Ripe for the Dustbin of History

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 18, 1996 | Go to article overview

Ripe for the Dustbin of History


Everyone seems to agree that the revised national history standards issued in April represent an improvement over the initial standards promulgated in 1994, which deservedly drew widespread condemnation, including a resounding 99-1 vote of no-confidence in the U.S. Senate. Well, yes; the new standards are better. But, then again, could they have possibly been any worse? The question is: Are they sufficiently improved to the point they deserve to be adopted? No, not even close.

To reject the new standards, one hardly needs to be among the "militant monoculturalists of the right [who] want history to instill and extol patriotism, religion, Ozzie and Harriet, Harry and Louise, and, in general, the superior virtues of unregulated capitalism," in the words of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who supports the second draft after opposing the first. Clearly, fair-minded standards should not promote a "right-wing" perspective any more than they should promote a "left-wing" bias. History standards should be unbiased and balanced. If anything, the second draft of American history standards is consistent - consistently unbalanced, making them egregiously biased.

Developed by historian Gary Nash and his colleagues at UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools, the standards begin with the primary theme of early American history that closely follows Mr. Nash's own controversial revisionist theory of historical convergence. Rather than viewing the evolution of the American republic as the extension of Western civilization and ideas, the standards promote the notion that "three worlds" (European, African, Native American) engaged in a "great convergence" to form a "composite American society created out of such human diversity." Mr. Nash, in his zeal to promote multiculturalism as a central element in the American experience from its very beginnings, emphasizes the roles played by Africans and Native Americans "in the creation of colonial society and a new, hybrid American culture." What evolved, of course, was a distinctly Western society overwhelmingly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment and other European experiences, not by the cultures or practices of Islamic West Africa or pre-Columbian America.

Indeed, historian John Fonte of the American Enterprise Institute has combed the standards, looking - in vain, as it were - for the words "Western civilization." And he's been unable to locate any specific reference to "Founding Fathers" or "framers" in relation to the establishment of the Constitution. …

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Ripe for the Dustbin of History
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