28 January 2011

Anti-Anti-American Exceptionalism

Link to purchase print
A *number of academic elites, progressives, leftist historians and bloggers, and others have proudly trumpeted their "anti-American Exceptionalism" stance. Affirming American Exceptionalism is sooo passé, don't you know? Many of these types see themselves as taking a "more sophisticated" and "more enlightened" view of American history. (Think Thurston Howell with a Ph.D. in history). They look down with disdain and contempt upon those who hold to a more traditional view of American history (i.e., affirming American Exceptionalism) as "simplistic, nostalgic, Ozzie & Harriet, etc, etc" types. You can literally sense their sneering and loathing.

In their "more enlightened" view, America - due to its history of "oppression" - is "fundamentally flawed" and needs to be "fundamentally changed." Of course, this view is so wrong on so many points, that it is becoming cartoonish and almost something to be laughed at - were it not so corrosive to our well-being as a nation. A concise, but articulate rebuttal of this notion that America, and its leaders, has something for which we must apologize was given with simple, yet profound eloquence by President Ronald Reagan in his 1989 farewell address to the nation. Reagan is at his best in the video below. The video is worth your time. Classic Reagan -
so much profundity in just six minutes. 

Reagan's warning against the trendy, faddish historiography now embraced by so many elites should be heeded by educators and parents. If you are a parent, I would encourage you to look at your child's history books, have a conversation with your child's teacher(s) and the school principal and find out how they approach the teaching of American history in the classroom. This goes for private as well as public schools. Do they affirm American Exceptionalism? If not, why not? Press them on the issue. If you don't like their answers, go over their heads. Ask to sit in on a class - unannounced. They do, after all, work for you. You are either paying their salaries via tuition payments or taxes. The children they teach are yours and you entrust your children to them. Hold them accountable. Anything wrong with that?

Why affirming American Exceptionalism to our children is so important:

This is just the last six minutes of Reagan's farewell address. You can view the whole address here.

*I realize that there are many parents, educators, and administrators who are doing their best and who would agree with President Reagan's remarks about this issue. The rest of you . . . you know who you are.


Lindsay Horne said...

Wonderful post...I am a public school teacher, teaching U.S. History to 6th graders.

I am always very careful to present both sides of each argument, case, issue, etc. My classroom is filled with the symbols of America that we cherish and I want them to with a sense of pride about where they come from, and the country that they live in. They should know the mistakes we have (and every other country on earth) have made, but they should also know all of the wonderful things we have done and how much of a positive influence we have been on the world.

The classroom is not the place for indoctrinating our youth, it is a place for education about what is happening, and has happened, in history - fair and balanced. Our children will be better off if all educators keep that in mind.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Lindsay. I'm glad you're out there.

"They should know the mistakes we have (and every other country on earth) have made, but they should also know all of the wonderful things we have done and how much of a positive influence we have been on the world."

I agree. I don't need to restate Reagan's comments, but I would add that children also need to know that America is "exceptional" or "unique" in its founding, its experiment in individual liberty, the rule of law, freedoms, and our free enterprise system which has enabled the "common man" to excel in whatever area he chooses and is capable. There has never been a nation quite like the United States.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Very interesting post Richard, although I think Reagan’s acting instincts sometimes influenced his political candor. Unfortunately, I am afraid that I have come to the conclusion over the last few years that American Exceptionalism is more of a ‘was’ than an ‘is.’ We may have been founded by exceptional people, who were capable of doing exceptional things, but we are no longer either of these. I’m grateful that my work as an historian keeps me buried in the past as my personal pride in America rests in the past – not in the present. Perhaps it would have been more fitting that Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey as the national bird of the United States as I think many of us believe its time to “stick a fork in America cause we are done.”

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Michael. I know very few politicians who aren't also actors. Reagan just became an actor FIRST.

I completely understand your pessimism - and share some of it. But I think its important to point out, for the purpose of this post, that your view is precisely what Reagan was warning us about. It is what he feared would happen if we rejected American Exceptionalism and failed to teach it to rising generations. We (as a nation) didn't heed his warning - at least not to the extent he would have hoped for. Thanks for the comment.

msimons said...

WE are a Special Nation Blessed by God and no liberal goning to tell me any different! Thanks for sharing this Richard!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You're welcome Mike.