their themes include feminism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, American imperialism, contraception, workers’ rights and many more besides. They are not, as advertised, anything associated with the true nature of history. Look through a few and see if you are edified or horrified.
Maria Sutton in her paper on the sinking of the USS Maine made the point that the Spanish American war was “a turning point that ultimately resulted in America becoming a hegemonic nation.” She further explained that “utilizing the ideas of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, preacher Josiah Strong rallied the American public to the cause of expansion.” Ms. Sutton’s anti-American bent is all too common throughout many of the projects.
Another disordered public example is Mia Radovanovic’s sociopolitical offering of an exhibit she called Margaret Sanger: The Birth of Women’s Control. Ms. Radovanovic tries to glorify Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement, which she claims “has been a topic of consistent and rather perplexing controversy.” Her exhibit is a feminist diatribe about the freedom that contraceptive pills provide women. Is the sexual license of women really an appropriate topic to be presented by a teenager for teachers and students alike in a history day project? Certainly Margret Sanger is a worthy topic to be discussed, but in a similar vein to the Holocaust, not the civil rights movements.
National History Day is not about history in any meaningful sense. The swindlers have a method to propagate their invisible rendition of “history” called “historical interpretation.” Concisely, “historical interpretation” is “to develop and foster a historical perspective to persuade your readers to reinterpret the text, based on your understanding of the period and motivations of the author.” It is a personal response to past events grounded in the authority of the individual, as if history is in the eye of the beholder. As must be the case with relativistic historical revisionists, the tricksters behind National History Day intend that every different opinion be held as equally valid (except the truth of course).
To further understand the dreadful nature of “historical interpretation,” this article from World History Connected entitled Teaching the Skill of Historical Interpretation can be of clarifying assistance. The author Sharon Cohen advocates directly teaching the dreadful historical method which was stillborn out of skepticism. She repeats Stanford University Professor Sam Wineburg’s bizarre opinion that “what historians do is an ‘unnatural act.’” And based on that she claims: “our goals should be to guide students toward asking “naturally” about the context of anyone’s argument whether about the past or about current issues.” These swindlers intend to teach our children that every historian has a bias and instead of reading history as history, they encourage our students to read the histories written by certain men and then to judge the contexts and motives of the men who wrote them, not the histories themselves.
We shouldn’t be too shocked that our public schools have sunk to such depths of depravity by substituting invisible cloth for history, for they have committed commensurate frauds with both math and language. It is surprising however that some conservatives have been lulled into an acquiescent trance by the pulsating rhythms of educational propaganda. Public education falsely promises to create “21st century citizens” prepared to usher the United States into an age of prosperity by the means of new and improved educational methods- but I ask, how is this march into a future economic glory going to take place when our students and teachers alike are completely bereft of any knowledge of history? As Santayana quipped “he who doesn’t understand history is doomed to repeat it.” We are in the midst of repeating a treacherous stretch of history as we speak. The swindlers are poised to repeat the line of one of the 20th century’s darker horses who said “your child belongs to us already.”
Herodotus of Halicarnassus wrote his wonderful Histories because he wanted to preserve “from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and to prevent the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians from losing their due [measure] of glory.” In Plutarch’s astounding historical biographies, he states in Nicias: “I shall endeavour to bring together; not collecting mere useless pieces of learning, but adducing what may make his disposition and habit of mind understood.” If only the fabricators of National History Day could know the minds of the great historians they might begin to see the idiocy of their designs.
The good historian is a man in full, a clear-sighted scribe composing accurate missives from across the rivers of time. They are the benefactors of our patrimonial inheritance. We teachers ought to be as diligent curriers faithfully delivering the epistles unaltered. The students ought to be eager recipients yearning to read and understand the communiqués that edify the mind and soul by way of clothing it in the truth about things past. Without such clothing, the arduous quest to apprehend what constitutes the fulfillment of the human condition may never begin, for the climes at the heights of historical inquiries are neither for the small souled nor for the intellectually naked. The great historians can reveal to us the disposition of character and the habits of mind possessed by those great souls who would move and shake both heroically and villainously the momentous occasions that confront all generations. It is only the mind and soul clothed in historical truth that can valiantly confront the storms on our own horizons.
National History Day is a mockery of history and causes great offense to the real nature of historical inquiry by turning the field on its head. It attempts to give young children the false impression that they are to be the scribes we used to call historians. The most devastating goal of this invisible history program is that it inculcates an intractable pride manifesting a savage belief in self-reference. In other words it breeds ideologues. The good Fr. James V. Schall writes in his book The Modern Age that “if what we think is “past” did not actually happen or was different from what took place, we are dealing with ideology, not reality.” National History Day encourages its participants to see things not as they are, but as they would like them to be and for this reason alone it should properly be called National Ideology Day.
For the rest of the falsity propagated by the swindlers, the absence of outrage for what they have done to our children is a chilling omen that makes Anderson’s fairy tale more historically accurate than all the History Day projects put together.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.