Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Elephant in the Room

Bill Bennett here points to the biggest problem faced by our nation: a lack of self-understanding. I don’t think it’s too much to say that unless and until we address this problem in our schools and in our popular culture, we aren’t going to be able to solve any other problem--from the war to immigration--in a satisfactory way. There must be a special place in hell for teachers who persist in making American history boring or repulsive. Of course, that’s why the work of the Ashbrook Center is so important.

Discussions - 7 Comments

I completely agree. One of the largest roots of all of our domestic--and many of our foreign--problems is the fact that many Americans do not know the history of their nation. I was recently trying to explain to my sister and brother, aged twenty-seven and seventeen respectively, why they should vote in 2008, let alone all elections. They are very typical students; history is one of the "boring" subjects that sparks little interest in them, usually taught by teachers using outdated and amateur texts that try to cover 300 years of history on this continent in just four months, for five hours a week. And thus, without this basic understanding of where we have come from--of why our grandparents did all they could to get from Ireland to America after WWII--they somehow cannot understand why they should want to exercise their vote, or why they should care what the name of the Secretary of State or the Prime Minsiter of Great Britain is. They just don't get it.


The problem is even more spread than just American history; there is hardly a basic understand of western civilization at all among young people. A close friend of mine, now a college sophomore, was having me help him study for the mandatory history class he has to take to graduate; he opted to take Western Civilization part II, covering 1500-1960. The name Julius Caesar was brought up in the midst of one of our discussions over history, and I was amazed to discover that he did not know that Julius Caesar was a real person; he believed the man to be merely a story by William Shakespeare (which he never read). And this just really gave me a shock. Various leaders in western society have been calling themselves variations of "Caesar" longer than they have been calling themselves Christians, and this guy did not know that this man--who nailed the Roman Republic in the coffin and who gave us most of what our modern calendar is--was a real living, breathing man who the Founding Fathers looked at as an example of how a republic collapses.


I agree that parents should play a large role in educating their children in American history and civics. Unfortunately, I fear that we're now enterring a period where the parents are becoming incapable of teaching their children said things, as many parents are not familiar with this country's history themselves.

Bennett is a neocon shill who didn't even write his own books, and who couldn't even comprehend Aristotlean Classical Greek in graduate school no matter how hard he tried. The greatest injustice was for a semi-literate twit like Bennet to steal the deserved appointment of ME Bradford.

Real C, finally can agree with you on st substantial. Mel should have had it. But your points are demeaned by the invective, which is quite possibly totally ironic anyway.

To Real C: To continue with my thought, I know you agree with at least some if not much of what Bill Bennett is getting at in this article, though you, as many of us, might write the history a little differently. Why not begin at least with what you agree on, and then be more specific on why you disagree with him, in the article? We all know your bottom line by now!

Oh, because that would take too long and be too difficult. Real Conservative just likes to insult people and call them names, not present arguments.

I'm still waiting for the insults to come in Greek.

Here is an interesting WaPo article highlighting the Harry Potter phenomenon and how children really do like reading and thirst for a good narrative, and how educators should work hard to tell the narrative of America in a compelling and captivating fashion.

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