Written by Nancy Salvato
April 29, 2008
By Nancy Salvato
“Textbooks today are trapped in an ideological straitjacket that, in contrast to the surrounding popular culture, restricts content and sterilizes social realities.” – The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption
I’ve always enjoyed learning about history. When I look back on my history classes, it wasn’t because I was interested in reading the textbooks, it was the teacher who made history come alive, by inserting anecdotes that made it “real,” showing footage of actual events, or by connecting what happened in the past to the present.
As a matter of fact, most of the textbooks I used put me to sleep. I loved to read and often wondered why we couldn’t just read books instead of textbooks to learn about people, places, and events.
During my senior year of high school, learning was a little more fun because we read news magazines and newspapers for Current Events class and because we read works of fiction and non fiction in Language Arts. In college, history classes as an upper classman were the most compelling because there were no textbooks, just books on a particular aspect of history. All things considered, it is somewhat surprising that I majored in history without reaching the conclusion of many of my peers who believed history to be completely boring. I have to credit the teachers who made it a subject worthwhile.
When I taught history, the yardstick against which I measured myself was being able to emulate my best teachers by inserting anecdotes into discussions, finding relevant footage, or providing the etymology of words so students could better understand what was being discussed. I realized my students and I were at a disadvantage when I had to teach about something in which I wasn’t well read.
I remember a friend telling me, always provide your students a text with less information than the teacher’s resource; this way, you can always fill in the gaps and appear more knowledgeable. While this was good advice at the time, as I have matured and have become more well-read, I realize that there are gaps of which the very best teachers aren’t even aware. This is because there is an ideological battle being fought which has impacted many students’ and teachers’ ability to see the big picture.
At the We The People National Academy I received a much more balanced and complete presentation of the political theory leading to the Constitution. There was so much information that I am still reading about and researching, some of the ideas to which I was introduced during this three week study seminar. Perhaps more importantly, I realized that I was at a serious disadvantage in my previous learning compared to colleagues who understood much better than me the influence of religious doctrine in the development of our founding documents and its relevance today.
The epiphany that I had not been working with all the pieces of the puzzle was disturbing, to say the least. Without critical examination of all the information, it is much harder to see the parallels between the past and present and to hone in on what is most relevant at any given moment.
Sometimes entire sections of the puzzle are kept from students and teachers because of the misguided notion that there must be a wall of separation between church and state. There are important differences in religious thinking of which one must be aware to make sense of our history and current events and which are critical to understanding the role of We the People in the governance of our country.
According to Aristotle, there are three good systems of government: monarchy “government by one;” aristocracy “government by the best ones;” and polity, the other two together with the participation of all the other (freemen) citizens. (It wasn’t until the advent of Christianity when St. Paul said that all people are one in Christ that all other citizens was meant to be all inclusive.) When the above mentioned systems of government fail, “it is because they are degenerating, viz. monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and polity into democracy.
Democracy is the term Aristotle uses for what we nowadays would call mob-rule.” Just like marriage doesn’t mean happily ever after (a couple has to work at it for it to succeed), implementing a form of government doesn’t mean happily ever after either. It takes work to maintain the balance necessary to evolve and function in a country’s best interest. (A Philosophical and Historical Analysis of Modern Democracy, on the American)
Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Sovereignty or political authority within civil society lies ultimately in the people, who holds it from God and for whose benefit all civil authority and government is instituted. Not all theologians agreed with Aquinas’ conclusion. According to Luther, original sin “had totally corrupted human nature, completely depriving man of his freedom.
Therefore authority rested with secular rulers, who received their power directly from God, making the king sovereign. The Catholic Church rejecting this view at the Council of Trent maintained that mankind is not totally corrupted and “retains his freedom both to sin and to accept the saving grace of God.” Calvinists claimed sovereignty lay with some of the people, “specifically in the honest hardworking and thereby hard-earned property people, who were the predestined members of the Church.” It’s important to note that the political philosophers Locke, Montesquieu and Rousseau, were all influenced by Calvinism. (IBID)
The French Revolution differed from the American Revolution because the sovereignty of the people was absolute (beginnings of socialism), given to the people from a God, whom it was believed did not intervene with the affairs of human life or the natural laws of the universe (Deism). The French attempted to sweep away established churches and other institutions of government and start from ground zero.
The French ended up with what Aristotle would have considered, “mob rule.” Although some of the founders were deists, the Declaration of Independence affirmed the self evident truths that, “sovereignty comes from God, to whose moral law all are subject, and to whom all are accountable.” Sovereignty was given from God to the people who vest it in the King or other form of authority. (IBID)
It is important to understand that whether you believe in a higher power or not, the sovereignty of the American people rests on the idea that it is given to us from God and that we are all held accountable to God. Should established ideas of right and wrong in this country be changed to reflect the notion that moral truth or justification is relative, in other words, moral relativism, despite the fact that according to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming majority of Americans (78%) view the Bible as the word of God? Should a minority of Americans decide on what our sovereignty should be based? Those who believe we are all members of a global society believe that our system of government is subject to a global system of laws. Should they have the power to undermine our Constitution, the rule of law established by the Framers? There is a minority that is attempting – and in some cases succeeding – in systematically erasing all reference to God in this country. This is having a negative effect on how we learn history and how we approach current events. It has also skewed the way we approach science.
Rather than pose a hypothesis and then test the hypothesis, there are many atheist scientists who begin with the idea that because there is no proof that God exists, that God doesn’t exist. There is no scientific consensus on this idea. Scientists who would like to continue investigating the idea of intelligent design are not given the academic freedom to do so. They are blacklisted. In our textbooks, the approach has been to take religion out of our history and out of our scientific inquiry. This is no different than the blacklisting of ideological liberals in Hollywood during the McCarthy era, back in the late 1940s and 1950s.
When academic freedom to test hypothesis is taken away, we are left with ideologically driven texts and consensus. This is very dangerous to freedom. We have already seen this occur with the idea that there is a scientific consensus that global warming is caused by man and that global warming is bad. The more ideology directs us to one world Socialism, the more it undermines our capitalistic driven economy. As the facts present: the more freedom in an economy, the more prosperous a country.
At this moment in time, the issue of academic freedom is probably more far reaching and is as great a threat to our liberty as limited school choice, dumbed-down curriculum, lack of accountability, or unsafe school environments, which typically dominate when the topic of education is in the news. Thanks to Ben Stein, the issue of Intelligent Design, which falls under academic freedom is garnering renewed attention and hopefully people will tune in and learn more about the importance of presenting a balanced curriculum in our schools, but even more than that, allowing for a more balanced coverage of issues, such as global warming, so that scientific consensus truly means consensus, not just a group of like-minded people furthering an agenda.
Should the religious influence in our founding documents be erased from our history, should scientific consensus continue to be based on hypothesis, instead of testing hypothesis to build scientific consensus, and if people continue to give their sovereignty to an elite group of people for a handout, then every freedom for which our Founders dedicated their lives, and for which our soldiers continue to fight and die, has been in vain. It is with every ounce of my intellect that I will continue to fight for my country and I enlist others to do the same. The preamble to our nation’s Constitution is written in the present tense for a reason.
Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country, specifically the threats of aggressive Islamofascism and the American Fifth Column.