Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Failing to Teach History Bad for Democracy"

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "Yale professor David Gelernter says that 'ignorance of history is destroying our judgment.' He points to Sen. Dick Durbin's ignorant comment comparing the actions of U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay to those of Nazis and Soviets. His remarks went largely unremarked upon by fellow senators until talk radio made them an issue. Future leaders may make even more horrific missteps: a 2003 survey of seniors at the top 55 liberal arts colleges found that over half thought Germany, Italy or Japan had been a U.S. ally in World War II. The concern about historical amnesia crosses the political spectrum. Bill Moyers, the liberal PBS pundit, has said 'we Americans seem to know everything about the last 24 hours but very little of the last 60 centuries or the last 60 years.'

When Ronald Reagan delivered his 1989 farewell address to the nation, he noted there was 'a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells,' and he would make no exception. He told his audience that the 'one that's been on my mind for some time' was that the country was failing to adequately teach our children the American story and what it represents in the history of the world. 'We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion, but what's important,' he said. 'If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.'

As well-meaning as Philadelphia's attempt to raise the self-esteem of black students may be, we should take time this coming Fourth of July to realize that our failure to teach America's story demands far more strenuous solutions."
See earlier post on Philadelphia's requirement for all high school students to take black history in addition to the above comments.

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