Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Texas Textbooks and American Exceptionalism - Part II

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Yesterday, I outlined several of what I felt were the more important changes that will occur in the Texas social studies and history textbooks. Because many other states use these textbooks adopted by Texas, what they do impacts not only their state but many others across the nation.

The lead up to adopting the new narrative for the texts has been very contentious and this will continue into the future as people with different views vie for influence in what we will tell our children in the public classroom.

I quoted Education Secretary Arne Duncan as being negative toward the adopted changes and suggested that what a person believes about America may be at the very heart of this debate and others as well.

The ACLU also weighed in last Friday saying the new curriculum, "Is more ideological than ever, despite pleas not to politicize what is taught to Texas school children."

This sounds noble and above the fray if you are unaware of the ACLU's activities over the past 50 years. No single organization has done more harm to our culture and our freedoms, in my opinion, than the ACLU. It just isn't going their way on this issue, so they are calling for restraint and discipline, something they know little to nothing about.

Is America exceptional? Does it have a special destiny?

Our Founding Fathers believed that it did.

Even Thomas Paine, not known to be a Christian activist for sure said, "The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, some say, is the King of America? I'll tell you, friend, He reigns above."

Daniel Webster saw the results of the Founder's actions and said, "Let us not forget the religious character of our origin."

He was reminding his colleagues of their past, so the future could be better understood. His admonition for the future?

"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."

Exceptional nation with a special destiny.

President Obama apparently does not agree with him.

A reporter for the Financial Times, questioning President Obama at a news conference during a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France in April 2009, asked the President if he subscribed to the belief that America is "uniquely qualified to lead the world." President Obama responded, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

America has no special or unique destiny or purpose.

James Rosen, reflecting on the Texas textbook debate says, "Clashes among members of the Texas Board of Education over the content of students' textbooks have come, in part, to focus on a once obscure intellectual concept---'American exceptionalism'---that has now seen the President of the United States weigh in."

President Obama does not stand alone in his "broader view" of America.

Best selling author and Princeton University professor, Joyce Carol Oates, takes exception to the belief that there is a distinctly American idea, one that is distinguishable from the core concepts that have animated Europeans, Scandinavians and other cultures.

In an article in the Atlantic Monthly in November 2007, Rosen quotes Oates saying, "Travel to any foreign country and the consensus is: The America idea has become a cruel joke, a blustery and bellicose bodybuilder luridly bulked up on steroids...deranged and myopic, dangerous."

This is the kind of thinking your child or grandchild is often hearing in the classroom. No wonder we have become a culturally conflicted country.

She continues: "American exceptionalism makes our imperialism altruistic, our plundering of the world's resources a healthy exercise of capitalism and 'free trade'."

"From childhood," Ms. Oates says, "we are indoctrinated with the propaganda that America is superior to other nations; that our way of life, a mass-market 'democracy' manipulated by lobbyists, is superior to all other forms of government; no matter how frivolous and debased, our American culture is the supreme culture, as our language is the supreme language; that our most blatantly imperialistic and cynical political goals are always idealistic, while the goals of other nations are transparently opportunistic."

This is what is wrong with the American classroom. Barack Obama is a product of this kind of thinking and belief system.

Fortunately, not all educators buy in with Professor Oates.

Andrew Roberts, a British historian and best selling author says in his book, "Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won The War in the West,1941-1945," that this idea plays well for postmodernists who believe everything has to be related to something else and nothing is truly exceptional. It also plays well to the anti-American folks in Europe and, unfortunately, in this country.

Roberts says, "America is not like any other country. It wasn't born like other countries. It didn't come to prominence like other countries. It's not holding imperium like other countries...It probably won't lose it's supremacy like other countries. And so in that sense it is completely exceptional."

If America is indeed exceptional, and I believe it is, we must look at preserving and restoring our Judeo-Christian cultural as a matter of biblical stewardship. An application of Christ's teaching on the talents.

About an hour ago I re-read John Winthrop's sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity." It was written on board the ship "Arbella" crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It was in this famous sermon that he said, "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all the people are upon us."


The message from the Board of Education in Texas? "Keep the concepts of American exceptionalism and preserve the Judeo-Christian values that have impacted our law and government."

God help us.

Gary Randall
Faith and Freedom

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