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How History Was Taught Back Then

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #75, 2007.

How history used to be taught in U.S. schools.
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Sam Blumenfeld


History has always been considered an important subject in American education. As Santayana once wrote: "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But the progressives, who now control American education, want socialist change so badly that they have relegated the study of history to a patchwork of relevant topics that further their agenda.

You cannot have a viable civilization without a true knowledge of the past. Indeed, it is the duty of the present generation to pass on to the future generation the knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual values of the previous generation. Spiritual values in this case refer to biblical religion, the religion on which American civilization is based.

With American education now in the hands of secularists, atheists, liberals, and socialists, biblical religion has been removed from the curriculum, so that children believe that religion is irrelevant to their needs as human beings. In addition, the curriculum is now controlled by behavioral psychologists who believe in the strictest form of atheistic evolution and treat children as if they were young animals. Yes, human beings can certainly be trained like animals, but they can also be educated. Animals, on the other hand, can be trained, but they cannot be educated.

That is why history is now taught the way it is in our public schools. Children are trained, or indoctrinated, to learn certain historical factoids that serve the agenda of the educators. And that is done by divorcing history from its biblical roots.

The history of man begins with the Bible, which provides a very clear chronological story of man's relationship with God. The early settlers of this country understood this biblical imperative. When teaching history to their children they made sure that they understood the meaning of God's hand in their lives. Religion permeated education in those days because it was understood that a knowledge of God was indispensable to human progress and happiness.

Today, evolution, atheism, and nihilism permeate our education system. One of the most insightful points that John Taylor Gatto makes in his wonderful book, The Underground History of American Education, is that today's schools do everything in their power to keep the students childish... so childish that they cannot engage in an intelligent conversation with anyone.

Jay Leno, the late night TV comedian, provides shocking interviews with today's youth, some of whom are in college. Their ignorance is so appalling that it is more tragic than comic. A high-school student was asked, "Who wrote Handel's Messiah?" and he answered, "I don't read books." He didn't even know that Handel's Messiah was a famous piece of music, not a book.

Recently, I came across an American history school book by Charles A. Goodrich. Published in 1858, it was designed "to aid the memory by systematic arrangement and interesting associations." The introduction states, "History displays the dealings of God with mankind. It calls upon us often to regard with awe his darker judgments; and, again, it awakens the liveliest emotions of gratitude for his kind and benignant dispensations. It cultivates a sense of dependence on him, strengthens our confidence in his benevolence, and impresses us with a conviction of his justice."

Today, that book would be banned from our schools. Yet, it provides a very well written chronicle of our history beginning with Columbus, the settlement of North America, the War for Independence, the establishment of the Federal Constitution, Washington's Administration, and the presidencies of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore. The great events of the Civil War were still in the not-so-distant future.

In a chapter on American Progress, we read on the subject of food: "The people of no country on the globe are better, or so well fed, as the Americans. It is emphatically a land of plenty." Concerning the character traits of Americans, we read: "A great spirit of enterprise. A large share of personal independence and resolution. An enlightened and cordial attachment to liberty, civil and religious. Great inquisitiveness, and a strong capacity for mechanical inventions and improvement. A love of general intelligence."

I wish that every student in an American school today could read a history book like that. There is also a section of questions. For example: "What generals were taken prisoners at the battle of Long Island? Who was General Kniphausen? When did royal government, generally, cease in America? When did Congress prohibit the slave-trade from American ports? When were the first slaves introduced? How many? By what ship? Who fastened this evil upon the colonies?"

That's the way history was taught when educators knew how to teach it. I advise all homeschoolers to comb antiquarian bookstores or Internet sources of out-of-print books and get a copy of an American history from the days when history mattered.

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