Submitted by Chet Rollins
“These new textbooks are just terrible. They don’t teach them the values of the Founding Fathers and Lincoln.”
Those words coming from a homeschooling acquaintance is still the common refrain coming from middle-aged rural whites, even outside the homeschool community, and one would hear the same argument twenty years ago from the same people as they witness our educational institutions drift more and more away from the values taught in their youth. Their thought that if we just went to a time when schools were good and taught the values from a few generations ago, the societal ills of our current society would be much improved, still lingers.
As the left is executing another consolidation of their cultural and political victories, the right has finally realized they aren’t so much of a silent majority as a conquered people, and the America of their childhood years is never coming back. Their framework to see the world collapses, and the values and morals they were taught in school and through the media of their childhood are shown to be woefully inadequate to deal with the current realities. Many are with children in the home, and are wondering how to teach their children how to navigate the new cultural reality.
One’s experience with civics in school will depend on the decade of schooling. As the disconnect between the civic principles of the parents and what their children are taught has become so pronounced, there’s an understandable yearning for a time when things weren’t so bad. The right wing wants to go back to 80’s Civics, or 70’s, or 60’s, when people were really taught what it was to be an American. The homeschooling movement is a prime example of this reaction with a massive influx of people opting out of the education system altogether to vie to recreate an older, more innocent time. The problem is, civics education has always been subversive.
Going back to the first public schools in the 1800’s, the purpose of Civics education was always gradual homogenization. Public schools began by moving the youth from a community of various histories and protestant sects to a generic White protestant ethos. After a couple of generations, the White protestant ethos made way to a generic White Christian ethos. After the two great wars, it morphed to a generic deism still largely based on based on the values of the Founding Stock of the country. After the cultural revolution of the 60’s, religion was tossed away as irrelevant to Education, the cult of equality made it’s ascendance, and the reverence given to the Founding Stock began a sharp decline.
Then the 70’s began the heavy diversity indoctrination. Look at a textbook and you’ll notice the change in tone regarding who was considered to be an American. They also had the ideal being striven for, as they became inundated with diverse pictures of people of multiple ethnic backgrounds living in harmony. The 80’s and 90’s began the large diversity push in American History Curriculum, and the elevation of minor minority players as near equals with presidents, settlers, and inventors. The 2000’s is racial grievance and full deconstruction took its roots, and modern curriculum pushes racial grievance even harder while beginning to glorify a post-national identity.
The subversive force of American Education has always been specifically designed to deracinate children and move them from the ethnic and religious identity taught to them at home to a more bland and homogenized Americanism. This was as true generations ago as it is now, it’s just the level of atomization Americans have been through have allowed the atomization to accelerate rapidly. Modern Curricula is just an extension of the same general principle of this that has been going on since the beginning of Public Education. Our country is a melting pot, right?
As homogenization reaches its final phase, it becomes harder to even define what a people even is. If one asks, “What does it mean to be an American?”, can anyone think of anything beyond banal platitudes? The best many can come up with is an anti-definition, like being an American is to embrace diversity. Of course, anyone knows something is defined just as much by what is left out as what is left in, and any society must be by its very nature exclusionary. Some old-school types may say Freedom, but even they don’t really believe it anymore. So if an American is defined by diversity, can you think of any reason to die to defend diversity? What would that even mean? As the events of the past weeks force your average rural white to reassess what the nation is now with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, what is left to teach our children of the country they inhabit? What is the Great American myth that will be propagated to our next generation when we are, in essence, a conquered people?
A small vanguard trying to reinstate one of the classic mythologies, Evangelical Homeschoolers, are still largely right-wing. If one goes through the catalogs, the majority of the textbooks try to mimic the civic spirit of the 1950’s with a little bit of diversity mixed in to ease modern white-guilt. Even a lot of the illustrations try to mimic the mid century styles of textbook art. This makes sense, as the common opinion of American Education from the right states is that it was after this time that education went downhill in this country.
In these packages one sees books with the glowing portraits of the Founding Fathers battling for freedom against a tyrannical foreign empire, the moral crusade to end slavery, the land of immigrants, and a fairly level assessment of the Western Settlers and native Americans. We see different sects combatting and clashing over the centuries of American society, only to finally come to peace after great conflict. It hits home the underlying theme “We are all Americans, and we should be proud of our country”.
It all seems so surreal to pore through them, not only because the look and feel they are going for is old-fashioned by design, but they speak of a mythology that is not capable of dealing with the struggles and tribulations Heritage Americans are going to come up against in their daily lives. It’s silly to talk about us all being Americans with a common vision when 13% of our country is foreign born, and less than half can even trace themselves back to founding stock. It’s insane to wave the American Flag and wear a flag lapel when so many of your countrymen want to replace even the American Flag.
The quaint, antiquated feeling is because there is no longer an American nation to reinvigorate, and therefore no universal civics to embrace. Any attempt to reinstate an older civics from a time long gone will be subject to the same poison, only in a smaller portion, that inevitably led to our current situation. Even worse, it will create a cognitive dissonance that will teach one’s child to treat any American Citizen as an American who will share the same classic values. They won’t, as the social trust that allowed the old civics to work is no longer applicable to our modern times. The 1950’s are gone, long with society they lived in and the values they shared. We replaced social trust for economic gain, and turned our country into a shopping mall. How does one go about teaching civics around a shopping mall?
In a different time, a limited homogenization process would be a useful message for social unity. One can even make an argument that it was a social good to push children from a strong ethnic and religious identity to a more tolerant position of other views if just for social cohesion. If the Irish and Italians are being forced to live within a few miles of one another, it was not unreasonable to enact measures to ensure that even if the current generation is at each other’s throats, the next generation will be less so. From the perspective of the Founding Stock, such compromises were perfectly reasonable to expect from foreigners who wanted to make America their home. For a while, biology made cohesion possible to a limited extent, but as the genetic diversity of your average citizen increased, so was the inability to keep a cohesive unity.
So how is a parent to instill civic mythology on his children? If American Civics has always been a homogenizing element, how does one go about protecting one’s loved ones from being homogenized to the final phase of simply becoming a soulless and rootless global consumer?
One interesting facet is how many homeschool materials, in addition to classic civics, also instill a story of the specific people it is catered for. For example, the ultra-Catholic Seton program has a substantial focus on Catholic immigrants and their place in American Society. It states how the Catholic changed the landscape of the largely protestant nation, telling the stories of prominent figures in the faith and how they overcame a hostile terrain. There’s a refreshing us/them dynamic that gives more meaning and sense of place than any general curriculum from any age of Public Education. There is a similar dynamic in others such as Rod and Staff, an Amish based program with a strong focus on a way of life and an implicit rejection of greater American Society. They make it clear those are your fellow human beings who you can show respect to, but they are not your people.
For the founding stock, many people of which can trace their lineage back to the Puritans or Quakers who inhabited the land. Many have roots in the Revolutionary War and have memorabilia from ancestors fighting in the civil war. Why do they have to pretend recent immigrants from 50 years ago, with wildly different values and mindsets, are their people? Why do they have to pretend the recent Indian immigrant is one of their people just as much as one who can trace their ancestry to the French and Indian wars? The word loses its meaning along with one’s sense of self when taken to that extreme. There’s a good history and respect in those others, but there’s no reason for your own history to include their stories as one and the same with yours.
The right needs to get over trying to pretend that people living a completely alternate lifestyle with contradictory values are really your people just because they have a legal document expressing citizenship. We need to accept post-Americanism as much as our enemies do, but seek strong bonds in families, communities, and institutions that will enable us to live by our values and are willing to protect us. As our enemies move towards a globalized interchangeable part depleted of all uniqueness, our answer is to become more tribal, and more unique, embracing each of our unique heritages and banding with others who have the same ancestors, or at least can show the same deference and respect to them.
This delineation of the tribes doesn’t need to be in a strict Schmittian friend/enemy distinction. There’s not necessarily a need, for example, for recent Hispanic immigrants and Heritage Germans to be enemies, and there are many situations where they can be strong allies, but they will be an other, a people outside one’s own community, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This simple assessment of personal obligation in your tribe shows where your main priorities are towards, and keeps your mind local towards your direct neighbors.
Being an American may mean nothing anymore, but being of Puritan, Dutch, Irish, or Catholic heritage still does. You still have a tribe, and it’s time to allow the American story to sunset and revive the story of your own people through your children.