Fundamentalist Parents Can’t Relax

Rich parents can relax.  At least according to an article in this week’s Economist.  But fundamentalist parents never can.  They have to worry about more than their kids’ careers.  They have to fret about eternal damnation.  And they have to worry that Satan lurks in every textbook, every TV show, and every mainstream school.

The Economist article is worth reading in its entirety.  As it explains,

Well-to-do parents fear two things: that their children will die in a freak accident, and that they will not get into Harvard.

Getting into Harvard might be harder than getting into heaven...

Getting into Harvard might be harder than getting into heaven…

Both fears lead to exaggerated and ultimately counterproductive lifestyles.  In terms of safety, the article notes, an American child under five years of age in 1950 was five times as likely to die of disease or accident as that same kid would be today.  And though it is difficult to get into Harvard, most kids of affluent families will have fine careers without an Ivy-League transcript.

But fundamentalist parents have more to worry about.  Since the birth of American fundamentalism in the 1920s, conservative evangelicals have fretted about the influence of mainstream culture on their offspring.  Even if their kids don’t get polio, and even if their kids do get into Harvard, fundamentalist parents have to worry that success in life will lead to terrible punishment after death.  For fundamentalists, even Harvard itself can be more of a threat than an achievement.

As historian Randall Balmer put it in his blockbuster book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,

the greatest fear that haunts evangelical parents is that their children will not follow in their footsteps, that they will not sustain the same level of piety as their parents—stated baldly, that they are headed for hell rather than heaven.

As I argued in my 1920s book, historically this fear for the children has fueled fundamentalism’s public campaigns.  Fundamentalist leaders and parents worried that no level of affluence and economic privilege could protect their children from a culture sliding nonchalantly straight to hell.

As conservative leader William Jennings Bryan explained in 1922, even the rich and powerful had lost the ability to protect the faith of their children.  As a former Secretary of State, Bryan knew many of these families personally.  He wrote about one acquaintance, a US Congressman, whose daughter came home from college only to tell the family that “nobody believed in the Bible stories now.”

It was not only conservative Congressmen who worried.  Fundamentalist evangelist Bob Jones Sr. liked to tell the story of a less powerful family who had a similar experience.  This family, Jones explained in one of his most popular 1920s sermons, scrimped and saved to send their precious daughter to

a certain college.  At the end of nine months she came home with her faith shattered.  She laughed at God and the old time religion.  She broke the hearts of her mother and father.  They wept over her.  They prayed over her. It availed nothing.  At last they chided her.  She rushed upstairs, stood in front of a mirror, took a gun and blew out her brains.

Even when fundamentalist families did not experience that sort of cataclysm, we must keep their anxiety in mind when we try to understand fundamentalism from the outside.  Why do conservative evangelicals fight against evolution?  Why do they insist on school prayer?  Why do they worry about rights for homosexuals?

In all these cases, conservative evangelicals’ public activism is made more desperate by their intense worry about their children.  In this, there is no difference between conservative evangelicals and mainstream Americans of any background.  As the Economist article points out, almost all parents love their children and make sacrifices for them.  In the case of mainstream affluent parents, it might even help if they relaxed a little bit.  As Bryan Caplan of George Mason University argues,

Middle-class parents should relax a bit, cancel a violin class or two and let their kids play outside.

Easy enough.  But fundamentalists face a very different situation.  If we want to understand the mind of fundamentalists, we can try a mental experiment.  Non-fundamentalist parents have a hard enough time relaxing about their kids, even though they feel at home in mainstream culture.  Non-fundamentalist parents fret too much about their kids’ futures, even if they don’t feel alienated by their local public schools and elite universities.

Let’s try to translate the anxiety experienced by fundamentalist parents into mainstream terms.  Imagine, for example, the sorts of public outcry there would be if public schools began promoting ideas or practices that affluent secular parents found dangerous.  For instance, what do you think would happen if a public school somewhere began promoting smoking as a fun and healthy activity?

 

Green Eggs and (Ken) Ham

Do you think of Dr. Seuss as a “fundamentalist” author?  Me neither.  But the fundamentalists want to claim him for their own.

Marvin Olasky of World Magazine offered recently a top-ten list of good children’s books.  Topping the list was Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg for its staunchly pro-life message.  The story, according to Olasky, presents Horton as a “pro-life hero.”

And that’s not all.  Olasky celebrates the conservative message of other leading mainstream children’s books as well.  William Steig’s Yellow & Pink tells more than just a cute story about puppets.  The two central characters wonder about their origins, with the evolution-y story of Yellow losing out to the creation-y story of Pink.

Where do we come from?

Where do we come from?

Dr. Seuss apparently didn’t like the pro-life associations of his Horton character.  But the creationism of William Steig is hard to miss in this book.

Makes me wonder—was Steig’s Shrek also some sort of creationist parable?

 

The Left Seizes Science

You’ve heard the howls from creationists over Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent Cosmos series.  But did you know non-creationist conservatives also get cheeved at Tyson’s science punditry?

Science Snob?

Science Snob?

The creationist complaints make sense.  The hugely popular new science series pointedly called out young-earthers for their belief in a newish universe.  The series also insisted on the creation of species through evolution.

But the complaints of non-creationist conservatives might not seem so obvious.  In the pages of National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke took Tyson to task for his leftism, not just for his love of evolution.  Cooke accuses Tyson and others of his ilk of a puffed-up condescension, of glibly associating liberal politics with superior intellect.

Too many of these self-righteous faux-nerds, Cooke writes, wrap their insouciance in the mantle of science.  For these Tyson fans and wanna-bes, being smart does not mean doing actual intellectual work, but rather simply adopting a pre-packaged list of things to dislike.  As Cooke puts it, that list includes anything

southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past.

This sort of prejudice against anything recognizably conservative likes to call itself the side of “science,” Cooke argues.  Yet among progressives, real science often takes a beating.  “Progressives . . . ,” Cooke says,

believe all sorts of unscientific things — that Medicaid, the VA, and Head Start work; that school choice does not; that abortion carries with it few important medical questions; that GM crops make the world worse; that one can attribute every hurricane, wildfire, and heat wave to “climate change”; that it’s feasible that renewable energy will take over from fossil fuels anytime soon . . .

Yet in spite of this demonstrably unscientific attitude, Cooke laments, the Left insists on calling itself the “reality-based” party.

Cooke is not the first to complain about such things.  In the first generation of creation/evolution controversies, anti-evolution activists worked hard—and failed—to claim “science” for their side.  As I noted in my 1920s book, leading anti-evolutionist William Jennings Bryan maintained his membership in the staunchly pro-evolution American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He refused to allow that leading science group to be wholly taken over by fans of evolution.

Similarly, prominent 1920s fundamentalist activist William Bell Riley fought hard to keep his generation of Neil deGrasse Tysons from pushing conservatives out of the world of science.  As Riley put it in a 1927 speech, the creation/evolution debate was not a debate between

Experts on the one hand, and, as someone has said, ‘organized ignorance,’ on the other.  This is not a debate between the educated and the uneducated.

Like Bryan in the 1920s and Cooke in 2014, the conservative Riley was loath to cede the scientific and intellectual high ground to evolution-lovers.

One of the results of that first decade of evolution controversies was the formation of durable cultural associations, the associations about which Cooke complains.  Since the 1920s, “science” has become indelibly associated in the public mind with progress, with social experiment, with iconoclasm.  Politically, if not logically, all of those things are part of the broad package of cultural leftism.  And, like it or not, conservatism has been associated time and again with obstructionism and heedless obscurantism.

For conservative pundits like Cooke, trying to fight that tradition will be an uphill battle.

 

 

Does Anyone Actually Read the Index?

My eyeballs are beginning to chafe.  This week, I’m finishing up the index for my new book.  It’s a lot of work, even though I had a gifted grad student do most of the intellectual heavy lifting.

How the sausage gets made...

How the sausage gets made…

So now I’m wondering: Does anyone actually read the index?  I know professional academic historians do.  In fact, that’s one of the first cheap tricks we learn in our PhD programs.  We flip quickly to the back to see what we can glean from the index.  What are the book’s themes?  What are its main ideas?  Its blind spots?

But do any normal people read a book’s index?  Make no mistake, I’m compiling a kick-ass index, whether anyone ever reads it or not.  But I can’t help but wonder if readers will find useful my painstaking distinctions between “authoritarian teaching” and “traditional education.”

Coming soon...

Coming soon…

Will anyone care that I spent so many long hours in a stuffy library teasing out the nuances of “educational conservatism” as opposed to the broader category of “conservatism” in general?

 

 

Child Abuse or Church Camp?

The way we ask the question says a lot.

We could ask it this way: Is it abusive to encourage children to have certain religious experiences?

Or we could put it like this: Should children and toddlers be coerced and terrified?

Either way, these questions are prompted by a new church-camp video that is making the rounds these days.  In the video, we see young children experiencing some of the typical manifestations of charismatic Christian worship.  They jerk their limbs, fall to the ground, engage in babbling speech, cry and shout.

Adults surround the children, clearly encouraging them to behave the right way.  Some children seem to participate enthusiastically.  Others seem confused, intimidated, or tearful.

There’s not much new here.  These sorts of behaviors have been manifestations of charismatic worship for a long time.  For just as long, they have been criticized by critics.  In the first Great Awakening of the 1740s, Boston minister Charles Chauncy famously attacked the revivalists for their embrace of “enthusiasm.”  Their emotional services prompted false conversions, Chauncy believed.  Attendees at big revival meetings found themselves caught up in the moment, jerking their bodies, crying out, falling down, but not becoming truly Christian.

More recent critics focus on the way young children are bullied into a traumatic emotional experience.  Atheist pundit Jerry Coyne, for instance, puts it this way:

It’s brainwashing, pure and simple. The kids have no choice. Is there anyone who wouldn’t call this abuse?

These behaviors seem bizarre to me as well.  But I don’t call it abuse.  The adults in this video, to my mind, don’t appear to be victimizing children, but rather trying to share an authentically held belief with them.  That’s a big difference.

I know this is a difficult topic to discuss.  I also know that I have absolutely no personal experience with this sort of thing.  And I sympathize deeply with those who found themselves traumatized by this sort of intense religious upbringing.

But if we call it “abuse” we are doing more than simply insulting these adult believers.  If we call it “abuse” we open the door to government intervention in these religious ceremonies, and others.

Perhaps some other examples will help make the case.  It is sadly not uncommon for religious people to insist on alternative medical care for children.  Instead of chemotherapy, for example, some believers may lay hands on a child who is suffering from cancer.  This is abusive.  The child is being substantially harmed by being denied effective treatment.

It is also sadly not uncommon for religious organizations—and, to be fair, non-religious organizations—to cover up sex abuse of minors in the name of religious solidarity.  Here, too, the government must intervene.  This is abuse.

Again, my heartiest sympathies go out to those who are struggling to overcome religious upbringings they found coercive.  Writers such as Samantha Field and Jonny Scaramanga have educated me a great deal about the ways religious beliefs can cause emotional harm and long-term trauma.

I’m not dismissing that.  But the church-camp activities here seem to be something different than “abuse.”  Am I wrong?

 

Fundamentalist Colleges Have the Last Laugh

In this cartoon from the 1920s, cartoonist E.J. Pace shows the ways the "modernists" took over every institution, including colleges.

In this cartoon from the 1920s, cartoonist E.J. Pace shows the ways the “modernists” took over every institution, including colleges.

What are the best colleges in America?  A trenchant new argument by Ivy-League insider William Deresiewicz suggests that conservative religious folks may yet have their revenge when it comes to higher education.

Since the 1920s, conservative Christians have complained that “their” colleges had been taken over by a secularizing elite.  As I argued in my 1920s book, there was a great deal of truth to these claims.  Elite schools such as Harvard and the University of Chicago really had been founded by conservative Protestants.  Their original missions were explicitly religious.  And, by the 1920s, those schools really had been transformed.  Instead of their traditional goal to train each new generation of “Christian gentlemen,” elite colleges became places where students learned to question religious verities.

As a result, conservative evangelicals faced a difficult situation.  Some schools, such as Wheaton College, allied themselves with the “fundamentalist” side of the growing divide among Protestants.  Most other elite schools, though, moved toward the new vision of higher education.  Some 1920s fundamentalists responded by opening schools of their own, such as Bob Jones University and Dallas Theological Seminary.  In my current research, I’m looking at the twentieth-century history of this alternative network of colleges and universities.

Deresiewicz argues that this alternative network of schools does a better job of educating young people than do the mainstream elite schools.  Religious colleges have often avoided the elite trap of ever-increasing expectations and the soul-crushing spiral of success.  At elite mainstream colleges, Deresiewicz writes, students become “anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.” Without the same relentless pressure, religious colleges have remained true to their purpose of encouraging true thoughtfulness and intellectual risk-taking. As he puts it, “Religious colleges—even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts—often do a much better job in that respect.”

Is Deresiewicz right? Do elite colleges turn smart kids into zombies? In some ways, his is not a new argument. Sociologist James Coleman argued in his 1961 book The Adolescent Society that schools did not work the way we thought they did. It was not the most talented students, the brainiest students, who did the best on school tasks. Rather, the nature of the tasks demanded in most high schools led the smartest students to opt out. They focused on success elsewhere, such as sports or social activities. As a result, the best academic records were compiled by a “sub-group” of students who agreed to buy into the school’s irrational demands.

In other words, for generations now, our educational system has encouraged a weird sub-class of hyper-successful students. These students are not turned into zombies in college. Rather, they have been zombies all along. To excel in school—not just college but the whole way through—students have to be bright enough to do well at school tasks but not quite bright enough to realize that school is just a shell game.

If Deresiewicz is correct, religious colleges may have the last laugh. Conservative Christians complained that elite schools had been stolen from them. As a result, they opened their own schools, built their own network of colleges and universities. Getting pushed out of the academic rat race may have been the best thing that ever happened to conservative evangelicals.

 

 

The Movie that Will Save Our Children

A Florida lawmaker has offered a new definition of a summer must-see movie.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, State Senator Alan Hays has promised a bill that would force all public high-schools and middle-schools to screen Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine the World without Her.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, D’Souza’s film seems to be another conservative exercise in shadow-boxing.  The film assumes that American history teachers are pushing an ideologically inspired hatred against the United States.  Historically, that just hasn’t been the case.  As I argue in my upcoming book, conservatives have exerted outsized influence over the kinds of history their kids learn in public school for decades.  The notion that schools have been taken over by a scheming cabal of sneaky progressive educators and historians just doesn’t match the historical record.

Nevertheless, it is a notion that resonates strongly with conservatives.  As Senator Hays put it,

I’ve looked at history books and talked to history teachers and the message the students are getting is very different from what is in the movie.  It’s dishonest and insulting. The students need to see the truth without political favoritism.

Ironically, Senator Hays’ plans might just prove the case.  As the Hollywood Reporter points out, Hays’ bill might actually pass, given the political landscape in Florida.  If it did, or even if it made a strong showing, it would demonstrate the continuing influence of conservative activism on public education.

 

How to Hit your Child

What do you do when your kids misbehave?  Do you hit them?  Or is that a form of abuse?  It seems as if our culture is confused about this question.  Throughout the twentieth century, as I argue in my upcoming book, conservatives argued that parents and teachers MUST beat children in traditional ways.  Anything else threatened civilization itself.  Has that attitude changed?

Is this "abuse?" Or is this "parenting?"

Is this “abuse?” Or is this “parenting?”

In American culture, a certain form of physical correction of children by parents has long been the norm.  Especially “spanking.”  In this kind of punishment, the child is swacked on the butt by the parent, either with a hand, a spoon, a brush, a belt, or some other mild weapon.

As a survey article in National Review Online describes, states now differ in their laws about spanking.  In New York, for instance, a judge recently ruled in favor of parents’ right to spank, as long as it is done mildly, with only an open hand.  In the New York case, the parent insisted he had not used a belt on his child.  That would have crossed the line, he felt.  In other states as well, courts have struggled to draw clear boundaries between acceptable spanking and unacceptable child abuse.

Until 2012, according to the NRO article, all 50 states recognized parents’ right to spank their own children.  In that year, Delaware passed a law forbidding any form of physical punishment.  At the first and second degrees, parents in Delaware can be charged with a felony for causing harm to their children.

As you might expect, a certain sort of conservative finds this sort of law outrageous.  Not only should the rights of parents over their children be sacrosanct, some conservative activists have argued, but spanking is a healthy and humane form of punishment.  The Home School Legal Defense Association, for example, called Delaware’s new law “a violation of the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, including the long-recognized right to administer reasonable corporal discipline.”

It’s not a new issue.  As I found during my research for my upcoming book, educational conservatives have long insisted on the right and duty of both parents and teachers to use physical punishment on unruly youth.  For some conservatives, this sort of corporal punishment is the only way to properly shape character.  As the old saying goes, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

In 1950 Pasadena, for instance, local activists bubbled over with their outrage at progressive novelties in their local public schools.  One parent insisted that teachers must use “whipping . . . when the situation calls for such punishment.”  The problem, many conservatives in Pasadena thought at the time, was not that teachers might abuse students.  Rather, the danger came from a generation of children left uncorrected and unbowed to authority.  Such unguided youth, one letter-writer complained, were in danger of total “moral disintegration.”  And the obvious reason for that disintegration, according to this anonymous writer, was the “fatal lack of the right kind of instruction in our schools.”

A few years later, conservative stalwart Max Rafferty agreed on the importance of corporal punishment.  In his 1964 book What Are They Doing to Your Children, Rafferty warned of the dangers of progressive methods.  New teachers, Rafferty explained, came

Fresh from college and still pretty Dewey-eyed about things, [they] compromise themselves and their careers in a hopeless attempt to convince some freckled-faced [sic] urchin with devilment coming out visibly all over him that he must discipline himself.

Instead, Rafferty believed, the traditional methods remained the best.  Each teacher should learn when and how to correct a student using physical punishment.  In the old days, Rafferty wrote, such things were beyond argument.  In times past, Rafferty described, some parents might

Storm into the schoolyard and whip the teacher for abusing little Willie, but by far the more typical parental reaction to the tearful complaint ‘Teacher licked me!’ was to reach for the razor strop and give a home version of teacher’s treatment out in the woodshed.

Rafferty and the Pasadena conservatives knew that such physical punishment was controversial in their own times.  Each conservative writer appealed to a past in which teachers and parents had an unfettered right and duty to use appropriate methods to raise children right.  In 1950 and 1964, conservatives saw themselves as stalwarts of traditional methods.  Those methods had already come under attack by dunderheaded progressives.

So there is nothing new to controversy over corporal punishment.  Yet clearly, as the NRO review shows, things are changing.  Could we be on the cusp of a new age for corporal punishment?  Will more states follow Delaware in outlawing all forms of physical punishment?

 

A Christian in the Lion’s Blog

Okay, be honest: How many of us are brave enough to try talking with people who really really hate us?  I talk a good game, but in real life I hardly ever interact with people very different from me.  Recently on the arch-evolutionist/atheist blog Why Evolution Is True Don McLeroy tried to defend his religion.  I don’t agree with McLeroy’s ideas about God or science, but I have to give him credit for his willingness to talk civilly with his culture-war enemies.

You may remember Dr. McLeroy as the Texas dentist who came to educational power a few years back on the Texas State Board of Education.  Viewers of the documentary The Revisionaries will remember some of McLeroy’s positions.  He wanted less evolution and more country music.  He wanted less hip-hop and more Ronald Reagan.

Those of us outside the world of young-earth creationism were wowed to hear McLeroy teach his Sunday-school class the verities of his religion.  How did all those animals fit on the ark?  Easy! How was it possible that all the evidence of an ancient earth was wrong?   No problem!

And some viewers poked fun at McLeroy for his anti-expert opinions.  “I disagree with the experts,” McLeroy famously intoned in The Revisionaries.  “Someone has to stand up to them.”  To many skeptics, this sort of attitude demonstrated McLeroy’s willful ignorance.  Why WOULDN’T we want experts to decide our school curricula, critics asked incredulously?  As I argued at the time, however, McLeroy’s ideas about proper expertise have a long and storied history among educational conservatives.

In his recent appearance on Why Evolution Is True, McLeroy defends his Biblical epistemology.  McLeroy had pointed out elsewhere that 500 witnesses had attested to Jesus’ rebirth.  For McLeroy, that seemed to be important evidence.  Not surprisingly, the commenters of WEIT tore McLeroy apart.  Some did it politely, calling him “Dr. McLeroy.”  Some did not, referring to him as “Donnie-boy.”

The crux of the disagreement concerned the nature of evidence and how we can know something.  For McLeroy, Paul’s biblical statement that 500 witnesses had seen the Risen Jesus seemed conclusive.  As the readers of WEIT pointed out—and I wholeheartedly agree—there are enormous holes with this sort of knowing.  How can we know Paul really consulted 500 other witnesses?  How do we trust what Paul thought he saw?  Indeed, how can we know Paul was a real person at all?  For folks like me and the commenters on WEIT, such evidence does not count as convincing.

For folks like Dr. McLeroy, the Bible’s writings carry greater weight.  If the Bible attests to something, we know with confidence that it is true.  If the Bible says God created the universe in six days, then we have no need to doubt it.  We can trust that it is true.  Indeed, if we don’t trust that it is true, we risk calling God Himself a liar.

'Cause the Bible Tells Me So...

‘Cause the Bible Tells Me So…

Obviously, these two very different attitudes toward knowledge have a difficult time communicating with each other.  But there seems to be a cottage industry of efforts to do so.  Conservative theologian Doug Wilson and atheist-at-large Christopher Hitchens spent some time together in the film Collision.  As Wilson and Hitchens found out, there is not much point in shouting at each other.  Each side misunderstands the other in such fundamental ways that time is better spent chatting politely and drinking beer.

In his recent appearance, Don McLeroy thanked WEIT commenters for their opinions, and promised to read the books suggested.  But he did not seem likely to be convinced.  Nor did WEIT readers seem likely to turn to the Bible the next time they had a question about science, history, or politics.  Nevertheless, McLeroy pointedly maintained his famous good-natured politeness.

In the end, that might be the extent of dialogue we can expect across these profound culture-war chasms.

 

Sneaky Subversion in Teaching US History

If standards and curricula seem balanced and fair, does that mean that subversives have done a good job of disguising their sneaky ideological poison? That has long been the accusation of conservative intellectuals. Leftist academics, conservatives have charged for decades, make their work seem neutral, while really injecting a biased and enervating leftism.

We see this tradition alive and well in conservatives’ recent attack on the teaching of US History. As I noted in an essay in History News Network, Dinesh D’Souza’s new film warns that leftist teachers have taught America’s kids to hate America.

Other conservative intellectuals take a similarly skeptical view of the new curriculum for Advanced Placement US History. Peter Wood of the conservative National Association of Scholars accused the new APUSH curriculum of insisting on a “worldview that emphasizes America as a place of European conquest, economic exploitation, and the struggle for basic rights against the power of the privileged.” Similarly, conservative activists Jane Robbins and Larry Krieger have warned that the new APUSH curriculum peddles a “consistently negative view of the nation’s past.”

Wood, especially, has offered examples of the sorts of negative attitude he critiques. One of the subtopics for the early period, Wood points out, depicts European settlers as devilish racists:

Reinforced by a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority, the British system enslaved black people in perpetuity, altered African gender and kinship relationships in the colonies, and was one factor that led the British colonists into violent confrontation with native peoples.

But more important than the specific examples of egregious anti-American sentiments, Wood charges, is a more subtle attitude embedded within the curriculum. As he puts it, “Sometimes these concerns break out into overt emphasis but they are present throughout.”

Apparently unconsciously, these conservative critics are echoing a long tradition of conservative educational thinking. As I argue in my upcoming book, throughout the twentieth century conservatives warned that schools were being led in leftist directions, often by this same sort of sneaky subversion. The leftists were so sneaky, conservatives warned, that readers might not even notice their subversion.

In the 1939-1941 conservative campaign against Harold Rugg’s social-studies textbooks, for example, critics warned that unwary readers could be duped into thinking the books were balanced and fair. One coalition of conservative activists called the books’ leftism “extremely clever.” Instead of openly proclaiming their leftist bias, Rugg’s books led children “with gentle language and a pedagogic smile . . . through the successive stages of indoctrination.” These conservatives conceded that many readers might find nothing wrong with Rugg’s books. But that only meant, they warned, that the danger was that much greater.

This sort of obvious-only-to-the-initiated analysis of leftist bias seems a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it presents conservative intellectuals with a difficult task. They must convince readers that even seemingly balanced curricular material is secretly anti-American, secretly leftist. That’s a tall order. But when school subversion is embedded cunningly within seemingly neutral material, conservative intellectuals are able to explain why so many popular textbooks and curricula have prospered in spite of their leftist implications.

Are the new APUSH materials really biased? Try it. Read the new curriculum guide. Does it seem like a biased leftist document to you? Its makers didn’t think so. But does that prove that conservative intellectuals are paranoid? Or does it show, rather, that the educational establishment is so dominated by left-leaning academics that they don’t even notice their own bias?

 

 

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