Prominent American architecture critic Martin Filler once observed: “The variable posthumous reputations of even the greatest artists and the unpredictable revivals of interest in even the most obscure ones tend to reveal more about those who make revisionist assessments than about those who are being reassessed.”
Filler was talking about art, of course, but his observation could apply to revisionists who greatly influenced the redesigned Advanced Placement U.S. History course now finding its way into Kentucky’s classrooms. This new history course reveals more about the leftist, America-despising crowd of revisionists who developed it than it does about the genius of our nation’s inspired, if flawed, founders.
The course’s outline fails to include some of our most important forefathers while other great leaders and causes receive surface treatment in a mostly negative light.
This is not your forefather’s history.
“The traditional emphasis on America’s founders and the principles of constitutional government will soon be jettisoned in favor of a left-leaning emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc.,” warns Stanley Kurtz of the National Review Online, who’s been blowing a loud trumpet about how the angry ideology of radical revisionists underlies the new history course.
Certainly America’s founders struggled – and not always well – with the challenges presented by slavery and in their relationships with Native Americans.
Still, Kentuckians should refuse to tolerate an uneven course that, as the Republican National Committee lambasted: “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”
Not content with including our founders’ flaws as part of a balanced approach, Kurtz notes the revisionists seek “to indict the Founders for oppression, privilege and racism.”
He writes that University of Colorado historian Fred Anderson, who was heavily involved in setting the bearings for the AP history course, recommends a “new narrative of American history” that “vacillates between ignoring core events of our political history and dismissing them as delusional window-dressing for America’s imperialist ambitions.”
These historical hooligans desperately want to replace our Revolution for independence and republican character with a portrayal of our founders as colonial mad men in pursuit of empire-building and dominating others.
“In this view, the formative American moment was the colonial assault on the Indians,” Kurtz writes. “At its core, say the revisionists, America’s history is about our capacity for self-delusion, our endless attempts to justify raw power grabs with pretty fairy-tales about democracy.”
We’re not suggesting that colonial America’s sins be whitewashed. But why forgo taking note of the founders’ attempts to gain some absolution for those transgressions by, for example, laying the groundwork for the abolition of slavery with a Declaration of Independence that majestically declared the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal?”
Revisionist proponents might claim that nothing prevents individual teachers from expanding and adding material to the course outline. However, considering the fact that students in this course won’t be tested on anything not included in that syllabus, what incentives exist for teachers to expand lesson plans?
In his contribution to the history course’s “Curriculum Module,” Anderson includes a nod to the late Francis Jennings, whom he praises for his attempts “to rewrite early American history with native people at its center.”
Jennings himself argued that “the Colonial Period, not the American Revolution had determined the fundamental character of the United States. That character was not republican, but imperial.”
The New York Times entitled its review of Jennings’ final book: “The Founding Villains.”
That, to adopt Filler’s astute revelation, tells us a whole lot more about the biased critics who exert undue influence over our most advanced high-schoolers’ U.S. history content than it does about the objects or accuracy of the naysayers’ criticisms.