"We're raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate"

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RPittman's picture

Suzanne Fields wrote:
Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, for example, but that shouldn't blind us to his ideals. Yet impressionistic young people are taught to belittle the whole man. The author of the Declaration of Independence is trivialized with simplistic moral condescension. When our history is reduced to our flaws, celebrating fragmentation in hyphenated Americans, the young can't understand the cohesive principles on which our liberty is based. [emphasis added ]
Sadly, the description and conclusions are accurate--right on target! Can we take this a step further by saying that we are seeing this same trend in our own Fundamentalism. If we focus only on our flaws, then our unity and common purpose is destroyed. What do you think?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

At first glance I'd say that we should acknowledge and deal with our shortcomings, but mistakes do not necessarily negate one's efforts to do right. Character flaws, however, are another story.

Jefferson owned slaves at a time when they were part of the estate, and so he inherited slaves like he did a house, lands, furniture, and grandma's silverware. But that does not simply erase all the efforts he put into abolishing slavery. Also, he couldn't simply free his slaves- it was illegal in some states and definitely dangerous for the slaves themselves. I think Washington was also in the same predicament- literally doing something he believed was evil, but the alternatives were worse.

Having said that, I don't think I see that particular trend in IFBism. Washington and Jefferson made it clear in their writings that they considered slavery evil and not only wanted to abolish it, but took steps to do so. Keeping their slaves was actually abiding by the law at the time.

It seems that schools today don't encourage students to think these things through. An underlying agenda seems to leach out into every facet of modern public education.

Charlie's picture

Can a modern or postmodern nation value history? The irony of the Enlightenment is that a movement that was based in large part on a recovery of classics issued a philosophy that undervalues history. Through painstaking historical study, modernism issued a narrative of progress. All previous ages chart an upward journey to the modern apex. Previous ages were "dark" and "ignorant." The story of history, especially scientific history, is a tale of peeling away error and superstition. With rhetoric like this, is it any wonder that our culture is future-oriented, relying on technical mastery of the physical universe rather than perceptive understanding of the human condition?

American Christians have contributed to the decline of history. The dominant tradition in America is the free church, which tends to articulate its identity directly from the Bible without any historical attachment. This neglect of history is evident in the curricula of Bible colleges and seminaries, in the books on most pastors' bookshelves, and in the lack of liturgy in most free church worship.

Perhaps with the collapse of modernist optimism, the current state is one that places little stock in the past or the future, but lives indulgently in the present.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

RPittman wrote:
Can we take this a step further by saying that we are seeing this same trend in our own Fundamentalism. If we focus only on our flaws, then our unity and common purpose is destroyed. What do you think?

That's the very reason I'm part of SI. Fundamentalism does not consist only of IFBs. My background is from a fundamental Methodist tradition, we have members here who are Presbyterian and from other backgrounds as well. There are things that fundamentalists (and even those in broader conservative evangelicalism) have in common, and this site attempts to use those commonalities for discussion, argumentation, etc., in an attempt to give us a venue for sharpening we wouldn't otherwise have. All the time I see comments from those wondering why SI allows the breadth of participation it does, where some think it should only be one particular branch of IFB-dom. All the different participants and sub-groups could find "flaws" in what the others believe. Those differences are indeed significant in a local-church setting as well as setting limits on with whom we can serve and join together. However, just as we can learn from the history of men like Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, etc. who were not perfect, we can learn from each other in this setting, to see both the commonalities and differences in our respective groups, while recognizing that there are things that bring those who believe in the fundamentals together in ways we cannot share with those outside.

So yes, if we focus only on the flaws or differences, which of course is common in fundamentalism, it not only helps destroy unity, it makes any recognition of the things that unite us nearly impossible. Fundamentalism today (like America) is not the same as it was when it was founded, but we certainly can learn from our history, both the good and the bad. When we don't, we endanger our future, or at least make things much more difficult for ourselves than they need to be.

Dave Barnhart

JobK's picture

Instead, my problem with the former is that he despised God so much that he redacted all the miracle accounts and statements concerning Jesus Christ's deity from his personal New Testament. And my problem with the latter was his vigorous freemasonry. I believe that Christians would be wise to seek other figures to hold in high regard, or to use as the objects of such statements as "If we focus only on our flaws, then our unity and common purpose is destroyed" which put Jefferson and Washington in the position of role models, as if our Christian leaders are supposed to benefit from being viewed in the same context as those two.

Quite the contrary, I would rather more Christians be aware of the actual religious beliefs of Jefferson and Washington and the other Founding Fathers, and that there be fewer poseurs presenting a false, fanciful view of this history like David Barton (and to a lesser extent the late D. James Kennedy). Far better to defend John Calvin for his role in the execution of Michael Servetus, Balthasar Hubmaier for his brief apostasy, and John Knox and George Whitefield for some of their more regrettable decisions than to invest time over the legacies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And if a lack of knowledge of history is a problem, I would put it in the context of more Christian children knowing about people like Jefferson, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr. etc. than of Calvin, Hubmaier, Knox, Whitefield, William Carey and similar.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

isn't a Christian emphasis or interpretation, but flat-out ignorance of history, American gov't, and related topics.

Quote:
Only 12 percent of high-school seniors, who are getting ready to vote for the first time, have a proficient knowledge of history. If you're looking for a tinsel lining, you could point to 20 percent of fourth-graders who are described as proficient, but that means eight of 10 haven't learned very much during their tender years in the classroom.

You can check out any state or district stats and scores at the http://ies.ed.gov/ Institute of Education Sciences and at the http://nationsreportcard.gov/ National Assessment of Education Progress .

RPittman's picture

Charlie wrote:
Can a modern or postmodern nation value history? [emphasis added ] The irony of the Enlightenment is that a movement that was based in large part on a recovery of classics issued a philosophy that undervalues history. Through painstaking historical study, modernism issued a narrative of progress. All previous ages chart an upward journey to the modern apex. Previous ages were "dark" and "ignorant." The story of history, especially scientific history, is a tale of peeling away error and superstition. With rhetoric like this, is it any wonder that our culture is future-oriented, relying on technical mastery of the physical universe rather than perceptive understanding of the human condition?

American Christians have contributed to the decline of history. The dominant tradition in America is the free church, which tends to articulate its identity directly from the Bible without any historical attachment. This neglect of history is evident in the curricula of Bible colleges and seminaries, in the books on most pastors' bookshelves, and in the lack of liturgy in most free church worship.

Perhaps with the collapse of modernist optimism, the current state is one that places little stock in the past or the future, but lives indulgently in the present. [emphasis added ]

Charlie, do you think Existentialism is inevitable? That seems to be where we are. And we see a pervasive Existentialism, or perhaps existentialism, in the ranks of both the sacred and secular.

RPittman's picture

Susan R wrote:
isn't a Christian emphasis or interpretation, but flat-out ignorance of history, American gov't, and related topics.

Quote:
Only 12 percent of high-school seniors, who are getting ready to vote for the first time, have a proficient knowledge of history. If you're looking for a tinsel lining, you could point to 20 percent of fourth-graders who are described as proficient, but that means eight of 10 haven't learned very much during their tender years in the classroom.

You can check out any state or district stats and scores at the http://ies.ed.gov/ Institute of Education Sciences and at the http://nationsreportcard.gov/ National Assessment of Education Progress .

We have a generation with diplomas and degrees who are uneducated. Not having a working knowledge of history, it is impossible to reason with them. They have only been taught political correctness.

RPittman's picture

JobK wrote:
Instead, my problem with the former is that he despised God so much that he redacted all the miracle accounts and statements concerning Jesus Christ's deity from his personal New Testament. And my problem with the latter was his vigorous freemasonry. I believe that Christians would be wise to seek other figures to hold in high regard, or to use as the objects of such statements as "If we focus only on our flaws, then our unity and common purpose is destroyed" which put Jefferson and Washington in the position of role models, as if our Christian leaders are supposed to benefit from being viewed in the same context as those two.

Quite the contrary, I would rather more Christians be aware of the actual religious beliefs of Jefferson and Washington and the other Founding Fathers, and that there be fewer poseurs presenting a false, fanciful view of this history like David Barton (and to a lesser extent the late D. James Kennedy). Far better to defend John Calvin for his role in the execution of Michael Servetus, Balthasar Hubmaier for his brief apostasy, and John Knox and George Whitefield for some of their more regrettable decisions than to invest time over the legacies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And if a lack of knowledge of history is a problem, I would put it in the context of more Christian children knowing about people like Jefferson, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr. etc. than of Calvin, Hubmaier, Knox, Whitefield, William Carey and similar.

Yes, our heroes, Christian or secular, have feet of clay. On the other hand, we as humans tend to idealize them into perfection. The Bible even records the failures of men such as Paul who assented to Stephen's murder, Abraham who lied, Jacob who was a deceiver, the Hebrew Patriarchs who plotted their brother's murder and sold him into slavery, and the list goes on, and on, and on . . . . Perhaps we should remember this when we become so spiteful and vindictive toward those modern leaders who fail and sin. This, however, does not relieve them of their guilt or accountability--it only speaks to our attitude of a little more mercy realizing except for the grace of God, there go I.

rogercarlson's picture

As a Pastor and Dad of a soon to be high school Jr. in a public school, I think I have a vested interest in this. I think part of the reason these children are ignorant of history has alot to do with parents. Kids in public school that want to learn, do learn. Do they have to wade through some PC? yes. But do they try to teach history? Yes. Part of the reason why these kids don't know history is because parents have not taught their kids to be disciplined to study. That is why they don't learn.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Shaynus's picture

I was a history minor at BJU. One of the differences between history in high school and history in college was application. In high school we mainly had to work on the framework and timeline of history. In college, it wasn't so much about the dates and place names (in the best classes). We had to explain, critique, and understand history. College history was way more fun. I especially liked Dr. Abrams' History of Religion in America. It's one of the most practical classes a pastor could have taken, because it helps us understand the people who walk through the church doors.

I loved Dr. Abrams' insistance that the class was history, and therefore we were mainly trying to "understand" why people did what they did. He emphasized to us to try to understand where people were coming from before we at all tried to "fix" them.

RPittman's picture

rogercarlson wrote:
As a Pastor and Dad of a soon to be high school Jr. in a public school, I think I have a vested interest in this. I think part of the reason these children are ignorant of history has alot to do with parents. Kids in public school that want to learn, do learn. Do they have to wade through some PC? yes. But do they try to teach history? Yes. Part of the reason why these kids don't know history is because parents have not taught their kids to be disciplined to study. That is why they don't learn.
Much history is taught in the wrong way. It is taught through repetition and memorization of facts. It is dull, boring and irrelevant. Dates, except to establish sequence and concurrent relationships, are not really that important. On the other hand, ideas are very important. When I taught American History, I had my students develop lists of events organized under major themes such as land, religious liberty, personal liberty, etc. We were able to trace and show the flow of ideas from the beginning down to the present issues being debated. This made history real life and up-to-date. History is not an accumulation of facts but it is an understanding of life and how it came to be as it is. After all, learning takes place when there is an association of new knowledge with old knowledge.

Andrew K.'s picture

I think that in the modern academic atmosphere, it must be very hard to do history at all.

If as RPittman said (and I agree) history should relate to themes and the flow of ideas, while postmodernism is taken as a rejection of a meta-narrative, or as it has also been described, a critique of how the parts relate to the whole, we can see the lines of an inevitable conflict beginning to form.

Everything begins to fragment; and not only do the themes and traced flow of ideas come under scrutiny but so, ineluctably, will the "objective facts" of history: the dates and names. Questions arise over why we should privilege one set over another (e.g., the traditional over the feminist, etc).

From the other side, we have a form of scientific skepticism that subjects history and historical documents to the scientific method and, seeing it fail to provide an infallible foundation for certainty, treats the whole business with suspicion.

Given what's been trickling down from the Academy, maybe we should be more grateful that the students knew as much as they did. :~

神是爱

rogercarlson's picture

Roland,

I agree with you. My point related to this topic is that a large part of why kids are failing to know history is the student themselves and their parents. Are there teachers teaching revisionist history? Yes. Wehave had to help my daughter in some areas, but by and large it has been better than expected. But as the the basic knowlegge, it falls back to the students themselves.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree with Bro. Pittman and Bro. Carlson. I know many parents who are actively engaged in 'deschooling', which is basically deprogramming their kids from such problems as brainwashing, peer dependency, and revisionism. Perhaps it would be nice to be able to hand over the education reins to someone else, but even if your child is in a Christian school, you can never never never never do this. It is SO important to communicate with your kids about what they are learning and how they are learning it. Not only that, but kids WANT to know what their parents think. They need the direction and guidance that only a parent can give, whether you have a teaching degree or not.

Turn off the TV and sit on the couch in the evenings and read to and with the kids. There are some great resources for this, such as http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-history-primary-sources-literary/dp/B0006S... ]Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline . Head to the local discount bookstore and get autobiographies and other writings of those who lived in early America. You can get the http://www.amazon.com/Annals-America-22-Set/dp/0852299605 ]Annals of America for a pittance. Visit colonial Virginia and Washington DC instead of Disneyland. Watch The History Channel (if you must) instead of Dancing with the Morons Stars. Don't think that because your child is in a good private school, or you live in a district graded as "Excellent" that you can relax and leave the education up to 'the professionals'. It ain't gettin' done, and the stats show it. Making sure your kids get a solid education is not difficult- it is simply a matter of priorities and making better choices.

Now I've gone to meddlin'... http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-fc/pcwhack.gif[/img ]

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think treating information as separate 'subjects' is harmful. How do you separate history from science from geography from cultural studies and literature? Each one of these affects and informs the others.

When we read Dracula together this year, some of the things we discussed were what was known about blood in the late 1800's, the predominant religious ideas of the day, gender roles in Victorian England, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society, and the juxtaposition of science and superstition.

The way history is often taught takes a scalpel and carves events out of their natural settings and reduces them to disconnected factoids. Only a deep and purposeful interweaving of events, culture, climate, topography, technology, ideas... gives a clear picture that grounds history as real in the mind of a student.

RPittman's picture

[quote=Andrew K ]From the other side, we have a form of scientific skepticism that subjects history and historical documents to the scientific method and, seeing it fail to provide an infallible foundation for certainty, treats the whole business with suspicion.[quote]Good observation! The problem is that the scientific method is wonderful for determining what works and what doesn't with observable physical phenomenon but it is inappropriate for the humanities (i.e. history).

RPittman's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think treating information as separate 'subjects' is harmful. How do you separate history from science from geography from cultural studies and literature? Each one of these affects and informs the others.

When we read Dracula together this year, some of the things we discussed were what was known about blood in the late 1800's, the predominant religious ideas of the day, gender roles in Victorian England, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society, and the juxtaposition of science and superstition.

The way history is often taught takes a scalpel and carves events out of their natural settings and reduces them to disconnected factoids. Only a deep and purposeful interweaving of events, culture, climate, topography, technology, ideas... gives a clear picture that grounds history as real in the mind of a student.

It is often characterized that the Greek mind categorizes and separates things into compartments whereas the Hebrew mind see the inter-relatedness of things as a whole. I do think there's merit to this idea but I don't see it as an absolute principle. Teaching from part to whole and whole to part are both valid means. We must remember, however, that reality of life is the totality of experience and no part has a separate existence or meaning of itself.

RPittman's picture

One reason that history is boring for many is because it is disconnected from real life. It ought not to be. For this reason, re-enactment, living history, etc. are great ways of experiencing history. As Susan suggested, my family explored Williamsburg and Old Salem, found exciting and interesting things at off-the-beaten-track battlefields and hamlets, watched re-enactments, participated in living history events, listened to stories and period music around camp fires, etc. instead of spending our time and money on tourist traps, theme parks, etc. My son was frightened by the bloody moaning men lying on straw at a field hospital in Bentonville, he got sick at a simulated amputation, and he cried screaming when Elwell's Corp surrendered at Saylor's Creek. Disney has never been this good!

SRees's picture

If you don't know history, you can't teach history. And if you don't know history, you can't teach you children what is wrong with the history they're being taught. This statement applies to public schools, Christian schools, and yes, even home schools. I am constantly annoyed with 'Christian' history books that have been written by people who obviously learned secular history and then rewrote it from a 'Christian' viewpoint. They didn't dig in and really analyze history from a Christian perspective.

The problem with many Christians, is that they want to take popular heroes (Lincoln, Jefferson, etc) and Christianify them. Two questions I check out in a history book are, 1. Which slaves did Lincoln free and why?, There are many opinions on this subject, and every person in my family has a different viewpoint on Lincoln ranging from 'He was a great hero' to 'He was a power grabbing politician who set our country on its present course of government control' I'm in the middle, by the way. ;P and 2. Who was responsible for the Trail of Tears and why did it happen? This one is indicative of whether the author has a knee-jerk Andrew Jackson was an uncultured red-neck who was racist viewpoint or whether he studied and evaluated all the parties involved and looked at their intents and motivations. If either of the subjects are messed up, I know that the whole book is suspect. The author either has an ax to grind or didn't do his work.

The point is that if you can't sit at your table (or in front of the History Channel) and know what happened and why, your children will probably never learn real history. It is the exchange of facts and ideas that makes history exciting. This takes an immense amount of time, both to learn and to implement, but its rewards are invaluable. But I would guess that I'm preaching to the choir here. Biggrin

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
~ Psalm 19:14
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
~ Proverbs 13:10

RPittman's picture

History is not bunk. We are reliving and working through the same issues today. I constantly challenge my students to see themes and their development throughout history. The same issues that we presently debate have historical precedents.

Charlie's picture

I read through that questionnaire of young Fundamentalists composed by Jeremy Sweatt. I was struck by the fact that these respondents, mostly seminary students and young pastors, read no classic theology. In the recent books section, there was not a single theological work from before 1900, only a few biographies. That's beyond disappointing. It's absurd. It would be like a philosopher not reading Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, etc.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin