Teaching History to C-Students, not just A-Students; a Note to Conservatives
Yesterday I saw a tweet by Mark Levin, plugging an August 19, 2019 article at The Federalist by Josh Lawson, “8 Back-to-School Books to Protect Students from Leftist Brainwashing”. Other than throwing in an updated version of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and perhaps Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, also updated for modern readers, making it a solid 10, I don’t think I would change a single one of Mr Lawson’s list. I’m familiar with seven of them.
But I’m an A-student. Or was, 55 years ago. And it was in a rural high school classroom and its library that I leaned to become interested in American history.
But it would be another decade or more before I would go beyond just being interested to taking note of the relevance of American history; that our history mattered, both to Americans and to the whole world. I’m now in my early 70’s and a genuine A-student at my core. But around the edges I’m still very much a C-student, which is why I continue to consult some of the names on Josh Lawson’s list. For 35 years I’ve studied Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, as well as Frederic Hayek, who published the original Road to Serfdom in 1944. And to Hayek’s surprise his book was met by an entirely different audience in America than greeted him at the London School of Economics where he was indulged as a non-leftist scholar. Far more than scholarly insiders read Hayek’s book in America. He was popular with a class of people here he scarcely knew existed in England.
I’m not sure why, but a lot of ordinary Americans, not scholars mind you, probably not even A-students, but practical people, small business owners and the like, found Hayek’s book relevant to their lives, and, many bought it on word-of-mouth recommendations. If you’ve ever read de Tocqueville, he admired that search for the practical and the relevant in the kinds of books average Americans read in 1833. (He pitched this notion to the French aristocracy, who dismissed it out of hand.)
Similarly, Paine’s Common Sense was, adjusted for population, the best selling piece of non-fiction ever sold in America. It had a direct impact on the American Revolution as the ground swell caused by it in turn caused the Continental Congress to declare for independence on 4 July, 1776, without their usual doddering.
Most remarkable is that Common Sense was largely read by ordinary Americans, farmers, small business proprietors and the like, people who we would refer to today as “C-students” simply because they weren’t very interested in politics except as they affected their daily lives and daily bread.
We hadn’t given those kinds of people much thought for years until Donald Trump came along. For one, they’re not likely to curl up with conservative best sellers. I can think of several very fine conservative historians most American voters never heard of. Clearly they are not publishers’ target market.
Still, these are the “C-students” who make America work. (And most voted for Donald Trump.)
And over time, much conservative writing has become peripheral to their thinking since it was never directed at them in the first place.
Since the 1990s conservatism has surrendered the “C-student” crowd to their fates, in part because our A-student conservatives no longer move comfortably in the circles they move in. They can’t relate, and to some extent are quite proud of this fact. NeverTrumpism by many young conservatives is a reflection of the injection of class into their A-student ideal of themselves…which is almost identical to the self-image young liberals of the 60s had of themselves. By the mid 70’s they had almost entirely jettisoned the core principles of classical liberalism, built on Civil Rights, in exchange for a social status within the liberal community.
I expect the same to happen with these “modern conservatives”.
Whither America’s hard-working political C-Students?
The assumptions in the 1980s (my sons graduated from college in ’92 and ’96 respectively) were that they would be taught the same way in high school as my generation was.
We were wrong…by a wide margin.
Teaching kids 16-21 in high school and college can be tough, unless you can find certain buttons to push. Again, a search for relevance, which in American Government and History at one time was easy.
But no longer, for it’s much easier to make the dark side of history seem more relevant, if you’ve prepped your students for years…courtesy of the leftist public education machine that has preempted the market.
So Howard Zinn did all right, teaching both age groups. He had that army of young teaching zealots and a growing phalanx of bureaucratic backup to make righting the rape of indigenous American peoples seem more sexy than proselytizing the unique virtues of America.
They now largely own our C-students.
What me Worry? say some of our more successful polemicists, for we seem to be a bit self-congratulatory about the 200,000 we assume who rush to buy our latest book.
Bottom line, we’re not teaching history to C-students in America any more. We’ve moved on to more posh accommodations. But Howard Zinn is still it to the tune of two-three million a year. And he’s been dead for nearly 20 years.
We’re writing and selling books to our choir to make money- Capitalism…while they’re writing and selling book to destroy the minds of the other 90%-Socialilsm. And other millionaires who produce nothing (there is such a type) are placing those books into venues where they can destroy an entire society and will ultimately eat ours alive-That is their investment In America.- Fascism.
Somethings is wrong with this math, friends.
I mentioned two books, Thomas Paine and de Tocqueville, which need to updated, but for the masses, not the A-students. There are others. And they need to be taught, not simply published.
And only this past week I wrote a plea for Schweikart and Allen’s The Patriot’s History of the United States to replace Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States in America’s class rooms and to consign that book to the trash bin of history. A teacher’s guide needs to be included, especially about the relevance of Patriot’s History to high-school and college kids’ worlds.
We are losing this very important cultural war at an accelerating pace.