Skip to comments.Revisionism: How to Identify It In Your Children's Textbooks
Posted on 08/15/2005 9:29:54 AM PDT by dukeman
Revisionism is the common method employed by those seeking to subvert American culture and society. The dictionary defines revisionism as an advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine; especially a revision of historical events and movements.
Revisionism attempts to alter the way a people views its history and traditions in order to cause that people to accept a change in public policy. For example, during the 150 years that textbooks described the Founding Fathers as being devout men and Christians who actively practiced their faith, civic policy embraced and welcomed public religious expressions. But in recent years as the same Founders have come to be portrayed as atheists, agnostics, and deists who were opposed to religious activities, public policies have similarly been reversed.
Revisionists generally accomplish their goal of rewriting history by:
Underemphasizing or ignoring the aspects of American history they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions they find acceptable;
Vilifying the historical figures who embraced a position they reject; and
Concocting the appearance of widespread historical approval for the social policy they are attempting to advance.
There are many means that are used by revisionists to accomplish these goals but the most common include:
1. Patent Untruths
Numerous history texts make claims such as: our national government was secular from top to bottom, or that the Founders reared a national government on a secular basis. Those who have studied the American Founding know that this is a patent untruth proved by numbers of Founders, including John Adams, who declared: The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. (Even the text of the Declaration of Independence refutes any charges of government secularism.) This approach usually relies on a general lack of public knowledge about that untruth; consequently, such untruthful claims are rarely made in areas where citizens have broad general knowledge (such as claiming that James Madison used an atomic bomb to end the Civil War, or that the first sub-machine gun was developed in 1536 in Nevada by the Quakers). Revisionism relies on a lack of citizen knowledge in specific areas.
2. Overly Broad Generalizations
This revisionist tool presents the exception as if it were the rule. For example, texts often name Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine as proof of the lack of religiosity among the Founders yet fail to mention the rest of the almost 200 Founding Fathers including the dozens of Founders who not only received their education in schools specializing in the training of ministers of the Gospel but who also were active in Christian ministry and organizations (e.g., John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman, et. al).
Similarly, when discussing religion in America, the Salem Witch trials are universally presented; but rarely mentioned are the positive societal changes produced by Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, and dozen of other religious groups and organizations that worked for the abolition of slavery, secured religious freedoms for all, and fought to end societal abuses of all types. (Also never mentioned is that the American witch trials resulted in some two dozen deaths and were halted by religious leaders, while the European witch trials resulted in 100,000; that is, American Christianity at that time might not have been perfect but it was light years ahead of both the Christianity practiced in Europe and the European secularism that resulted in 40,000 executions in the French Revolution.)
Notice the following three examples from American history works:
"We whose names are under-written . . . do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick." MAYFLOWER COMPACT, 1620
"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? . . . I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death?" PATRICK HENRY, 1775
. . . ART. I.His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . . PEACE TREATY TO END THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, 1783
What was omitted from these important historical quotes?
"We whose names are under-written having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northern parts of Virginia do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick.
Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death?
In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts . . . ART. I.His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . . "
The omitted segments are those that indicate the strongly religious nature of American government documents and leaders. Also regularly omitted from texts is the fact that gratitude to God was central to the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving and the fact that in 1782, the Congress of the United States was responsible for America's first English-language Bible; and that in 1800, Congress voted that on Sundays, the Capitol Building would serve as a church building and that by 1867, the largest protestant church in America was the one that met inside the U. S. Capitol; etc.
4. A Lack of Primary Source References
The avoidance of primary-source documents is characteristic in revisionism. For example, the authors of the widely-used text The Godless Constitution blatantly announce that they have dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes when discussing the documentation for their thesis that Americas government is built on a secular foundation. Similarly, the text The Search for Christian America purports to examine the Founding Era and finds a distinct lack of Christian influence. Yet 80 percent of the historical sources on which it relies to document its finding were published after 1950! That is, to determine what was occurring in the 1700s, they quote from works printed in the 1900s.
To locate revisionism in a text, look at its tone, the documents it presents, and the heroes it elevates.
To discover a revisionist tone, find the answers to these questions in the textbook: Is exploration and colonization motivated only by the desire for land or gold? Are those who promoted religious and moral values portrayed as harsh, punitive, and intolerant? Is traditional family ignored? Is government presented as statist that is, that the state (rather than individuals, families, churches, or communities) is to take care of society's needs? Is there a victim ideology a steady diet of those who have been exploited throughout history rather than those who have uplifted their culture? Are other religions portrayed positively and Christianity negatively (if at all)? Are original documents presented? (Do students see the actual text or only what someone else says about it?) Do they see the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, George Washington's Farewell Address, and Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address? Are the documents heavily edited to present only a sentence or two or do they provide a substantive amount of text?
Who are the heroes presented? Do they tend to be angry - fighting an unjust society or government? Do they tend to be modern heroes only? Do they tend to be only secular leaders? For example, the U. S. Capitol displays some 100 statues of the most important individuals in America's history; a significant percentage of those statues are of ministers and Christian leaders. Will your children receive in their textbooks at least the same view of American heroes that is presented in America's pre-eminent government building?
When examining a text, always remember that your children do not know as much about history as you do and consequently have no basis for identifying bias. Therefore, examine each text as if you knew nothing at all about history except what is presented in that text; on that basis, will you be pleased with the tone toward America inculcated in your child through that text? If not, then urge your school to get a better text or be diligent to supplement for your children what is missing or wrongly presented in the text.
It is not melodramatic to state that America's future rests on what is taught to our children, for as Abraham Lincoln wisely observed:
"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. "(attributed)
Famous American educator Noah Webster therefore rightly admonished:
"The education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. . . . [It] lays the foundations on which both law and gospel rest for success."
I'm glad Texas has a centralized textbook adoption board. These kinds of attempts to rewrite history get caught. Texas is such a big market that revisions forced by Texas get put in textbooks around the entire US.
Bump and Marked. Thanks!
My favorite bit of revisionism is that we live "in a democracy", but by looking around you can see that it "has failed", requiring massive and radical reform to get it back to the democracy that jefferson and the other founders dreamed of.
I don't think that's revisionism so much as just plain old ignorance.
The author, David Barton, is a Texan and consults with the state on curriculum. I saw him speak at a conference this past June. His talk on the Christian foundations of America's founding BLEW ME AWAY! The guy is encyclopedic in the breadth and depth of his knowledge. Spend a little time on his website. It's an eye-opener!
This is a topic that comes up often in our house. My husband has always been a lover of history, and while not anywhere near as knowlegeable as this author, pointed out revisionism in textbooks when he was in HS (did not go over well with the teacher) and he graduated in 1973..........
When asked about this by an audience member, Barton said Jefferson would have slapped anyone who called the book the Jefferson Bible. More importantly, the libs (as usual) have taken the book wholly out of context. Jefferson's purpose was to produce a volume useful to those missionaries who were trying to take the Gospel to the Indians. He reasoned that it might be more effective to first teach the moral lessons of the New Testament to the Indians before getting to the deity of Jesus and the redemption which comes from His death and resurrection. So, the "Jefferson Bible" was an evangelistic tool, and not a statement of agnosticism. And the libs hate evangelism!
To say that someone is Deist is not to say that they are not religous. Deists don't believe that the Lord has given Divine revelation directly to any human, but they do believe that there is a God and that He created the universe and all that is in it.
Most of the parents we know don't even look at their kids textbooks. Sigh.
As I mentioned above in another reply, I saw this guy speak this summer. He is absolutely on fire for the truth of America's founding.
Thank you, I will make a point of having him take a look at it.
At teh beginning of our nation there was a big debate over Republic vs Democracy, and the Republicans outnumbered the Democrats, and had a more compelling logic. So we are a republic.
There are those who would rather we have a democracy, without the encumberments of the constitution (hence persistent revisionist views of that document).
I think that by teaching kids that we live in a failed democracy, you prime them to accept radical changes towards democracy and socialism- if it has failed and gone astray, then let's fix it up toot sweet, like let's get rid of the Electoral College, or have Universal Health Care.
I don't see the "failed democracy" tactic as being accidental at all.
I learned something new! Thanks again.
"A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror" (Sentinel, 2004).
(They won't let me post a graphic of the cover, as that might be "solicitation." But others may do so if they wish).
See Edwin Gaustad, "Faith of the Founders," 2nd ed.
Patrick Henry is your man. He was a devout Christian. TJ was not.
The teacher couldn't have cared less, the district office couldn't have cared less - this blatant BS didn't matter much to them. Been homeschooling ever since.
Our local schools prohibit the children from taking books home for the parents to see. I've seen some that were sneaked out. Terrible. No wonder the kids can't read.
Thanks! Needs to be passed along to our school board members, too.
As a parent, I thank you very much for this information
The Founding Fathers and Deism
by David Barton
(We receive numerous requests from across the country to answer various editorials and letters-to-the-editor. The subject is usually the religious persuasions of the Founding Fathers, and the standard assertion is that they were all deists. The following is but one of many possible replies to such accusations.)
I notice that your newspaper has an ongoing debate concerning the religious nature of the Founding Fathers. A recent letter claimed that most of the Founding Fathers were deists, and pointed to Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Hamilton, and Madison as proof. After making this charge, the writer acknowledged the "voluminous writings" of the Founders, but it appears that she has not read those writings herself. However, this is no surprise since the U. S. Department of Education claims that only 5 percent of high schools graduates know how to examine primary source documentation.
Interestingly, the claims in this recent letter to the editor are characteristic of similar claims appearing in hundreds of letters to the editor across the nation. The standard assertion is that the Founders were deists. Deists? What is a deist? In dictionaries like Websters, Funk & Wagnalls, Century, and others, the terms "deist," "agnostic," and "atheist" appear as synonyms. Therefore, the range of a deist spans from those who believe there is no God, to those who believe in a distant, impersonal creator of the universe, to those who believe there is no way to know if God exists. Do the Founders fit any of these definitions?
None of the notable Founders fit this description. Thomas Paine, in his discourse on "The Study of God," forcefully asserts that it is "the error of schools" to teach sciences without "reference to the Being who is author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin." He laments that "the evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching [science without God] has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism." Paine not only believed in God, he believed in a reality beyond the visible world.
In Benjamin Franklin's 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach "the necessity of a public religion . . . and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern." Consider also the fact that Franklin proposed a Biblical inscription for the Seal of the United States; that he chose a New Testament verse for the motto of the Philadelphia Hospital; that he was one of the chief voices behind the establishment of a paid chaplain in Congress; and that when in 1787 when Franklin helped found the college which bore his name, it was dedicated as "a nursery of religion and learning" built "on Christ, the Corner-Stone." Franklin certainly doesn't fit the definition of a deist.
Nor does George Washington. He was an open promoter of Christianity. For example, in his speech on May 12, 1779, he claimed that what children needed to learn "above all" was the "religion of Jesus Christ," and that to learn this would make them "greater and happier than they already are"; on May 2, 1778, he charged his soldiers at Valley Forge that "To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian"; and when he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the military on June 8, 1783, he reminded the nation that "without a humble imitation" of "the Divine Author of our blessed religion" we "can never hope to be a happy nation." Washington's own adopted daughter declared of Washington that you might as well question his patriotism as to question his Christianity.
Alexander Hamilton was certainly no deist. For example, Hamilton began work with the Rev. James Bayard to form the Christian Constitutional Society to help spread over the world the two things which Hamilton said made America great: (1) Christianity, and (2) a Constitution formed under Christianity. Only Hamilton's death two months later thwarted his plan of starting a missionary society to promote Christian government. And at the time he did face his death in his duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton met and prayed with the Rev. Mason and Bishop Moore, wherein he reaffirmed to him his readiness to face God should he die, having declared to them "a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of the death of Christ." At that time, he also partook of Holy Communion with Bishop Moore.
The reader, as do many others, claimed that Jefferson omitted all miraculous events of Jesus from his "Bible." Rarely do those who make this claim let Jefferson speak for himself. Jefferson own words explain that his intent for that book was not for it to be a "Bible," but rather for it to be a primer for the Indians on the teachings of Christ (which is why Jefferson titled that work, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth"). What Jefferson did was to take the "red letter" portions of the New Testament and publish these teachings in order to introduce the Indians to Christian morality. And as President of the United States, Jefferson signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia tribe wherein he providedat the government's expenseChristian missionaries to the Indians. In fact, Jefferson himself declared, "I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." While many might question this claim, the fact remains that Jefferson called himself a Christian, not a deist.
James Madison trained for ministry with the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, and Madison's writings are replete with declarations of his faith in God and in Christ. In fact, for proof of this, one only need read his letter to Attorney General Bradford wherein Madison laments that public officials are not bold enough about their Christian faith in public and that public officials should be "fervent advocates in the cause of Christ." And while Madison did allude to a "wall of separation," contemporary writers frequently refuse to allow Madison to provide his own definition of that "wall." According to Madison, the purpose of that "wall" was only to prevent Congress from passing a national law to establish a national religion.
None of the Founders mentioned fit the definition of a deist. And as is typical with those who make this claim, they name only a handful of Founders and then generalize the rest. This in itself is a mistake, for there are over two hundred Founders (fifty-five at the Constitutional Convention, ninety who framed the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights, and fifty-six who signed the Declaration) and any generalization of the Founders as deists is completely inaccurate.
The reason that such critics never mention any other Founders is evident. For example, consider what must be explained away if the following signers of the Constitution were to be mentioned: Charles Pinckney and John Langdonfounders of the American Bible Society; James McHenryfounder of the Baltimore Bible Society; Rufus Kinghelped found a Bible society for Anglicans; Abraham Baldwina chaplain in the Revolution and considered the youngest theologian in America; Roger Sherman, William Samuel Johnson, John Dickinson, and Jacob Broomalso theological writers; James Wilson and William Pattersonplaced on the Supreme Court by President George Washington, they had prayer over juries in the U. S. Supreme Court room; and the list could go on. And this does not even include the huge number of thoroughly evangelical Christians who signed the Declaration or who helped frame the Bill of Rights.
Any portrayal of any handful of Founders as deists is inaccurate. (If this group had really wanted some irreligious Founders, they should have chosen Henry Dearborne, Charles Lee, or Ethan Allen). Perhaps critics should spend more time reading the writings of the Founders to discover their religious beliefs for themselves rather than making such sweeping accusations which are so easily disproven.
And you should hear him rip loose on separation of church & state, too!
Thomas Paine wasn't really even a FF was he? Important as all get out but not an FF.
Socialists always talk about people opposed to them as being 'undemocratic'.
Great! The amazing thing about Barton personally is that he can cut loose without notes for about two hours straight on these issues. He speaks quickly (my hand almost fell off from taking notes of his talk) and authoritatively from original sources which he holds up on display to the audience. His Powerpoint presentation included long quotes from the writings of the founding fathers. Many times he was reciting these long quotes to us, from memory, with his back to the screen (I guess Bible verse memorization skills pay off!). It was quite a presentation!
Sigh. Nothing surprised me anymore. So "sigh" is about all I can come up with these days.
Paine advocated what amounts to Universal healthy care and social security among other statist ideas. There was a long love letter to him on the World Socialist Website not too long ago.
Is the battle for Atalanta only in a picture, or iis it in the content?
In this day and age, are terrorists called terrorists, or insurgents, or freedom fighters? Are there pictures of 9/11, and how is it treated?
All good points!
The sad fact is that too many parents are ignorant of real American history, too,because they are too apathetic to be otherwise.
There may never be a cure for that apathy. I guess people who do care just need to work all that much harder.