Learning to take pride 6

What can be done to cure the sad condition we describe in the post below?

One way is to teach our children history – especially the history of America. Bill Bennett is taking active steps to do this. He writes:

How can we expect the next generation of Americans to protect and defend the country’s legacy if they do not know their own history? Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” Our country’s very freedom and future hinges on education. How can we ask our children to fight, and perhaps die, for a country they do not know?

America’s love for history has always been self-propelled. Long before the ivory towers of pedagogy there were the log cabins of self-education. Men like Abraham Lincoln were voracious readers, often going to great lengths to get their hands on, and minds around, the classics. Education wasn’t limited to five days a week, seven hours a day and nine months out of the year; it was an on-going process with children often spending their few spare hours of the day reading under candlelight.

Today, our textbooks are more intent on political correctness, dulled-down event reporting and universal appeal. The dramatic and realistic story of America is mostly absent in the study of American history. Text authors, publishers and higher education experts have desiccated the rich drama and conflicts of history and replaced them with dry narratives that read more like recipe books and less like thrilling, page-turning novels.

My goal, along with a group of award-winning teachers, is to reverse this precarious trend and reshape the future of history education in America. Known as Team HOPE (History Opens Eyes), we have begun incorporating “America: The Last Best Hope” and other curriculum materials into a comprehensive and compelling narrative about our country. “Last Best Hope” does not look or read like any other textbook. It is the story of a people inextricably linked by the common threads of freedom and virtue, a story of men and women who rallied a great people behind them throughout the course of our nation’s history. In “Last Best Hope,” history is more than rote memorization or tedious facts; it is drama, romance, comedy, mystery, action, tragedy and triumph. I believe in the “warts and all” version of American history—not “warts, and that’s all.” And because of this, our project has been positively reviewed by scholars from all ideological perspectives.

This revolution we are commencing is not limited to classrooms or textbooks. Remember parents: You are a child’s first and most important teacher and the single-most effective Department of Education. President Ronald Reagan said, “Let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” As our children return to school this fall, let us actively engage and encourage their interest in history—from the dinner tables to the classrooms.

If we are to restore America’s love for its rich and great history, we must begin by telling the truth, not in a prosaic, tiresome fashion, but in a captivating and memorable way. Our story is one of great suffering and great triumph; it is what Abraham Lincoln called “the last best hope of earth.”

Posted under Commentary, Conservatism, education, Progressivism, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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