Read William Bennett’s impassioned plea to teach kids the soul of American history once more, published today in National Review Online. I share Dr. Bennett’s passion: So many young Americans today are truly deprived in this respect.
Many of our history books are either too tendentious â€” disseminating a one-sided, politically correct view of the history of the greatest nation that ever existed; or, worse, they are boring â€” providing a watered down, anemic version of a people who have fought wars at home and abroad for the purposes of liberty and equality, conquered deadly diseases, and placed men on the moon.
In his farewell address to the nation, the large-minded amateur historian President Ronald Reagan warned of what we see in our nationâ€™s report card today, saying â€œIf we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.â€ How much more dangerous is this now, as we fight a war for our very existence and expect young Americans to sign up and fight for a country and way of life worthy of their own lives? In the long run, why will future Americans want to stand up and fight for a country they do not even know â€” a country in which they are born aliens? How do we ask them to fight, and perhaps die, for a country they do not know?
Our history is full of controversy, suffering, struggling, overcoming, and winning. There is no reason to elevate its failings at the expense of its successes, nor is there reason to ignore its failings or, worse, turn it into a snooze-fest. The task is to tell the truth â€” but can we not do so in an interesting, lively, and glorious way â€” the way I know and have seen some teachers do?
There’s so much to discuss and explore in the themes Bennett raises in this article, but textbooks and teachers seem to be one great place to start. Let’s promote and reward the truly good ones.
Is this merely a pipe dream of mine that the Republic can yet be saved by educated young men and women who are inspired to really learn and understand our nation’s past, and write the next bold chapter in American history? Sigh. I hope not.