Browsing "Education"

Rebel Perfidy and Juvenile Press Propaganda

During the war, Northern magazines such as “The Student and Schoolmate” targeted juveniles with words and picture games, and songs highlighting Northern political principles. Illustrations were accompanied by phrases: “cannoneers delight in shooting into enemy lines,” and “We propose to make our flag shelter the oppressed wherever it waves.” Ultimately, the magazines “sought to instill an 1860s version of “political correctness” by defining Union war aims, establishing the centrality of slavery in causing the war, and recognizing the humanity of the former slaves.” In short, the children were taught that intolerant “Southern slaveowners had grown arrogant, conceited, overbearing . . . determined to destroy the government they could not control.”

Rebel Perfidy and Juvenile Press Propaganda

“The juvenile press went far beyond providing minutiae about the War. Although it would be too much to argue that children’s writers in the North actually encouraged underage boys to join the army, many stories portrayed the extent to which a few children displayed their loyalty to the Union.

Several threw their protagonists – often twelve years old or less – into battles or other dangerous situations and ranged in length from a paragraph about a fourteen-year-old hero on the USS Cumberland to full-blown short stories and serials.

In the “Little Prisoner,” young James is finally allowed by his widowed mother to become a drummer boy of an Ohio regiment. He proves his mettle at the Battle of the Wilderness, where he is also bayoneted – not seriously – by a Rebel intent on robbing the body of a friend of his father’s. A kindly black woman takes him to an abandoned plantation nearby where she nurses him back to health, reads the Bible with him, and tells her about her long-lost son, who had been “sold-South” years before but miraculously appears just as James is captured by John Mosby’s raiders. The author describes the famous partisan as “manly” but cautions that the “stormy, unbridled passions, and . . . cruel, inflexible disposition” ingrained in this slaveholder made him an oppressive commander and an unworthy enemy.

Eventually, Mosby releases James, who returns home to his mother, revealing how “God dealt with a little boy who trusted in and prayed to Him.”

A similar tale – purportedly a true story – has another twelve-year-old Yankee drummer boy, Robert, captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville, at which he cares for both wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. He encounters Robert E. Lee, who had “none of the smaller vices,” but all of the larger ones; for he deliberately, basely and under the circumstances of unparalleled meanness, betrayed his country, and long after hope of success was lost, carried on a murderous war against his own race and kindred.”

Marse Robert treats the hero patronizingly and responds angrily when Robert declares, “I came out here sir, to help fight the wicked men who are trying to destroy their country.” Robert ends up in Libby Prison, where he survives a nasty fever, studies his lessons with a “good Colonel,” and rediscovers one of the patients he had nursed during the battle, a seventeen-year-old Confederate who kindly helps him escape. This reversal of the magazine’s usual presentation of Rebel perfidy is nevertheless true to form. Young, poor whites are not to blame for the carnage, at least in the war-stricken South presented in the juvenile press; “after all . . . it is true that the same humanity beats under a gray coat that beats under a blue one.”

(Northern Children’s Magazines and the Civil War, James Marten, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 41, No. 1, March 1995, (pp. 63-64; 68)

Nov 27, 2021 - Education, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Newspapers    Comments Off on The Myth of Social Science

The Myth of Social Science

The study of history since the 1960s is replete with programs of “social science,” a term referring to areas of social and human interactions. This is where the fixation on race, gender and culture originates, and the Marxist reduction of all history to class and socio-economic warfare.

Most history of the past 60 years relies less on facts and then-contemporary writings, and more on modern social science theories and class distinctions. Newspapers have been the worst offenders and regularly publish hearsay, inaccurate accounts of history which do more to increase class warfare than to educate its readers.

The Myth of Social Science

Sociology and the related fields of study are not sciences. They are pseudo-sciences. They lack the essential ingredient of science, which is the desire for verifiable truth.

There have been a few times when these fields approached being scientific, but these have been far and few between. For the most part, they have been so swamped by the emotional tides of the times and by the personalities of the scientists involved they have made negligible progress. Is this because scientific progress in sociology is difficult and facts are so few? Partially, but it is more due to the difficulty of thinking rationally in these emotion-laden areas.

To investigate an area when the results may offend one’s contemporaries, or even oneself, requires a rare type of man. The tragedy is that these fields of study attract the man who is least capable of this type of thinking. A man imbued with the ideals of his time, desiring to do good, desiring social approval, is the last man for the job. These men try to benefit society in accordance with their humanistic beliefs, but they do not seek the truth.

The present state of sociology derives directly from this mixing of science and humanism. A man cannot be a humanist while he is a scientist. This is not to say that he cannot be both a humanist and a scientist. But to be a humanist while a scientist is to carry morality and ethics into an area where they have no relevance. The result is a pseudo-science because, in such a mixture, the ethical and moral considerations far outweigh the scientific.

It would be better to abandon the pretense that a combination of science and humanism is anything but a means of advancing humanism.

Is this conflict inevitable? Yes, so long as humanism takes its present form. Humanism as a philosophy is not dynamic today. It is frozen into certainty. Only the implementation of the philosophy is still a dynamic process. To humanism, as to religion, science is a potential danger. Science means change and change is a threat to any established system, particularly one that seeks to fix man’s relationship to both physical and spiritual worlds.

Today humanism and religion tolerate the physical sciences but neither is comfortable with any real investigation into the nature of man. The existence of any science is an admission that all is not known. The existence of a true social science would be an admission that there are things about man which are not known or understood – which both today’s religion and humanism deny.

Some will object that scientists seek the truth and that truth and morality are synonymous. Others will say that the truth will make us free. But this truth is not the scientist’s truth. The scientist seeks facts which can be verified by experiment. These facts may be useful, useless, or even harmful. Such facts, like science, are amoral. They exist, they have no moral significance.

One, it is true, might assess the effect of science on society as being both good and evil if one had standards by which to judge. But who shall be the judge and what will be the criteria?

(The New Fanatics, William A. Massey, National Putnam Letters Committee, 1964, pp 26-27)

History versus Social Studies

Richard M. Weaver wrote: “Where education is under the control of collectivist fanatics, not only is the individual’s loyalty to truth despised, but the objective findings of science may be thus perverted to serve the ends of a political ideology.” And, he adds: “There are those in America today who apparently get academic freedom mixed up with students’ rights in general” – “and it goes without saying that academic freedom is not a tool for the “democratizing” of universities by turning them over to students.”

History versus Social Studies

“History has always been a sobering discipline because it presents the story not only of man’s achievements but also of his failures. History contains many vivid lessons of what can happen to man if he lets go his grip upon reality and becomes self-indulgent; it is a record of the race, which can be laid aside alongside the dreams of visionaries, with many profitable lessons.

Yet the modern tendency is to drop the old-fashioned history course and to substitute something called “social science” or “social studies,” which one student has aptly dubbed “social stew.” What this often turns out to be is a large amount of speculation based on a small amount of history, and the speculation is more or less subtly slanted to show that we should move in the direction of socialism or some other collectivism.

Often this kind of study is frivolous; the student is invited to give his thought to the “dating patterns” of teenagers instead of to those facts which explain the rise and fall of nations. There is more to be learned about the nature of man as an individual and as a member of society from a firm grounding in ancient and modern history than from all the “social studies” ever put together by dreamy “progressive” educators.”

(In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929-1963, Ted J. Smith, III, editor, Liberty Fund 2000, excerpt pp. 191; 201-202)

The Essence of Piety

Richard Weaver wrote of the modern position of egotism, which seems to permeate all we see, read and hear today.  This develops, he reasoned, “when man has reached a point at which he will no longer admit the right of existence of things not of his own contriving.”  He presents the paradox of man’s continual warring upon nature as “not a sign of superiority to her; it is proof of preoccupation with nature, of a sort of imprisonment by her.”

The Essence of Piety

“[Man’s] immersion in the task of reconstructing nature is an adolescent infatuation. The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation. In other words, he has found that substance is part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

The humbler view of man’s powers is the essence of piety; and it is, in the long run, more rewarding, for nature seems best dealt with when we respect her without allowing ourselves to want too fiercely to possess her.

The second form of piety accepts the substance of other beings. It is a matter of everyday observation that people of cultivation and intellectual perceptiveness are quickest to admit a law of rightness in ways of living differently from their own; they have mastered the principle that being has a right qua being.

Knowledge disciplines egotism so that one credits the reality of other selves. The virtue of the splendid tradition of chivalry was that it took formal recognition of the right to existence not only of inferiors but also of enemies.

The modern formula of unconditional surrender – used first against nature and then against peoples – impiously puts man in the place of God by usurping unlimited rights to dispose of the rights of others. Chivalry was a most practical expression of the basic brotherhood of man. But to have enough imagination to see into other lives and enough piety to realize that their existence is a part of beneficent creation is the very foundation of human community.

There appear to be two types to whom this kind of charity are unthinkable: the barbarian, who would destroy what is different because it is different, and the neurotic, who always reaches out for control of others, probably because his own integration has been lost.”

(Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver, University of Chicago Press, 1948, excerpts pg. 173-175)  

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

The Little Rock episode of government force used in the integration of Arkansas schools caused little damage to Governor Orval Faubus as he easily secured reelection in 1958, and served three more terms.

Hollywood used Little Rock to advance their stereotypes of the Southern citizenry, with “A Face in the Crowd” described below, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.”

The latter two paint a damning picture of poor Southern white people with the Ewell family depicted as untrustworthy “poor white trash”; Gregory Peck provided “a pale imitation of the primal Cajun doing his dance to drumbeats.” “Redneck” and “white trash” were often used interchangeably; “hillbilly” was waiting in the wings if the other two did not suffice.

Stereotypes and White Trash in Little Rock

“Little Rock was the most important domestic news story of 1957. It transformed the Central High neighborhood into a newsroom, attracting reporters from the major newspapers, magazines and television networks. By the end of September, the number of press people had grown from a handful to 225 highly visible journalists and cameramen. The standoff between the courts and the governor – the “crisis” environment swirling around the school grounds – grabbed the world’s attention.

The media easily slipped into Southern stereotypes, depicting “many in overalls,” “tobacco-chewing white men,” or as one New York Times article highlighted, a “scrawny redneck man” yelling insults at the soldiers. Local Arkansas journalists similarly dismissed the demonstrators as “a lot of rednecks.” Unruly women who stood by became “slattern housewives” and “harpies.” One Southern reporter said it outright: “Hell, look at them. They’re just poor white trash, mostly.”

In Nashville, mob violence erupted that same month after the integration of an elementary school. There, a Time [magazine] reporter had a field day trashing the women in the crowd: “vacant-faced women in curlers and loose-hanging blouses,” not to mention a rock-throwing waitress with a tattooed arm.

These were all predictable motifs, serving to distance rabble-rousers from the “normal” good people of Arkansas and Tennessee. By 1959, the Times Literary Supplement acknowledged that it was the “ugly faces” of “rednecks, crackers, tar-heels and other poor white trash” that would be forever remembered from Central High.

In the same year that Little Rock consumed the news media, Hollywood produced a feature-length film that capitalized on the redneck image. Starring Andy Griffith and directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd was . . . “a dark drama that followed “Lonesome Rhodes,” a down-and-out man discovered playing guitar in an Arkansas jail, and traced his rapid rise into the national limelight as a powerful and ruthless TV star.

For reviewers, Griffith’s performance was a cross between Huey Long and Elvis Presley – a hollering, singing “redneck gone berserk with power.”

(White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, Viking Press, 2016, excerpts pp. 251-252)

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

The American Founders foresaw the problem of abuse of power and the rise of a president who would cut the shackles of the Constitution, though they more feared sectionalism and an evil combination of the branches of government.

The abuse of power arose with a president who fomented war upon a State, which is treason under the Constitution, raised an army without the consent of Congress, and threatened to arrest and imprison all who defied him. With the formerly federal government afterward under absolute executive and congressional control, the schools educating young citizens on their fealty to national power.

James Louis Petrigu (1789-1863) was a South Carolina Unionist and served as that State’s attorney-general. His stated faith in education as the bulwark of a republic was unfortunately upset by government control of the schools.

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

“As Petigru understood it, the United States Constitution confirmed what the Revolution had aimed to achieve. Reversing the Confederation’s dispersal of power was but a minor part of its accomplishment, for it had by its division of legitimate governmental power between the individual States and the federal union ensured the Revolution’s goals of restricting centralized public authority in the interests of individual liberty.

But individual freedom, as Petigru said in his 1844 Fourth of July oration, required positive government as well as restraints on legitimate power. This too the Constitution had accomplished with its system of checks and balances. Without both the powers allotted and the restraints imposed, “there would be no barrier between a dominant majority and the object they mean to effect.”

Thus, by creating a constitutional union that divided sovereignty between State and nation and checked the evil of concentrated power in any one branch of government, the American people had fulfilled the promise of their revolution.

But the problem of abuse of power was not obviated by the broadly democratic underpinning of the American experiment. Nowhere did Petigru more clearly address that dilemma than in the question he asked that Independence Day audience: “For who shall control where all are equal, or how shall the people restrain the will of the people?”

The best means to control the popular passions implied in his question was education. If a republic was to survive, he thought, its government must provide the schools necessary to cultivate in all its citizens the intellectual independence that was “the bright side of Democracy.”

Without access to knowledge, citizens would lack the ability to challenge their government, and individuals the means to protect their freedom . . . [and] withstand the force of majority opinion. And given Petigru’s opinion that “the Majority are wicked is a truth that passed long ago into a proverb,” republican government could not long survive unless it sponsored that learning, for “what hope is there for the human race when there is no minority?”

(James Louis Petigru: Southern Conservative, Southern Dissenter, William & Jane Pease, University of Georgia Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 149-150)

Morality and Community

The 1861-1865 war was essentially one of the defense of traditional, decentralized American communities, as established after the Revolution, against a centralizing liberalism which sought to establish hegemony in Washington. The latter was victorious.

Morality and Community

“Morality, as traditionally conceived, supposes, first of all, a metaphysical vision of the nature of man and the sort of life that is good for man. Virtues are cultivated dispositions of character that enable the soul to live out the life that is good for man. A virtuous soul, with much training over a long period of time, may come to love those things that are truly good as opposed to those that merely appear as such.

Second, morality presupposes community. A man cannot know what good is independent of a concrete way of life, lived in community with others, in which the good is exemplified. A man becomes good through emulation and by apprenticing himself to a master craftsman in the art of human excellence.

The marks of a genuine community are the temple, the graveyard, and the wedding celebration. The favorable connotations that attach to this essential structure of human life are inappropriately applied to associations that are not communities at all – for instance, the “business community,” the “entertainment community,” “gated communities,” or the “homosexual community.” IBM does not have a burial ground; homosexuals do not marry and beget children; and “gated communities” are often places where affluent strangers move to escape the aftermath of social disintegration. These associations have value, but they are not communities.

This is how Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Christians and Muslims traditionally understood morality. These traditions had different understandings of what the human good is, what the virtues are, and how they should be ranked, but they never questioned the metaphysical postulate that there is such a thing as the human good and that morality is the adventure of critically exploring it on a concrete form of life.

Liberalism rejects this fundamental assumption, arguing that a metaphysical vision of the human good is not something human beings can agree on. Since compromise over questions of the ultimate good is not possible, liberals argue that constant and implacable conflict is inevitable.

Liberalism gradually began to shape American public policy after the Civil War and kicked into high gear after World War II. The Bill of Rights, designed to protect the States – distinct political societies capable of pursuing radically different forms of social life – from the central government, was turned upside down to protect the autonomy of the individual from the States.

The regulation of morals, law enforcement, and religion, which gave legal protection to distinct ways of life, was transferred by judicial social engineers to the central government. The education of children, which had been the province of local schools financed by real estate taxes, was now regulated by the federal courts.

By the 1980s, the earlier philosophical rejection of the Western conception of morality was cashed out in the colleges of many of the institutions necessary to sustain it. The United States was becoming a spiritual desert, and the signs of moral decay were ubiquitous: a spectacular increase in crime, divorce, falling educational standards, promiscuous abortion, illegitimacy, anomie, and a society with little desire to reproduce itself. If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

(Communitarians, Liberals, and Other Enemies of Community and Liberty: Scaling Back the Enlightenment, Donald W. Livingston, Chronicles, July 2002, excerpts pp. 23-25)

Tolerating the Past

Historian Charles P. Roland wrote in the forward to Francis Butler Simkins “The Everlasting South” that “probably the great majority of historians today disagree with Professor Simkins’ logic, but probably the great majority of the common folk, wittingly or unwittingly, agree with the gist of it.” As a historian, Simkins was aware that by the late 1950s and early 1960s, major publishing houses in the US were forcing authors to modify their manuscripts to suit liberal values. Speaking honestly about American history was unwanted.

In a letter to a Northerner offended by his writing, he wrote: “You may not understand that I am attempting to give what actually the ordinary Southerner thinks [and] our press – liberal and reactionary – and our politicians will not give publicly to what is actually happening; they want to be overly tactful so as to attract Northern industry . . .” His students reverently referred to Dr. Simkins as “Doc”– and he warned them that they might be making a mistake in following his example.

Tolerating the Past

“What distinguished Doc from so many of his contemporaries was that he refused to truckle to current historical fads, indeed, to use his phrase, he believed that historians ought to “tolerate the South’s past.”

Simkin’s was unashamed of being a Southerner; he was proud of his origins and ancestry. This alone, he knew, was reason enough for most Yankees and Yankeefied Southerners to object to his views.

“I do not attempt to emphasize here the contributions of the South to the history of the United States,” Doc explained in his Southern history textbook. “I propose instead to stress those political and social traits that make the region between the Potomac and Rio Grande a cultural province conscious of its identity.” To him the changes that occurred over time in the South were not nearly as significant as the presence of cultural continuity in the region.

“The militant nationalism of the Southern people supplemented rather than diminished their provincialism; devotion to State and region went along with devotion to the United States,” Doc observed. “Gloating pride in growing cities and imported industries went along with retention of growing habits. The interest of the youth of the region in rifles, dogs and wildlife, like that of the Virginia gentlemen of the eighteenth century, was often greater than their interest in classroom studies.”

Doc often provoked conventional historians by saying or writing things that they did not want to hear. Invited to become a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, he willingly admitted to the administrators that he was something probably no Canadian university had ever had on its faculty – the grandson of a Confederate field officer. Doc even delighted in revealing the full name and regiment of his ancestor – Lieutenant-Colonel John Calhoun Simkins of the 3rd South Carolina Artillery.

In the Southern Historical Association presidential address, “Tolerating the South’s Past,” he denounced the tendency of modern historians to judge the South and its people by today rather than those of the past.

“Chroniclers of Southern history,” he charged, “often do not grasp the most elementary concept of sound historiography: the ability to appraise the past by standards other than those of the present. They accept a fanatical nationalism which leaves little room for static contentment, and a faith in the American dream of human equality which leaves little room for one person to get ahead of another except in making money.”

(The Legacy of Francis Butler Simkins, Grady McWhiney, Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1995, excerpts pg. 23-24)

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“From 1811 to 1850,” writes Dr. Clyde Wilson, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun served “as representative from that State, secretary of war, vice-president, twice presidential contender, secretary of state, and senator for fifteen years – Calhoun was a central figure in the American experience.

This simply-educated American “had a major if not always decisive influence on every issue of the period – in regard to not only State-federal conflict and slavery . . . but also to free trade and tariff, banking and currency, taxation and expenditures, war and peace, foreign relations, Indian policy, and public lands, internal improvements, the two-party system, and the struggle between congressional and presidential power” – all of which were causations of the fratricidal war he could see on the horizon, but did not live to see.

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“Calhoun’s education was wholly remarkable. “There was not an academy within fifty miles,” says one account. “At the age of thirteen he was placed under the charge of his brother-in-law, Moses Waddel, a Presbyterian clergyman in Columbus County, Georgia.”

In fourteen weeks, it is said, he had read Rollins Ancient History, Robertson’s Charles V, and South America, and Voltaire’s Charles XII. Cook’s Voyages (small vol.) Essays by Brown and Locke’s Essay as far as the chapter on Infinity.

“Sawney” [a young African boy], we learn, was his constant companion and playmate in these days. No more is heard of books until five years later, when there seems to have developed a unanimous consensus that this young man should have the benefit of higher education. Thus young Calhoun entered upon the higher education when many are about to leave it. “In [nature’s] school, remarks Calhoun’s most discrimination eulogist, “he learned to think, which is a vast achievement.”

The academy, which had now been established by this same Dr. Waddel, near Calhoun’s home, was selected for the first stage. “The boys boarded at farmhouses in the woods near the academy, furnishing their own supplies. At sunrise, Dr. Waddel was wont to wind his horn . . . At an early hour, the pupils made their appearance at the log cabin schoolhouse.

After prayers, the pupils, each with a chair bearing their name sculpted in the back of it, retired to the woods for study, the classes being divided into squads according to individual preference.

At the same time Calhoun launched for the first time into “amo” and “penna,” a batch of timorous freshmen were tapping at the doors of Yale. In two years’ time, Calhoun joined those freshmen at the junior class, and two years later graduated with them, in 1804. None of the accounts fail to mention that the subject of his graduation essay was “The qualifications necessary to constitute a perfect statesman.” It was an appropriate text for the life that followed.

Eighteen months now at a law school in Connecticut, and eighteen more in lawyers’ offices in Charleston and Abbeville, and seed time is past, the harvest begins. Two years later he was sent to the State Legislature, whence, in turn . . . he was transferred to the House of Representatives in Washington.

Looking back, Calhoun at thirteen starts at books, but is choked off; five years’ hunting, fishing and farming, at eighteen to Waddel’s Academy; at twenty to Yale; twenty-two graduates; twenty-five lawyer; twenty-seven State Legislature; twenty-nine, Congress.”

(Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell Co., 1903, excerpts pp. 14-18)

Mar 18, 2019 - Education, Historians on History, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Propaganda    Comments Off on In Search of Professional Historians

In Search of Professional Historians

It is common today to read of “professional” historians from universities and other government entities who are often relied upon for allegedly credible opinion regarding the past. This “professional” must have a history degree, and not contradict orthodoxy. They have learned that to advance their career and salary, attract the right publishers, and be invited to national historical conferences, they cannot depart from that orthodoxy. Thinking independently will only have a would-be historian suffer in the shadows, if employed at all.

The media, especially, will avoid anyone they may term as “amateur” historians and who depart from “the master story” – which is what Napoleon was referring to when he said “history is a set of lies agreed upon”

Below, acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde N. Wilson describes the education of historians in the past, and through today.

In Search of Professional Historians

“Before the late 19th century there was hardly any such thing as a “professional” historian. History was a branch of literature, written by independent gentlemen or sometimes by statesmen. Such gentlemen were products of humane learning, not “professional training.”

The PhD was invented in German universities during the 19th century. The learning was certainly rigorous to become known as a “Doktor.” There was a certain dogmatism and arrogance associated with it — such historians thought of themselves as objective seekers of truth, that is, they were “social scientists” not just writers.

It was even hinted that when they accumulated enough facts, their findings would be definitive truth. Strangely, although even today they claim to be objective investigators, at the same time they contradictorily think of themselves as serving “progress.”

In the late 19th century some Americans went to Germany to acquire “professional” status, and then began to develop doctoral programs at places like Johns Hopkins and Columbia. The transfer of historians from gentlemen of humane learning and creators of good literature into professional “experts” with PhDs was gradual but was pretty well established by the 1940s or so.

But such PhDs were hardly independent professional practitioners. They mostly had to work for colleges as teachers or sometimes for government and wealthy foundations. Then and now, the few historians who make an independent living from their writing are not PhDs.

Until fairly recently, the requirements for the American PhD were demanding and lent some weight to the idea of professionalism. Degrees required mastery of at least two foreign languages to broaden understanding; mastery of a secondary field (if you were a historian of the U.S. you needed to have some expertise in another field, say Russian history, etc.); some mastery of a different but related discipline (political science, economics, literature); and an intense and thorough mastery of a particular specialty (say, Colonial America, the Jacksonian period, Reconstruction, or such).

And most important, a dissertation based on intensive primary research, that is, thorough immersion in original sources from the time studied. Such research was to be undertaken with an open mind and no preselected agenda. After all, how could you know what was true until you actually investigated. This training worked fairly well to create objective investigators.

Fundamentally, historical writing cannot be objective. We are all a product of our times and experiences. The best we can hope for is an honest weighing of the facts such as we expect from a jury. History is simply about human experience and as such is always subject to different perspectives. Having a PhD is no proof that the observer is honest and that his opinion is a definitive “expert” one.

A major problem today is that the requirements have become looser and looser. We are today creating PhDs who know only one small area and are serving a Cultural Marxist agenda rather than a reasonably honest search for what is true.

Their “primary research” deals with ever more narrow and irrelevant topics. About all we can say about the “expertise” of such people is that they stayed in school longer than most people. I am regularly astonished by the media citing “experts” on history that nobody has ever heard of, and have never produced anything to indicate expertise except having a degree and belonging to a “History Department” somewhere.

Still, I don’t think current historians are being forced by administrators to be Cultural Marxists. This syndrome is widespread and deeply entrenched in the entire educational system because bad people labored for several generations to gain control. The high administrators are mostly opportunistic cynics without any learning or conviction who simply conform to the reigning attitudes in their circles.

In my books Defending Dixie and From Union to Empire, one will find several worthwhile essays on history. I particularly recommend ‘Scratching the Fleas: American Historians and Their History.” From the latter, the following passage ends the article.

H.L. Mencken in the 1920s reflected on the readiness with which historians were mobilized to rewrite history at federal direction during World War I:

“Nearly all our professional historians are poor men holding college posts, and they are more cruelly beset by the ruling politico-plutocratic-social oligarchy than ever were the Prussian professors were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the slightest from what is the current official doctrine, and they are turned out of their chairs with a ceremony suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet.”

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