January 18, 2006

Spreading Falsehoods in our Children's Education about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Founding

Joseph Farah has written an editorial entitled I have a dream, too about how the life of a great American - Martin Luther King, Jr. - is being taught to our children:

I have a dream that America will return to its heritage of freedom.

But before that dream is realized, we've got to stop miseducating kids at every turn. What do I mean? Take what your kids are learning today about Martin Luther King and the principles of American freedom.

They learn that "civil rights are the freedoms and rights that a person has as a member of a community, state or nation." That's what Scholastic magazine, distributed through schools all over the country, published six years ago. "In the U.S., these rights are guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution and acts of Congress."

That is not true. Civil rights, America's founders taught us so well, are God-given, unalienable rights. They don't descend from government. They are not given out through acts of Congress. They cannot be invented by man. They are inherent, universal, permanent.

This is such a foundational point of understanding American civic life, history and government...This is deliberate brainwashing – an example of the dumbing-down process...What these institutions produce are not educated students so much as spare parts for a giant statist-corporate matrix called America.

As if to underline the point, the Scholastic article writer added: "Since the 1960s, many laws have been passed to guarantee civil rights to all Americans. But the struggle continues. Today, not only blacks, but many other groups – including women, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, people with disabilities, homosexuals, the homeless and other minorities – are waging civil-rights campaigns."

If Scholastic is correct about rights simply being extended by legislative decree, then rights can be taken away as easily as they are bestowed. Those are not rights, folks. Those are privileges.

Notice the subtle way the struggle by blacks is equated with agitation by "the homeless" and homosexuals. This is Marxist Indoctrination 101...now it is thoroughly permeating not just academia, but elementary schools and private educational companies that must sell their products to the government educational monopoly...

...Who cares what people think about rights? It doesn't matter. Once again, rights – true rights – descend from God and cannot be given to man by anyone else nor taken away.

We also learn from Scholastic materials that King got his ideas for peaceful resistance from two sources – Mahatma Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau...I don't deny that those folks were influences on King, but to ignore King's inspiration from the Bible is ludicrous...

Ah, but then, of course, you have the old sticky wicket of religion in the classroom. Better to simply ignore reality – the truth that Martin Luther King was a Christian minister. I have a feeling that not many kids in government school will hear this part of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech:

I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, 'My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom. That was the King message. Martin Luther King talked a lot more about freedom than he did rights. He was clear on where true freedom and rights came from. That distinction has been obliterated in today's teaching about him.

Why? Because freedom cannot be controlled by government. Government would prefer to define the limits of your freedom by arbitrarily creating new "rights" and disabusing us of the notion that rights are God's unalienable gifts to all humanity.

It is startling how misinformed Americans are about the principles underlying the American Founding. And we are raising children who either are ahistorical or know only politically correct falsehoods about America, a point argued by Yale's David Gelernter in We Are Paying Quite a Price for Our Historical Ignorance:

...Our schools teach history ideologically. They teach the message, not the truth...They are propaganda machines. Ignorance of history destroys our judgment...

To forget your own history is (literally) to forget your identity. By teaching ideology instead of facts, our schools are erasing the nation's collective memory...

There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation's history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.

If you are proud of this country and don't want its identity to vanish, you must teach U.S. history to your children. They won't learn it in school. This nation's memory will go blank unless you act.

In an effort to correct those falsehoods, three quotes below elaborate further on the American Founding.

In an earlier posting, Honoring The Land We Love, Roger Pilon discusses the Declaration of Independence and Constitution:

Appealing to all mankind, the Declaration's seminal passage opens with perhaps the most important line in the document: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident." Grounded in reason, "self-evident" truths invoke the long tradition of natural law, which holds that there is a "higher law" of right and wrong from which to derive human law and against which to criticize that law at any time. It is not political will, then, but moral reasoning, accessible to all, that is the foundation of our political system. But if reason is the foundation of the Founders' vision – the method by which we justify our political order – liberty is its aim. Thus, cardinal moral truths are these:
…that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.

We are all created equal, as defined by our natural rights; thus, no one has rights superior to those of anyone else. Moreover, we are born with those rights, we do not get them from government – indeed, whatever rights or powers government has come from us, from "the Consent of the Governed." And our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply the right to live our lives as we wish – to pursue happiness as we think best, by our own lights – provided only that we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Drawing by implication upon the common law tradition of liberty, property, and contract – its principles rooted in "right reason" – the Founders thus outlined the moral foundations of a free society.

A speech entitled "Limited Government to Protect Equal Rights" by Mac Owens, published on this blog site, elaborates further on the uniqueness of the American Experiment:

Before the American founding, all regimes were based on the principle of interest - the interest of the stronger. That principle was articulated by the Greek historian Thucydides: "Questions of justice arise only between equals. As for the rest, the strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must."...

The United States was founded on different principles - justice and equality...It took the founding of the United States on the principle of equality to undermine the principle of inequality...Thanks to the Founders, the United States was founded on a principle of justice, not the interest of the stronger. And because of Lincoln's uncompromising commitment to equality as America's "central idea," the Union was not only saved, but saved so "as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of saving..."

"Every nation," said Lincoln, "has a central idea from which all its minor thoughts radiate." For Lincoln, this central idea was the Declaration of Independence and its notion of equality as the basis for republican government - the simple idea that no one has the right by nature to rule over another without the latter's consent...

Indeed, it is the idea of equality in the Declaration, not race and blood, that establishes American nationhood, constituting what Abraham Lincoln called "the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land..."

The United States is a fundamentally decent regime based on the universal principle that all human beings are equal in terms of their natural rights...

...the only purpose of government is to protect the equal natural rights of individual citizens. These rights inhere in individuals, not groups, and are antecedent to the creation of government...

An earlier posting entitled Our Declaration of Independence contains excerpts from a speech by President Calvin Coolidge:

There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity. It was not because it proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history...

...Three very definite propositions were set out in [the Declaration's] preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed...

While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination...

...when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live...

In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignity, the rights of man - these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions...Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish...

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776..that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final...If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people...

In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people...The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guarantees, which even the government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government -- the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction...The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty...

...If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it...We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed...


Andrew Busch, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, offers these thoughts on King.