30 September 2009

Is American Exceptionalism A Traditional Value?

Of course it is.

"Americans now show a clear preference for the government's [Public schools?] promoting of "traditional values," a change from recent years, when the public's views were more divided, but a return to the prevailing view from 1993 through 2004."

Story on this Gallup Poll here.

29 September 2009

On Deck

I love reading Paul Johnson. I find him to be an excellent writer and historian. I'm looking forward to jumping into Heroes, particularly since the concept of the traditional hero is under attack by the the left. I'm curious how he intends to paint Marylin Monroe and Mae West, since I don't consider either of them worthy of the title, "hero." We'll see.

Perhaps A Retraction Will Be Forthcoming

**Update: Kevin Levin's follow up comments reveal his lack of credibility, unable to admit his error. He even contradicts himself below. Anyone surprised?

"Richard Williams chimed in with his usual sweeping generalizations concerning Zinn's supposed popularity among liberal professors even though he could never demonstrate its widespread use on the high school or college level." ~ Kevin Levin 9/29/09

Wrong. Perhaps Kevin missed my demonstrations. From previous posts on this blog:
(Original post date 1/9/09)

**Update: Chris Wehner very ably comes to my defense. Will The Deniers of Zinn admit they just might be wrong about Zinn's book and its use and influence?

The following quote was pulled from a review of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States over on HNN. It's a little dated, but relevant. Hopefully, it will also provide some remedial therapy for those who doubt the popular use of Zinn's book and its influence. Words in red are those of the reviewer:

Courses at the University of Colorado-Boulder, UMass-Amherst, Penn State, and Indiana University are among dozens of classes nationwide that require the book. The book is so popular that it can be found on the class syllabus in such fields as economics, political science, literature, and women’s studies, in addition to its more understandable inclusion in history. Amazon.com reports in the site’s “popular in” section that the book is currently #7 at Emory University, #4 at the University of New Mexico, #9 at Brown University, and #7 at the University of Washington. In fact, 16 of the 40 locations listed in A People’s History’s “popular in” section are academic institutions, with the remainder of the list dominated by college towns like Binghamton (NY), State College (PA), East Lansing (MI), and Athens (GA). Based on this, it is reasonable to wonder if most of the million or so copies sold have been done so via coercion, i.e., college professors and high school teachers requiring the book. The book is deemed to be so crucial to the development of young minds by some academics that a course at Evergreen State decreed: “This is an advanced class and all students should have read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States before the first day of class, to give us a common background to begin the class.”

And then there's this:
The anniversary volume of A People’s History of the United States comes with an encomium from one of the academic profession’s most honored figures, Eric Foner the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia College. A former president of the American Historical Assocation, Foner reviewed Zinn’s book for the New York Times. A quote from Foner’s review is featured on the cover of the anniversary edition: “Historians may well view it,” writes Foner, “as a step toward a coherent new vision of American history.” This makes a kind of sense because Foner himself is an unreconstructed leftist, whose judgments are evidently colored by his “social aims” as well.

You can read the rest of the review here.

And . . .
(Original post date 1/10/09)

**"There are pages and pages of [Google search] results that include professors and AP teachers who include the book [Zinn's book] in their syllabi. The results cover a wide range of subjects from history to political science to anthropology and span a significant number of years." ~ Kevin Levin
Which was my main point all along - that Zinn's book is influential and widely used. Kevin goes on in his lengthy post to explain that he uses it with a critical eye and suggests to his readers that is probably what others are doing.

I seriously doubt that, though I'm sure that is the case with some. And I do appreciate the fact that Kevin, along with others who have weighed in, acknowledge that Zinn's book is poor history. So let me attempt to cut through all the back and forth and some of the misunderstanding, some which I likely, though not intentionally, contributed to:

  • All who have weighed in seem to agree that Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is politically motivated from a hard left perspective. It would be hard to deny that since Zinn himself proudly proclaims it.
  • The initial (though incomplete) evidence appears to indicate that Zinn's book is popular and widely used, though most academics involved in this discussion never had it assigned.
  • I do not believe, as Ken Noe suggests, that the "majority of academics are commies." I do believe, however, that there is a pervasive leftist culture in much of academia. How anyone can argue different than that is beyond me. That does not mean that all professors are pinko commie-libs. Logic would suggest, nonetheless, that Zinn's perspective would more likely find favor in these institutions than would a more traditional approach to interpretation.
  • I agree with Kevin Levin that Zinn's book could be used to instruct students comparing left/right interpretations of history, though Zinn's book is certainly an extreme example. As a matter of fact, I think that is a good idea, as long as Zinn's self-proclaimed leftist radicalism is made clear to students.
The sticking point seems to have boiled down to how the book is primarily being used and viewed by those teaching in the classroom. I instinctively believe its being used because its perspective is favored. Others, like Kevin, seem to believe it's being used in a comparative way.

Unless conclusive evidence can be presented, we will have to agree to disagree.

As soon as I get a reply from the publisher, I will post on it. I will also post something later which further indicates Zinn's influence.

**Update: I know most of my readers have enough sense to ignore the totally idiotic comments on other blogs about me being close to wanting to "burn books", and wanting to "exclude information." Those making such comments are ignorant and diminish what credibility they hoped to have.

Dissing Crocker

Some of you may have been following the comments that resulted from a recent post at Civil War Memory. The post was a hit piece on H. W. Crocker's The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Civil War. (By the way, as this post is being written, Crocker's book is ranked #1 in Amazon's History/United States/Civil War/Confederacy category.)

In one of my comments, I promised I would reply to the post and Crocker's "bad history" and my endorsement of his book, along with the rest of the P.I.G. series. And I will. But not until Mr. Levin is able to add the string of comments back as originally posted. The comments are key to my response. He's having some technical difficulty with his blog. But if he can't re-post those comments, I'll post them here.

25 September 2009

The Heritage of Hunting

Brought to you by the fine folks who produced the Still Standing film.

PC Rewriting Of History?

Texas textbooks rewrite the Declaration of Independence:

"Are we going to tell kids what the actual document says or are we going to change words in those documents to be politically correct?"

Well, here's your answer:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ..."

Of course the actual text of the document reads "all men are created equal."

Story here.

24 September 2009

Is It Just Me?

Qadhafi Endorses Obama

Fidel Castro Praises Obama

Chavez praises Obama

Is anyone troubled by this, or is it just me and my "tired references to the 'liberal elite' who supposedly hate America and all that is good, blah, blah, blah?"

End Of American Exceptionalism Consequences

**Update: AE is becoming a very hot topic. I've heard it mentioned on radio and the news no less than a dozen times in the last 48 hours and since the President's speech before the U.N.

"The whole picture of risk-reward for emerging market currencies has changed. It is not so much that they have risen to our standards, it is that we have fallen to theirs."

More here.

Does "hope & change" mean no more American Exceptionalism?

"No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed." ~ President Barack Obama before the United Nations

I believe this is the practical working out of America's elites and their self-loathing--lower standards of living for Americans due in part to a lack of pride in our history and our potential. Beware academics - there won't be as many teaching positions available at good salaries since fewer and fewer people will be able to afford the costs. Gotta watch out for those unintended consequences.

23 September 2009

More On American Exceptionalism & The Left

In this video, President Obama's "Science Czar", John Holdren, rejects the idea of "American Exceptionalism," and states that U.S. citizens should expect to accept a lower standard of living through "a degree of redistribution." Redistribution . . . hmmm, where have I heard that term before?

This is just further validation of what I pointed out in yesterdays' post regarding leftists in academia and their views on American Exceptionalism and the teaching of history. So, whether you think AE is a valid view of American history (and I do), or whether you do not, your views will play out in your writings as an author and in the classroom as a teacher. AE is as much a political viewpoint as it is a historical fact.

22 September 2009

Some Thoughts On American Exceptionalism

**Update: Kevin Levin has responded to this post with an attempt to clarify his position. He states in part:

"If I am training young citizens it is not with the goal of convincing them to see American history in a certain way (exceptional, evil, etc.), but to give them the analytical tools so that they can engage in such discussion. I actually have no interest in what they conclude about the moral status of this nation so long as their conclusions are based on careful thinking and consideration of sufficient evidence."

Its been many years since I went to school, but in grade school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and then sung America the Beautiful. This was meant to instill love of our flag and love of country in students. It was a moral statement--not about government, but about principles. So, most of my teachers did have an interest in what their students concluded about the moral status of this nation. It also came through clearly in their passion for our country's greatness and our founding principles' superiority and uniqueness.

Kevin obviously misses my point in my constant railing "against teachers/academics for imposing their view of the world on their students."
As I stated very clearly in this post and in many other posts. EVERYONE brings their worldview with them when they teach, assuming they are true to their beliefs and passionate about their responsibilities. Just a casual reading of Kevin's blog reveals that his views are liberal/left. (Does he not realize that readers can see that?) Imposing (forcing) views is one thing, but ALL teachers, including Kevin, LEAD their students in a certain direction they want them to go. That is simply human nature. With some it is subtle, others it is more open. My "railing" is against those who lead their students in what I believe is a damaging, self-loathing of America's history and the great men who founded it. I unashamedly applaud those teachers who encourage the concept of American Exceptionalism and encourage a love of our country, as I believe most Americans would.

I think his new comments simply make my point. Judge for yourself.
The subject of American Exceptionalism (AE) had already popped up in comments here in recent weeks. And then, just last week, Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory also commented on this idea in regards to how American textbooks should present our nation's history and how he approaches the subject in his role as a history teacher. Then fellow blogger and history teacher, Chris Wehner expressed his opinion on the subject and his rather spirited disagreement with Mr. Levin. I would tend to agree with Mr. Wehner. One comment that I found a little strange on Mr. Levin's blog was this:

"I don’t mind admitting that I am an enemy of the notion of ‘American Exceptionalism.’ It’s not simply that I fail to see how it applies to American history, but that it has nothing to do with my role as an instructor of history."

I'm not quite sure all what Kevin means by declaring that he is an "enemy" of the notion of AE, other than to assume he believes the concept is somehow inaccurate, sappy romanticism, overboard patriotism, or has no place in the classroom. I find it astounding that anyone thinks it has no role in the instruction of history. I could not disagree more.

While AE can mean different things to different people, when I refer to AE, I would agree with a summation as expressed by Monica Crowley:

"American exceptionalism is grounded in the founding of the United States upon an idea, rather than upon the ambitions of men. Indeed, it was designed to be a nation of laws and specifically not of men, built on the concept of individual liberty and equal justice before the law, with freedoms ranging from speech to worship, and rights from gun ownership to assembly."

"The Founding Fathers institutionalized these freedoms so we would be safe from the overweening burdens and capricious claims of a too-powerful state. These freedoms would allow individuals to do as they pleased within the confines of the law and to achieve, in ways big and small, to the benefit of the country as a whole."

Crowley continues . . .

"Even in extremely difficult times, American exceptionalism survived. Faced with the darkest days of civil and foreign wars; economic depression and recessions; weak leadership at home or aggressive, hostile leadership from abroad; the American people kept faith in the uniqueness of our democratic experiment. Liberty provides opportunity, which is why in our 233 short years, we have produced (even with its flaws and flawed representatives) the greatest democracy in the world, the most productive engine of economic growth, the most influential culture and the most far-reaching effects of innovation." (You may read the rest of Crowley's commentary here.)

I, and I believe most Americans, reject the premise that teaching AE is inaccurate, or "romanticism" or that it has no place in the classroom. Nonetheless, this rejection of "the notion of American Exceptionalsim" is not uncommon among many academics on the left who seem to be obsessed with self-loathing when it comes to American history and America's place in the world. Many on the left in academia view American history as little more than a class struggle of evil European males and monied corporate interests against oppressed minorities. For example, one can view a lecture on "The Myth of American Exceptionalism" by Howard Zinn here. And in a 2006 piece, Zinn makes no bones about how he feels about AE and the providential blessings upon America:

"On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power."

(I wonder if he was foaming at the mouth when he wrote that?) Zinn's
A People's History of the United States is a popular textbook in some high schools and colleges.

Of course, Zinn is an extreme, but valid, example. But other examples would include well known leftist activist and history Professor, Alan Dawley who once proclaimed AE to be "dead and buried." But, much to the chagrin of others in academia (and despite their best efforts), they would have to admit that Dawley was wrong. As recently as 2008, a PEW research poll showed that a healthy majority (61%) believe that "God has uniquely blessed America." I'm sure that makes the elites in academia cringe. I'm smiling.

Another darling of academics who tend to reject a traditional view of American history is nationally acclaimed historian and author, Eric Foner. One book reviewer states that, "He (Foner) is also one of the foremost exponents of what has become known as 'radical history': the euphemism of choice for Marxist and neo-Marxist historians who seek to overturn the old mainstream political history."

In the preface of Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World, Foner writes:

"it is no longer possible to treat American history as an unalloyed saga of national progress toward liberty and equality" (Read: American Exceptionalism). Foner also expresses concern that, in regards to our history, "celebration is widespread." Gee, something wrong with that? Evidently. Can't have all that flag-waving, God bless America stuff going on in front of folks--for heaven's sake, somebody might think America is a great country or something.

(See my previous posts on celebrating our history here, here, and here.)

Dr. Ted Bromund (himself an academic with a doctorate from Yale) explains the mindset of academic elites when it comes to AE:

"This is a difficult fact for most Americans to accept, or to believe, but for these elites, the word ‘exceptionalism’ is criticism, not praise. In the academy, where I spent more than twenty years, ‘American exceptionalism’ is treated, at best, as a myth born of self-righteous national chauvinism. At worst, it is a badly-disguised code word for knuckle-dragging reactionaries and closet fascists. Nothing pinpoints you as a conservative in the American academy faster than referring to American exceptionalism without a sneer, and nothing ingratiates you faster than dismissing anyone who believes in it as a dangerous right-winger and an historical ignoramus."
(Read the rest here.)

Many academics who write and study history from a leftist point of view would like everyone to believe that men act, and history occurs, within a vacuum and, thus, should be taught that way. They would also have you believe they do not bring their particular perspective to the classroom with them. Hogwash. No teacher or professor, no matter how hard they try--nor how loud they proclaim it--leaves their beliefs, ideologies, and philosophies at the door outside of their classroom. Some may be better at hiding it than others, but human nature betrays such a ridiculous notion.

Of course, not all history teachers, whether at the high school or college level, reject the notion of AE. Thankfully, there are other teachers like Chris Wehner who recognize the dangerous trend in placing too much emphasis on the negative aspects of our nation's unparalleled history. High school history teacher and public school board member, Joe Enge is one such teacher:

"Liberal historical myths and misrepresentations are hobbling America to face the dangers of the 21st century. The relationship of the past in framing perspectives of the present to determine the future has never been clearer. At the same time, public schools in our country continue to turn students off to history as a subject, leave them with erroneous and negative views of their rich heritage, and unprepared for the requisite critical thinking skills needed as citizens to defend against clear and present dangers . . . Western civilization, America, Christianity and capitalism are too often portrayed in negative terms by the same history textbooks. Western achievements are ignored or minimized, leaving young minds uninformed and ashamed of their cultural heritage. The liberal penchant for self-loathing is not simply inaccurate, but extremely dangerous when it becomes a running theme for history instruction." (Read the rest here.)

There is no neutrality in teaching history, whether your politics lean left or whether they lean right. Worldviews matter. Ideologies impact our thought processes and what we say and how we say it. What we emphasize, what we minimize. What we believe is important, what we believe is irrelevant. What makes us ashamed, what makes us proud.

I recall an incident in my 12th grade government class. We had a very likable older woman as a teacher. She had a law degree and, I found out later, was a member of the ACLU. One day while discussing different forms of government, Mrs. B. stated: "Actually, communism in its pure form, is the best form of government." You could have heard a pin drop. My best friend and I, though rather liberal ourselves on certain topics at that time, engaged Mrs. B. in a rather heated debate challenging that ridiculous notion. Though anecdotal, it is clear Mrs. B. brought her ACLU background and her ideology into the classroom. That was over 30 years ago. I can only imagine some of the comments being made today in some classes.

Certainly all the facts should be presented; the good, the bad, the ugly. But America's triumphs over our bad and ugly should be cause enough to teach that America is an exceptional nation in the history of mankind. How can anyone possibly deny that? Our laws assume certain rights are inalienable--that they are natural rights, given by God and which cannot be taken away by any government. We were conceived as a nation of laws and not of men. That is unique in history. That should be trumpeted and, yes, celebrated as exceptional. And even though we have not always lived up to those ideals, we have continually struggled to do so. We have been blessed with prosperity, liberty, and freedom more than any nation in history. We still have more opportunity here than any other place on earth. By teaching these truths, we can at least have some hope that the generations to come will want America to continue to be exceptional and that our children and grandchildren will be able to to enjoy the same blessings that we have.

Hopefully, that is something most of us can agree upon.

Flag Controversy In South Carolina

"Councilman Bailey Humphries said, 'Put the flag up -- run out right there at that moment. Put the flag up, apologize publicly that: 'We should have never done that, we regret what we've done, and we are patriots.'"

No, not that flag, this one.

SCV Makes Donation To Preserve History

"The Thomas Hubbard Hobbs of the Sons Of Confederate Veterans camp presented a check for $1,000 to the Athens-Limestone Community Association for the project to restore portions of the Trinity School as a memorial and museum to tell some of the stories about this school that was founded after the Civil War to educate the children of freed slaves."

Story here. Hat tip to Civil War Interactive.

The American Exceptionalist (Not)

"A few years ago, the Washington Post discovered that over 72 percent of college professors classify themselves as liberal. The study showed that the most left-leaning departments are in the humanities, "where at least 80 percent of the faculty say they are liberal and no more than 5 percent call themselves conservative." Needless to say, I'm a man on an island in my field of English literature. . . I spent the summer working on my Ph.D. at a particular state university in the eastern part of our country, where I was exposed to misery and resentment I had only heard in rumors. Everyday was filled with the faults of conservatism and capitalism, while extolling the virtues of social justice and moral relativism."

And . . .

"My professors lectured that "[economic] class is not discussed enough in classrooms today," "capitalism doesn't care about history," and "the university is the last bastion of socialism, where knowledge and money should be separated." All of these things were said with straight faces by tenured professors who required we purchase textbooks they helped write, while teaching for universities that charge tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. Only in a liberal's distorted logic does it make sense to preach about fairness and exploitation while making money off the very people they're trying to convince." (Read the rest of this piece at the American Thinker.)

These comments will dovetail very nicely with my upcoming post on American Exceptionalism.

Stay tuned.

21 September 2009

An Introduction To American Exceptionalism

This simple, 50 year-old cartoon is extraordinarily prophetic and should serve as a primer for those who've been duped by leftists and elites in academia and government into rejecting American Exceptionalism. Statism vs. individual liberty. My, oh my, how far we've drifted.

More to come on this topic soon.

Who Charged "You Lie" First?

"Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple." ~ President Barack Obama, September 9th before a joint session of Congress

The left got all in a tizzy over Joe Wilson's ungentlemanly conduct during the President's 3rd or 4th (I've lost count. Gee, what part of "no" do you not understand?) last ditch effort to save healthcare "reform." Wilson's outburst was in very poor taste and, while accurate, should have been saved for commentary later. However, are we to give the President a pass for his bitterly partisan speech to a joint session of Congress? I think not. Though not calling her by name, the President said Governor Palin was lying (she wasn't). Wilson has apologized. I don't think the President has.

**Coming later this evening: Thoughts On American Exceptionalism and its relation to American history

17 September 2009

The Pin Up Girl For Aging Academic Elites

"Dowd [Maureen] faces a new information age in which readers continue to turn their backs on her and her employer of 26 years, leaving a shrinking readership of aging elites from academia, politics and media. Her readers are disappearing -- and that's even before the Obama death panels for seniors kick in. The result: she has become increasingly angry and increasingly shrill. The old gray mare ain't what she used to be . . . All southerners are racist, as sure as the day is long and NASCAR spectators have three thumbs."

And . . .

"Dowd is point man -- uh, woman -- for the nation's elite, a red-haired (carefully applied to the gray in the George Salon at the Four Seasons, the coloring salon of choice for the youthful beauties of her elite beltway set, such as Madeline Albright and Chris Matthews) Cerberus guarding the grandee gates. Family, wealth, friendship, school, and lifestyle. You either have it or you don't, which is why Dowd so despises the latest gatecrasher, Sarah Palin."

Dowd is irrelevant - and has been for quite a while.

Read the rest at the American Thinker.

Homeschool Student Guest Post

Homeschooling: A Report from the Front Lines

In July, there was an enthusiastic exchange in the Civil War blogosphere between Kevin Levin of Civil War Memory and Richard Williams of Old Virginia Blog over the issue of homeschooling. The debate, while respectful, attracted a variety of viewpoints and responses. Familiar with my homeschooling background, Mr. Williams asked if I would write a guest post about my homeschooling experience in order to provide readers with a concrete, personal account of a subject that is often reduced to contradictory statistics and vague generalities.

To fully introduce myself, my name is Crystal Marshall, a freshman at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Homeschooled from kindergarten through 10th grade, I completed my last two years of high school at a local community college as part of a dual-enrollment program. While my homeschooling experiences are unique to my personal situation, my heavy involvement in the homeschool community gives me a position of authority to speak on issues such as academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, social activities, and personal development as they relate to homeschoolers. I am not speaking out of pride or of a sense that I represent every homeschooler. Rather, consider this post as a report from the “front lines” of homeschooling by someone who has served in the ranks of homeschoolers for the vast majority of her pre-college academic career.

Speaking of academic careers, often the first topic that rears its head in the homeschooling debate is that of academics—after all, the basic goal of any formal education is to learn, regardless of how that learning is imparted. Although their parents’ educational backgrounds may differ, most homeschoolers are united by virtue of their high academic achievement. My mother—a former elementary school teacher—was the primary instructor during my homeschooling years, diligently and faithfully educating me in all subjects with the best materials available. In subjects such as chemistry and Spanish, we joined with other families in a small “co-op”, pooling resources to hire qualified tutors (usually former public school teachers) who met with us once a week to train us in that particular subject. The personalized instruction I received as a homeschooler prepared me well for the rigors of my community college classes, in which I consistently received “A” grades in areas ranging from biology to English.

Other homeschooling friends had similar experiences. Two of my closest friends, “Amy” and “Katie” also participated in the dual-enrollment program and benefited immensely from it, due to the academic preparation that homeschooling provided them. Amy is now a freshman studying engineering at UC-Berkeley, while Katie is pursuing a nursing degree at Liberty University. Both received substantial scholarships to attend their prospective schools. While their parents’ educational backgrounds are vastly different—Amy’s mother holds a doctorate in physics, while Katie’s father is a truck driver for UPS—what unites their experiences is the dedication of their parents to provide them with the best education possible.

And lest we forget standardized test scores—as this is an anecdotal post, I will avoid the temptation to quote statistics—my homeschool friends and I have consistently scored in the top percentiles on standardized tests for every year from elementary up through high school. (I also want to reiterate that as I mention grades and test scores, I do so not out of pride, but as an illustration of the wonderful instruction and preparation provided to my friends and me by our dedicated parents. All credit goes to them.)

However, grades and test scores don’t necessarily reflect intellectual curiosity and the ability to “think for oneself”. Happily, homeschooling can provide the most opportune forum for discussion and debate—and I’m glad to say that this was case in my homeschooling years. As I studied classics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey in high school, my mother would ask probing questions about the literature and challenge my answers, seeking to develop my mind and instill in me a passion for questioning and research. This was frustrating at times, especially on those occasional days when I suffered from intellectual laziness, but it prepared me well for my college classes. In one particular English class at the college, I wrote a 10-page research paper on Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the resistance of my professor to the paper gave me an opportunity to put my research and argumentation abilities to respectful use. I ended up with an “A” on the paper and, more importantly, with respect from my professor, who acknowledged that my arguments were solid and well presented even though she ultimately disagreed with many of my conclusions. (As a side note, I would like to extend a public “thank you” to Mr. Williams, who provided crucial research assistance for this particular paper.)

Another often-cited “concern” with homeschoolers is in regard to socialization. It has taken no small amount of patience and tact to respond to the hundreds of inquiries that I have received over the years of “Do you have a social life as a homeschooler?” I am sure that most of the people asking this question were well meaning. However, instead of having restricted social lives as many erroneously assume, homeschoolers are actually ahead of their peers when it comes to social fulfillment. Instead of spending their days solely with a group of peers and selected adults (as is the case with public and private school students), homeschoolers come into a wide variety of contact with many different age groups in many different contexts. Beginning in elementary school, my mother purposefully took me to places such as the bank, library, and grocery store so that I would not only learn practical living skills, but also so that I could experience the diversity of ages and ethnicities in our society, and thus learn how to interact with different groups of people. The flexibility of a homeschooling schedule also allowed my friends and I to take part in opportunities such as volunteering in nursing homes, taking dance classes, participating in sports leagues, and traveling to foreign countries such as Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico for humanitarian work.

Despite the benefits of homeschooling in areas such as academics, intellectual curiosity, and socialization, such benefits are not, and should not, be the end goal for homeschoolers. The vast majority of public and private schools provide their students with a stellar education, imparted by dedicated teachers who sincerely care for and guard their students’ hearts and minds. Public and private-schooled students also excel academically, motivated by their eagerness to learn, and enjoy spending time with those outside of their peer groups. Simply put, homeschooling is not the best option for every child, and parents must seriously consider which schooling environment is most beneficial for their son or daughter.

However, for those who do pursue homeschooling, why are they pursuing this particular method of learning? What is it that makes homeschooling distinct? The commitment to the moral education of a child is what sets homeschooling apart, more than any other form of education. In deciding to homeschool me, my parents made a conscious decision to utilize all of life, including schooling, to form my character. Such a commitment to a child’s character formation requires concerted effort; when the child becomes unbearable and unmanageable, there is no outside institution, no unlucky teacher, to take the child and give the parent a well-deserved break. No, homeschooling parents are charged with the added responsibility of training their children for longer periods of the day, and in different contexts, than most other parents of public and private-schooled children.

This is not to say that parents who place their children in public and private schools are neglecting their moral role as their children’s primary character-formers. As mentioned above, the decision to homeschool is highly personal one; all parents are charged with instilling moral values and virtues in their children, and homeschooling simply provides another context in which to perform that responsibility.

In what manner, then, do homeschooling families impart moral instruction to their children? Often this is done through religion, especially Christianity. At this point, many critics of homeschooling scoff and label this as nothing more than indoctrination. Really? Are public and private school students receiving anything different? Wherever formal education takes place, moral education transpires concurrently. Teachers, as human beings, bring a set of conceptions to the classroom that inevitably is displayed in their teaching; students, as human beings, bring a set of conceptions to the classroom that inevitably is displayed in their response to the teaching, whether through class discussions or homework. When the teacher’s views collide with the student’s views, a worldview formation takes place, even if the teacher and students vehemently disagree. This process takes place in any educational context; with homeschoolers, the process involves the imparting of an ethical, moral, Christian worldview based on objective standards of revealed truth; with public school children, the process involves the imparting of a relativistic, “anything goes” worldview, which may on the surface contain morals, but yet the morals do not have any firm foundation on which they are based. Having encountered both of these worldviews, I stand firmly in the belief that the former will greatly increase the happiness and quality of my life much more than the latter.

In Book I of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle postulates, “to be a competent student of what is right and just…one must first have received a proper upbringing in moral conduct”. Homeschooling provides an avenue in which this upbringing can occur, providing a foundation for further study that ultimately leads to the full cultivation of the mind and the outpouring of this knowledge into action for the good of the individual and the community.

Thank you Crystal for a very thoughtful and well-written post. May God continue to bless you as you continue your studies at Hillsdale. ~ RW

16 September 2009

The Pilgrms Set Sail

"The Pilgrims set sail for the New World on September 16, 1620, Gregorian calendar (or September 6 Julian calendar -- England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752) that we now know is during hurricane season . . . The top-heavy ship pitched in the cold Atlantic storms. Streams of cold saltwater poured through the leaky superstructures at unexpected times . . ."

More here from the American Thinker.

11 September 2009

The Character Of General Lee

The following is another guest post by Professor Daniel N. Rolph. Mr. Rolph is a historian and Head of Reference Services at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Character of General Robert E. Lee: An Unknown Event

Numerous works have been published on the life of General Robert E. Lee, particularly concerning his activities as head of the 'Army of Northern Virginia' of the Confederacy, during the period of the American Civil War.

Many Civil War scholars are aware of the admiration and respect which General Lee received, both on and off the battlefield, by friend and foe alike.

A wonderful example of Lee's 'character,' is manifested in the 'Civil War Letters, of Major James Cornell Biddle,' of the 27th Pennsylvania Infantry, housed at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, primary sources which reflect only a small part of an extensive collection of Civil War related materials.

On October 21, 1863, months after Lee's humiliating defeat by Federal forces at Gettysburg, Major Biddle, of the 'Army of the Potomac,' stationed at Warrenton, Virginia, related a recent experience to his wife, Gertrude Meredith Biddle of Philadelphia, concerning his famed opponent, General Robert E. Lee. He remarked:

"Lee followed on a parallel line with us as far as Broad Run and as soon as we got in his front, and advanced against him he retreated, he remained for one night at this place.

"An old lady living here went to see him. She put out her hand, and told him it had never touched a Yankee, and commenced abusing our troops. Lee they say rebuked her, and told her he was sorry to hear her speak in that way, that there were a great many gentlemen in our army, and some of those whom she mentioned were men whom he had a very great esteem for, and were formerly his most cherished friends.

"The officers whom he took prisoners were allowed to remain in a house at this place and upon promising not to attempt to escape, to hire a wagon to take them to Culpepper without any guard." (Original source: 'Civil War Letters of James Cornell Biddle,' Collection No.1881, 1 Box, Folder 18, October 21, 1863.)

What makes the above account unique is that not only do these remarks derive from a Federal opponent of Lee, rather than an officer of the Confederate Army, it is also ONLY recorded in a manuscript of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and found in no other Lee biography. It is truly another example of the speciality and broad scope of manuscript materials available within our collections here in Philadelphia.

For further reference to the HSP's vast collections on the Civil War, see my Guide to Civil War Manuscripts and book, My Brother’s Keeper: Union & Confederate Soldiers’ Acts of Mercy During the Civil War, a work containing material drawn largely from both published & unpublished sources at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

10 September 2009

I'm Of Irish Ancestry & I Like Lucky Charms

(Part 1)

(Part 2) Some Irish were pressed into the Union Army. Does that mean they weren't soldiers? I have renewed faith in the youth of our country.

09 September 2009

I'm Not Alone On Academics & Elites

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that academics and elites are a favorite target for derision here at the OVB. Thus it was refreshing to see Camille Pagilia (herself a liberal Democrat), get more right in a recent piece than the state-controlled media gets right in a whole week. She does a much better job of skewering elitists, academics, and PC education than I ever could:

"Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism."

And . . .

"But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible."

I could not have said it better. Self-judgment and self-criticism are the seeds of greatness. Elites should take heed, but they won't. That's what makes them elites. Read the rest of Camille Paglia's piece here.

**She goes after the Republicans as well.

08 September 2009

What Do You Pledge?

The above video was recently shown to students at an elementary school in Farmington, Utah. After watching this video, one can clearly understand why many parents are apprehensive about President Obama giving a speech to their children. For example . . .

Gayle Ruzicka, president of conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said the video was blatantly political. She said other offensive pledges included, "I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama," "I pledge allegiance to the funk, to the united funk of funkadelica," and pledges to not use plastic grocery bags and not flush the toilet after urinating.

Good Lord.

Giving "History Buffs" A Bad Name

"A Pennsylvania history buff who recreates firearms from old wars accidentally fired a 2-pound cannonball through the wall of his neighbor's home in Uniontown, Pa."

Story here.

Teaching The Children

Is best left to parents and teachers . . .

"The controversy over President Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren will likely be over shortly after Obama speaks today at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush's speech -- they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue."

The Democrats led the way

07 September 2009

Thomas Jefferson Would Love Glenn Beck

"The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." ~ Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823

Radio talker and Fox News show host, Glenn Beck, has been heavily criticized by those on the left in recent days due primarily to his exposure of, and aggressive "agitation" toward, President Obama's "Green Jobs Czar", Van Jones. It is quite interesting to watch those critics on the left, who are usually very vocal defenders of a free press and free speech, come down on Beck. Most readers now know that Jones has resigned due to all the negative publicity and exposure of his very radical, anti-American views and agenda. Many pundits (including The Politico) are giving a large amount of the credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) to Beck's "agitation."

Any objective person reading Jones's past comments, associations, and positions cannot honestly come to any other conclusion than the fact that Jones was very much out of the mainstream of American political thought and was a proponent of ideas that are antithetical to the very founding principels of our great Nation. President Obama should have fired him. It is good he finally submitted to the agitation and resigned. He needed to go. Beck and the others did our country a great service. Good riddance.

Jefferson, as well as most of the other founders, knew how important a free press was in keeping "the waters pure." Beck and the others were doing exactly what the founders had in mind when they penned the first amendment: agitating government officials who deserved it and holding them accountable. Too bad that those in the state-controlled media have too much invested in the current administration to even run one story about Jones during the height of the controversy. As The Washington Examiner has pointed out, the silence from the administration's lapdogs was deafening:

Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the New York Times: zero.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the Washington Post: zero.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on NBC Nightly News: zero.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on ABC World News: zero.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on CBS Evening News: zero.

(As of 9/4/09. See more about the left wing media's silence here.)

And in a related story, Venezualen thug, Hugo Chavez, continues to silence his critics:

"Venezuela will pull the plug on 29 more radio stations, a top official in President Hugo Chavez's government said on Saturday, just weeks after dozens of other outlets were closed in a media clampdown. Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello closed 34 radio stations in July, saying the government was "democratizing" media ownership. Critics say the move limits freedom of expression and has taken critical voices off the airwaves." (More here.)

Thanks to Beck and others like him, Jones must now consider other job opportunities. Too bad some Americans have more in common with thug Hugo Chavez than they do my fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson.

**Update: Chavez wants to "help" President Obama. Birds of a feather?

Will History Repeat Itself?

Cheeky cheeseburger eating (and darling of the left) Michale Moore, says capitalism is evil. Since the current Congress and administration are spending the majority of their time attacking and demonizing our free enterprise system, while nationalizing large segments of the economy, I would have to conclude they are in agreement with their chubby soulmate.

But history would teach us much differently:

"Barack Obama [and Congress] is committing the same mistakes made by policymakers during the Great Depression, according to a new study endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan."

I think I'd be listening more to respected economist Buchanan than I would lefty filmmaker wacko Moore.

Story here.

05 September 2009

What Would Saul Alinski Do?

". . . the idea of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi pulling Obama left is quite ridiculous. Where do you think he came from, this friend of Chávista ex-terrorist William Ayers, of PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, of racialist inciter Jeremiah Wright."

What now, Saul Alinski? Commentary by Charles Krauthammer here.

Also, listen here to that far-right, extremist radio network, NPR, discuss Alinski and his influence on President Obama. And here's more admission to Obama's inspiration coming from neo-Marxist, Saul Alinski.

"A Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists. From this he logically proceeds to the revolution to end capitalism, then into the third stage of reorganization into a new social order of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and finally the last stage -- the political paradise of communism." ~ Saul Alinski

". . . Obama embraced many of Alinsky's tactics and recently said his years as an organizer gave him the best education of his life." ~ From that right-wing rag, The Washington Post

Darn those facts! Some folks are just in denial. It is truly an amazing thing to behold.

(Though I feel a need to apologize for the more than usual number of political posts, we are witnessing history in the making. I also feel a need to combat some of the silliness and obfuscation taking place on other history blogs. And, as I've been promising, all this will soon be tied together in a lengthy post.)

04 September 2009

2nd Update To Previous Post

"Van Jones, the Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is Number 46 of the petitioners from the so-called "Truther" movement which suggests that people in the administration of President George W. Bush "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war."

Cartoons anyone? I'm sure that the criticism coming from leftists in academia will be speedy and severe. Yeah, right.

Story here.

03 September 2009

Update To Previous Post

Something that needs to be emphasized regarding the information and comments in my last post: One thing you will notice regarding those on the left (including many "academic historians"), is the fact that they will not address the charges and the information presented in this post and others like it. There are two reasons for that:

1) They can't. The facts cannot be refuted, thus they resort to attacking the messenger or the source and sophomoric debate techniques like obfuscation. You'll often see this here in the comments and on other "progressive" (read "leftist") history blogs and message boards. It is embarrassingly obvious what they're doing, yet they're blind to it. They're also arrogant enough to believe others are.

2) They are, in many ways, philosophically in agreement with President Obama and many of the hardcore leftists in his administration. (See here for just one example.) Moreover, their responses and defenses, void of any intellectually coherent rebuttal, only serve to confirm the fact that they are: a. grossly misinformed, b. agree with what's going on or, c. dishonest.

A very sad, but not surprising state of affairs. I am still working on a very lengthy post that will address some of this in much more detail. The post will make my points abundantly clear.

01 September 2009

More Hypocrisy From Leftists In Academia

Many CW bloggers and historians claim to be of the opinion that all who supported the CSA, including men like Lee and Jackson, were "traitors." (Even though both of these men originally opposed secession). Many of these same "historians" were very vocal and public about their support for President Obama. Now comes this news:

"President Obama's environmental adviser, Van Jones, was the main speaker at an anti-war rally that urged "resistance" against the U.S. government, WND has learned. The rally was sponsored by an organization associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, which calls for the overthrow of the U.S. government and its replacement with a communist dictatorship."

I can assure you, however, that you will not hear any suggestions coming from these same "historians" and bloggers that Obama or Jones are "traitors". The silence from these leftists who use their positions in academia to promote their agenda is deafening.
Hmmm . . . I wonder why?

Story here.

*I'm vacationing in Maine, thus the lack of posts and posting of comments. I hope to post some pending comments soon. I'm using dial-up . . . veeerrryyy ssslllooowww.