While perusing some news articles last week I again saw a story on a statue to a southern Civil War hero being removed from its display location to be hidden away in some dark warehouse. Apparently, the driving force behind this decision was outrage expressed by students at a local college. Of course, this entire sad situation has often derived its impetus from the younger generation and has been ongoing for more than a year to this point. For whatever reason, this article engaged the ole ‘gray matter’ and I began to review this, to me, strange situation from the vantage point of a sixty five year old white male with a college education.
I remember being much more liberal in my ideology during my college years; I believe this is pretty much the norm. But I also know after spending just a decade as a ‘functioning’ member of American society I began to realize much of progressive outlook was based upon idealism and lacked much basis in the reality of life in the United States. This is not to say being idealistic is a bad thing; Heaven knows we could use more people willing to dream of better situations and work towards said situations! But desiring major cultural and social changes without considering the ramifications be they political, cultural and/or fiscal is a fool’s errand. And often times such dreamers deliberately ignore the facts because as John Adams said; “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” But upon deeper introspection I began to wonder if this ‘statue hysteria’ was simply a matter of youthful liberalism.
Without question I am dead set against all the destructive frenzy centered on the ‘history’ of those embodied in our statues and I believe the forced removal of these statues is tantamount to fascism. But I’ve come to believe the driving force behind this wave of hysteria is not just based in youthful exuberance but rather in a total failure of our educational system to teach not just history but why it is important. In a nutshell, George Santayana distilled the issue down to his famous quote; “Those who do not learn history and doomed to repeat it…”. This doesn’t just refer to learning about human history in terms of dates and events but also understanding the culture and the mindset of those different times. It is in this area I find our educational system has failed and failed dramatically.
Because our educational system has failed to teach this absolutely necessary perspective I cannot fault the younger generations for their reaction to statues glorifying Civil War heroes who fought to maintain slavery of other human beings. They do not appear to grasp the fact that when viewing such statues one must remember the time and events which spawned their creation. Of course, it was far different from today yet so many of the younger generations tend to view these monuments as though they were created only yesterday. Without question, part of this perception is based upon the solipsism endorsed and even encouraged by so many progressives; it champions the idea that we put ourselves before the greater good and are all important and unique individuals. By espousing this concept one is encouraged to view everything through the lens of the ‘now’ without regard for past perceptions and beliefs. But if our educational system was doing its job these same young people would have learned about ‘historical perspective’ and why it is vital to understanding history. And, as George Santayana noted, if we do not learn from our history we are condemned to repeat it.
If I were a conspiracy minded individual, which I’m not, I could make a pretty good case for this deficiency being deliberate and based in an attempt by the decidedly liberal colleges and teachers unions to create a generation of Americans lacking in basic skills required to evaluate historical events and outcomes. Such a population would be unable to fathom current events as compared to those of the past allowing those in power to begin maneuvering the people towards even more governmental control of their existence. In short, creating a new generation lacking the ability to learn from their history would make them much easier to control. This conjures up frightening memories of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s or Russia in the 1920’s.
While I do not subscribe to the ‘world-wide educational conspiracy’ idea I can see how many other folks could do so and I cannot irrefutably shoot down the idea. I do believe there is a conscious effort by uber-progressive zealots to undermine the analytical thinking capabilities of the ‘average’ American with the ultimate goal of creating a populace who doesn’t think through the consequences of radical changes in policies and laws. They have solid support from American universities which are now hot-beds of liberal, progressive ideologies. And there is something to be said for those controlling the education of upcoming generations being able to better control the same. One of the tools now being employed to ultimately promote some of this ‘control’, often as a bludgeon, is political correctness. I’ve written previously on the evil of political correctness and how it throttles open and honest communication under the guise of making communications more ‘civilized’. I remain convinced that political correctness is one of the major issues facing American culture and a weapon often employed by ultra-left zealots to push their agendas.
Without question this country is facing challenging and tumultuous times well beyond the seemingly insurmountable political polarization. If we are to move forward in positive direction we need a well-educated, critically thinking populace. Under the current climate it is mistake to believe our universities and school systems will provide the needed education. It remains the duty of every American to be as educated and aware as possible. Without doing so we are sure to succumb to radical ideals with little to no basis in fact presented by those with education and an agenda.