Thinking back to elementary school and my first memories of learning history, it was my perception that historical events and outcomes had an inevitability about them. Partly my fault, but no small part of blame goes to history text books that are watered down and contain oft repeated inaccuracies. People and events take on a foggy fairy tale quality, just ripe for idolatry. It did not take long for me to figure out that western civilization is composed as much of resistance to change as it is revolutions and progress. Progress and enlightenment are incredibility slow in comparison to the leaps in knowledge made through science, mathematics and philosophy. What takes the masses so long to catch up. This lag time is not a quaint issue of our our past. From a recent Gallup Poll,
As far as you know, does the earth revolve around the sun, or does the sun revolve around the earth?
Earth revolves around the sun 79%
Sun revolves around the earth 18
No opinion 3
That 79% is great. Politicians of any persuasion dream of approval numbers that high. Yet in a nation of approximately 320 million that 18% represents about 58 million people. Education is the key. Or maybe not, Study shows how college major and religious faith affect each other
College students who major in the social sciences and humanities are likely to become less religious, while those majoring in education are likely to become more religious.
But students majoring in biology and physical sciences remain just about as religious as they were when they started college.
[ ]…The authors theorize that three powerful streams of thought interact with choice of college majors to amplify the impact on religiosity. These are science, developmentalism (the belief in progress), and postmodernism (the belief that everything is relative).
“There are important differences among the college majors in world views and overall philosophies of life,” Kimball said. “At the same time, students recognize to some degree the differences among majors and chose a major based, at least in part, on religiosity.
“Our results suggest that it is Postmodernism, not Science, that is the bête noir of religiosity. One reason may be that the key ideas of Postmodernism are newer than the key scientific ideas that challenge religion. For example, religions have had 150 years to develop resistance or tolerance for the late 19th century idea of Evolution, but much less time to develop resistance or tolerance for the key ideas of Postmodernism, which gained great strength over the course of the 20th century.”
The notion that colleges are hotbeds of subversive intellectualism takes hit. Those that tnded not to be dogmatic tend to stay that way or become less so. Those that religious, though not necessarily politically conservative tend to stay away from fields of study that challenge their beliefs. I remember that my science instructors rarely spoke in terms that were a direct assault on religion. Literature on the other hand, paradoxically, like the writings of religious figures like Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas, along with studying writing directly from religious texts made one aware of contradictions in those writings. Contradictions, inconsistencies and phenomenon that do not correspond to modern experience tend to raise doubts about absolute transcendence. A science instructor can teach about Brownian motion, the first law of thermodynamics or the theory of gravity and still not be cultivating doubt in one’s religious beliefs. At least not to the point where they cannot be rationalized away. Also note the researchers remark “religions have had 150 years to develop resistance”. One of mankind’s more dubious gifts, the ability to resist progress by way of making up some convoluted apologetics for facts that do not fit one’s beliefs. Real progress does not seem to march forward, but takes tiny steps with frequent setbacks.
I was reading this post Revisionist History, Texas Style – at Bad Attitudes about the Texas State Board of Education and their desire to properly indoctrinate high school students, “Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority — but nothing about liberals.” The conservative mindset sees the injection of of dubious figures as a continuation of the history as a hierarchy of great persons. Such conservatives may not get the desired effect. Not that such strong possibilities will persuade them otherwise. One of the commenters mentions this book by Richard Rosenfeld, American Aurora
For reporting on certain congressmen’s less than professional behavior (spitting, insults, etc), congress bars the paper from the floor of both houses. The Aurora gets shoved into the balconies of congress, far above the whispers of congressman that Bache so often reported on without approval from the House Speaker. Congress marks the Aurora as a troublemaker. This begins the first section of the book, where the Aurora accuses president Adams of wanting to be king of the United States. More than mere conjecture or metaphor spurned this accusation. Adams presented his idea of “titles” to Congress on May 9, 1789. He suggested a verbose title for the president: “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” Along with this, he proposed that the president and all senators should hold their offices for life. These ideas deeply disturbed Bache, and the exposure of Adams’ goals became a predominant goal of his paper. In addition, Bache accused the Adams administration of purposefully alienating France. The Aurora and other news sources of 1789 reported on the terrifying prospect of a French invasion of the United States. It never happened, and Bache yelled foul from his printing press. The more he yelled the more the Adams administration responded. The Sedition Act, supposedly created to silence the Aurora, came before Congress and passed in 1789. On top of that the the Alien Bill also passed, which enabled the president to deport any illegal alien without trial. Bache argued the unconstitutionality of both Acts. The inevitable arrest came soon after. Bache posted bail for trial for indictment under the Sedition Act.
President Washington, Jefferson and other founders mentioned in the book have been reduced to faint impressions in our modern text books and thus the public mind. Many already know Newt as the corrupt philanderer. A truth that he is not likely to shake with time. He’s already what BA refers to as a plastic icon. Let’s say a nice glossed up portrait of Newt or Phyllis Schlafly makes it into the history texts. Not all kids take well to being indoctrinated. What’s the teacher’s supposed to reply to questions about Newt’s pay for play shenanigans or when they ask why Schafly thinks its a woman’s place to be servile to men.