Subtract and divide

"Subtract and divide" Continued...

Issue: "Two-ring circus," Sept. 6, 2008

The history that is taught is often fragmented history, a history of this or that group, not of the nation as a whole. E Pluribus Unum argues that "colleges and universities should require knowledge of America's national history and its democratic political tradition as a condition of graduation. Faculty should be hired who are prepared to teach these subjects, not just narrower specialties."

But that refusal to teach about American ideals is part of a deeper problem, the refusal to think America worth defending that is indicated by the unwillingness of many colleges to host ROTC programs. Leading institutions like Harvard and Yale allow students to participate in ROTC programs only if they commute to other colleges that have programs.

Ironically, anti-military professors would not last long if radical Muslims or other enemies of a free society were to gain power. The Bradley Project concluded that "colleges and universities should have ROTC programs on campus and should give the same access to military recruiters as they do to other employers."

So schools and colleges must change, but E Pluribus Unum notes that "the preservation of American memory is not solely the task of our schools and colleges. We all have an obligation to remember what we owe to those who have gone before us. Schools used to be named after American heroes such as Nathan Hale and Clara Barton instead of just East Metropolis Junior High. That practice should be restored."

Americans who work outside fields of formal education also have a responsibility: The Fourth of July should be celebrated not only with fireworks but also with teaching about how a free and independent country came into being. "Families, schools and colleges, businesses and civic organizations, and government at all levels should keep American memory alive by treating national holidays and historic sites such as Mount Vernon and Gettysburg as touchstones of national identity and as educational opportunities."

Small changes can help: "There was a time when all of us, and especially our nation's schoolchildren, celebrated George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays. Today these great national holidays are collapsed into a generic Presidents' Day, as if Millard Fillmore and Chester A. Arthur were being honored. Washington and Lincoln's birthdays should be restored as distinctive celebrations."

Finally, individual families can do their part: "Families can schedule at least one trip annually to a national landmark." Walking Civil War battlefields can help-see "Brother against brother: Top Civil War battlefields to visit" (WORLD, June 10, 2000)-and I can also say from personal experience that sites like Mount Vernon are well worth visiting.

A few good American history books


Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot's History of the United States William Bennett, America: The Last Best Hope
Paul Johnson, A History of the American People
Marvin Olasky, The American Leadership Tradition


Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower
Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints
Perry Miller, ed., The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry
J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness


David McCullough, 1776
Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers
David McCullough, John Adams
Burke Davis, The Campaign That Won America
Marvin Olasky, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue


Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Shelby Foote, The Civil War
Bruce Catton, The Civil War
Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels
Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery


Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man
Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers
David McCullough, Truman
Whittaker Chambers, Witness
Peggy Noonan, When Character Was King
William F. Buckley Jr., The Fall of the Berlin Wal
l Robert Shogan, War Without End


Peggy Noonan, A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag
Karl Zinsmeister, Boots on the Ground
Michael Barone, Hard America, Soft America
Mark Steyn, America Alone

Making citizens

By Marvin Olasky

Teaching American history is particularly important because immigration is at its highest levels since the 1920s. The more people who come to this country, the more crucial it is that all become full participants in American civic life and culture. Nine out of 10 Americans support that goal of participation; those who emphasize differences, with every group encouraged to retain its separate identity, oppose it.

Some ethnicity-emphasizers argue for dual citizenship, multilingual ballots, and bilingual instruction rather than English immersion. Instead of saying "We the people" they want us to think in terms of "We the peoples," with loyalty to a native land trumping loyalty to America. Instead of one America they want many Americas, or even no America at all.

Many Americans still hope that public schools will fulfill the civic mission of Americanization, but In 2001 sociologists Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut studied 5,000 students of immigrant parents from all over the world. They found that after four years in an American high school, immigrant youths were less likely to consider themselves Americans. Instead of learning to participate fully in American social, economic, and civic life, they may still pledge allegiance to the countries of their origin.

While some educators are muddled, public opinion is clear. The Bradley/Harris survey showed nine in 10 of those polled agreeing that "Americanization, including learning English and embracing American culture and values, is important in order for immigrants to successfully fulfill their duties as U.S. citizens." Some 84 percent said that English should become the official language of the United States, and 77 percent said that those moving to the United States from other countries should become part of American culture. Three out of four said that immigrants should be required to give up loyalty to their former country. Only 13 percent indicated that immigrants should maintain the culture of their home country.

The Bradley Project recommended that newcomers to America (and the native-born as well) learn how immigrants such as John Paul Jones (born in Scotland) and Alexander Hamilton (from the West Indies) played key roles in the Revolution. Later, immigrants built the Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad. Economic opportunity helped Americans to avoid, for the most part, ethnic wars. Assimilated immigrants loved this country not only because it allowed for economic progress but because its practice of religious freedom, political equality, and private property was so much finer than anything they had seen in their home countries.

Americanization wasn't easy-new language, new laws, new culture-but that was the process for millions. Excited about embracing new opportunities, they thought in terms captured by the title of one best-selling immigrant autobiography: The Americanization of Edward Bok.

Immigrants today also need to be Americanized, and it's false compassion to pretend otherwise, according to former cabinet member (and San Antonio mayor) Henry Cisneros: "Americans in the early 1900s were not shy about asking the new immigrants to learn to speak English and commit to their new country."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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