Don’t Bother Me with Facts

Quick: When did America drop the atomic bomb? If you said, at the end of World War II, you're quicker than the people who write our children's history books. That's right. One history textbook places the bomb at the end of the Korean War. And that's just one of more than 200 errors contained in this year's new history textbooks. The errors came to light when the Texas Board of Education met recently to approve a textbook list. The books had already been reviewed by a panel of experts. But it took an independent monitoring group to catch the mistakes. A group run by Mel and Norma Gabler, a Christian couple that periodically reviews textbooks. Among the errors they found is a textbook describing Sputnik as a nuclear missile. A book citing the wrong number of Americans killed in World War I. And several books giving wrong dates: for the invention of the telegraph, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the first moon walk. Well, the Texas School Board is chagrined, as well it should be, and has ordered publishers to correct the mistakes. But the incident raises a larger question. How did such obvious errors creep into the books in the first place? This carelessness about factual accuracy didn't come out of nowhere. It came from a shift in educational theory--away from objective truth and toward social engineering. It began with John Dewey, who said schools shouldn't be in the business of teaching facts; they should be teaching kids how to change in a changing world. Dewey's followers took that a step further. They said schools should become agents of change. The result: Educators began to downplay facts and focused instead on changing students' values to solve social problems. Schools wanted to raise a new generation free from racism, sexism, and discrimination. Contemporary history textbooks reflect that goal. Paul Gagnon reviewed some of the most widely-used history textbooks and discovered they offer profiles only for certified minorities: for women, like Anne Hutchinson; for blacks, like Benjamin Banneker; for Native Americans, like Tecumseh. Even for a Chinese pioneer named Fatt Hing. But--Gagnon says--we search in vain for a serious discussion of American leaders: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison--the people who shaped America's political thought and institutions. Apparently, these men committed the social crime of being privileged, upper-class, white males. What a lop-sided view students are getting of American history. Textbook authors are too involved with their social agenda to worry about such trifling matters as historical accuracy. But Christians do take history seriously. Biblical religion is a historical religion; it rests on events that occurred at a particular place and time. We don't want to see history debased, as though it were just a tool for reshaping society. So perhaps it's fitting that the people who caught the 200 errors in the new history textbooks are a Christian couple. And they should inspire us all. Read your children's textbooks--and find out what picture of America they're getting.


Chuck Colson


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