Posted by Curt on 18 June, 2016 at 5:00 am. 2 comments already!


Stanley Kurtz:

The times they are a changin’. Atheists are on the march (literally), while the traditionally religious are in a defensive crouch. Bernie Sanders has broken the taboo on socialism, as a new generation questions the legitimacy of free enterprise. Freedom of speech, that most fundamental and cherished American liberty, is endangered in unprecedented ways. And a presidential candidate who wants to make America great again has what even his defenders might concede is a limited grasp of the constitutional underpinnings of that greatness. In sum, America as we’ve known it seems lately to be slipping away. I think I know an important part of the reason why: bad history.

America’s founders understood themselves to be reviving something that had been lost for millennia: republican democracy. Educated in the classics, the founders knew well the fates of Athenian and Roman democracy, and they dreaded another fall. Thomas Jefferson especially, and the other founders as well, believed that education would be the surest safeguard of America’s liberty. The Constitution by itself, they knew, would not be enough. Only knowledge of the history of liberty and the reasons for its periodic loss would inspire the public with the knowledge and desire to protect America’s freedoms.

But what if education itself were to turn against liberty? In that case we would be lost.

An extraordinary new report authored by historian David Randall of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), “The Disappearing Continent,” suggests that this is what may be happening to us. At one level, The Disappearing Continent is a devastating critique of the College Board’s newly-issued curriculum for its Advanced Placement European History (APEH) course. That course is the closest most Americans will come to a class in what used to be called Western Civilization. And the new curriculum will shape textbooks, and the way in which all high school and college students are taught about our Western heritage for years to come.

Rightly understood, however, the NAS report also provides a profound explanation for today’s cultural and political headlines: the rise of secularism and the discrediting of religion; debunking hostility toward economic and political liberty; the rise of a soft form of Marxism; and the undermining of Western exceptionalism in a way that leaves even the West’s would-be defenders bereft of resources to make a stand. The contours of our education have become the contours of our politics.

The history of Europe, of course, is particularly important because it is our history. To make sense of American Catholicism, you need to understand the history of medieval, Renaissance, and modern European Christianity. American Protestantism rests on the achievements of Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and a host of other continental reformers. American democracy is rooted in the history of European and especially British liberty, including the long struggle for parliamentary democracy, the writings of Hobbes and Locke, and the tradition of English common law. Economic liberty has roots in the achievements of the Industrial Revolution and the writings of Adam Smith.

Incredibly, however, as the NAS Report establishes in devastating detail, APEH omits, minimizes, or subtly undermines all these core themes of Western history. APEH skips medieval Christianity entirely and “fails to convey the actual content of even the most basic developments in Reformation theology,” while reducing religion to a mere instrument of political power.

APEH also barely mentions the history of European liberty, and minimizes the history of Britain in particular, although Britain is the traditional focus of American interest in Europe’s history. When discussed at all, British parliamentary democracy is treated as little more than a tool of class interests. APEH also “minimizes the role that Britain’s political, economic, and social liberty played in fostering the Industrial Revolution.” The new curriculum likewise plays up the alleged failings of free enterprise at every turn, and has virtually nothing to say of Europe’s great inventors and entrepreneurs.

What is going on here? I’ll give you a hint. The College Board’s new AP European History curriculum minimizes both the revolutionary violence of the Socialist tradition and the brutality of the Soviet regime. While APEH strains to make free enterprise look as bad as possible and rightly condemns the cruelties of slavery, it obscures the evil and dysfunctionality of Communism. While APEH offers a debunking class-based analysis of English Parliamentary democracy, it embraces the most questionable self-descriptions of Marxism and adopts a troubling stance of moral equivalence toward the Western and Soviet blocks of the Cold War. While APEH paints religion in a negative light, it minimizes or passes over not only the Soviet Union’s atheistic hostility to religion, but also the broader and often murderous European tradition of leftist anti-clericalism.

In short, as the NAS puts it, “APEH follows modern progressive historians’ soft-Marxist interpretation of the history of Europe, which works to justify modern progressivism’s soft-Marxist political action in the present…APEH shreds European history to serve today’s progressive agenda.”

It’s often said that millennials support Bernie Sanders because they don’t really know what socialism is and haven’t been properly taught its frightening history. That’s true insofar as it goes, but we need to say more.

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