American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten announced her endorsement of a federal “civics education” bill sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), one that the National Association of Scholars (NAS) observed “is more an attempt to smuggle activist training into American K-12 classrooms than it is a good-faith effort to improve civic literacy.”
Weingarten began her column at Newsweek last week with a call for renewed civics education that is all entangled with her view that Donald Trump “and his cronies ran roughshod over the principles most of us learned in grade school.”
The last two years have seen an unprecedented escalation in a decades-long war on the American past.
But there are lots of logical flaws in attacking prior generations in U.S. history.
America’s Founders understood that political change is inevitable. They thought it must come about through constitutional mechanisms, with the consent of the governed, and must never infringe on the natural rights of citizens. Progressives – rejecting the idea that any rights, including the right of consent to government, are natural – accept no such limits. Progressivism insists that the principled American constitutionalism of fixed natural rights and limited and dispersed powers must be overturned and replaced by an organic, evolutionary model of the Constitution. Historical progress should be facilitated by experts dedicated to the expansion of the public sphere and political control – especially at the national level. As progressivism has grown into modern liberalism, the commitment to extra-constitutional “progress” is broadly shared across elite political, academic, legal, and religious circles. Politics is thus increasingly identified with a mix of activism, expertise, and the desire for “change.”
The year 2020 witnessed a long series of writs lodged against an America beset with plague, quarantine, recessions, riot and arson, and the most contested election since 1876.
What was strange was not so much the anarchist Left’s efforts in the present to wipe away the past to recalibrate our Animal Farm future. What was odder were both the absurdities of the complaints against American civilization, and the unwillingness or inability of Americans to rebut them and defend their own culture.
It’s one of the ironic facts of history that Lincoln was fond of the tune “Dixie.” Following the capture of Richmond in 1865, he instructed the Union band to play it in celebration of the South’s surrender. “I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it,” he said. “I now request the band to favor me with its performance.”’
Lincoln’s feelings aren’t hard to understand. “Dixie” is as good as any song that belongs to America. But what was to Lincoln a beautiful melody that had been “fairly captured” has today been marked down by polite society as an anthem of white supremacy and a relic of “Lost Cause” mythology. Indeed, amidst what they’re calling the “reckoning,” a passionate urgency to expunge the Confederacy from history has perhaps never been stronger.