In Search of a History
by Richard Hiatt
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Yet the distinguished historian Lawrence Goodwyn of Duke
University has said that we cannot teach American history to American students. We can teach the "iconic version" filled with virtue and nobility but never a "radical" version that essentially tells the truth. "Race is the most obvious example of what I mean," Goodwyn says.
As a result, our schools do not
equip children to deal with "irreconcilable conflicts" pervasive throughout our history. Efforts to understand our country's past succumb to patriotic moralisms.
As for the truth in education, we have
yet another problem obstructing the truth. It also arrived in the 1960s. We might call it the underside of "civil rights" - or just "rights."
The 1960s ushered in much animus toward elitism,
particularly in education, and with it came an enormous panoply of student ignorance rationalized as a regard for "personal expression" and "self-esteem."
Robert Hughes, in the Culture of Complaint, said
it this way:
Rather than "stress" the kids by asking them to read
too much or think too closely, which might cause their fragile personalities
to implode on contact with college-level demands, schools reduced their
reading assignments,thus automatically reducing their command of language.
Untrained in logical analysis, ill-equipped to develop and construct formal
arguments about issues,unused to mining texts for deposits of factual material,
the students fell back to the only position they could truly call their
own: what they felt about things. When feelings and attitudes are
the main referents of argument, to attack any position is automatically
to insult its holder, or even to assail his or her perceived "rights"; every
argumentum becomes ad hominem, approaching the condition
of harassment, if not quite rape. "I feel very threatened by your rejection
of my views on [check one]..."
Hughes ended by saying,
Cycle this subjectivization of discourse
through two or three generations of students turning into teachers, with
the sixties dioxins accumulating more each time, and you have the entropic
background to our culture of complaint.
John Adams said, "There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide."
Copyright © 1998 Richard Hiatt. All rights reserved.