American History? Who Cares?

A proposal is being considered in North Carolina to change the history program in state high schools. Under this proposal, freshmen would no longer take world history, but would instead take “global studies,” which allows a lot of latitude in what can be included. Already we’re told that one of the “studies” to be emphasized will be environmentalism. You can be sure it won’t be a balanced approach.

The change to American history comes in the junior year, when rather than an overview of the entire scope of American history, students will only study from 1877 to the present. All of early American history will be wiped out. The rationale seems to be that students feel more “connected” to recent history.

Franklin, Adams, & Jefferson Discussing the Declaration of Independence

Well, yes, no doubt about that. So does that negate the earlier history of America? Shall we avoid mentioning such inconsequential events as the founding of the American colonies, the American Revolution, the making of the Constitution, even the Civil War? After all, why should anyone need to know those things? They’re so “old.” We’re not “connected” to them anymore.

Well, I might agree in this respect: the Constitution doesn’t appear to be respected by legislators or the courts. Maybe we should just scrap it. OR . . . perhaps we should instruct students what was intended by it and help them see how its authority has eroded over time. Now that would be excellent historical instruction.

While I’m perturbed by any development that undercuts the nation’s history, I also recognize that even when it is taught, it usually is from a skewed perspective. American’s founders are often denigrated; they are condemned for being racists, capitalists, warmongers, etc.

Ft. Sumter: Beginning of the Civil War

When I teach American history, I don’t ignore the problems that existed, but I always want students to see just how much good was accomplished as well. Problems exist everywhere; in America, we set up a system where we have the capability to deal with those problems. In America, we had a Christian basis for thinking that informed our national conscience. Yes, we often tried to push it away, but ultimately we knew we had to answer to God for our actions.

American history is a grand story. It needs to be taught, but it must be with respect for those who believed in concepts like the rule of law, religious liberty, and representative government. The founders of this country gave us something good. What have we done with it?

P.S. We wouldn’t be having these issues if education were a private endeavor rather than subsidized by the government. But that’s another story for another time.