Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Right after I got my Masters Degree in 1954, I taught history and general science at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas. At the time, public school history teachers taught their students about the accomplishments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. We taught the history of America’s wars, especially the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Korean War. We taught about the things that made America great and we tried to instill pride of country in our students. It was the same way history was taught when I was in high school.

Sadly, that is no longer the way history is taught. Our mistreatment of the Indians, slavery in the South and the racial discrimination against blacks and other minorities are shameful chapters in our history that have changed the way history is now taught. Today teachers spent little time instilling pride in America because, in the cause of diversity and multiculturalism, political correctness demands that teachers put more emphasis on the bad things we have done than on the things that have made us great.

Among the casualties of political correctness, Washington is only mentioned as our first president, Jefferson is being ignored, Lincoln is only recognized for being president during the Civil War, etc. With the advent of the civil rights movement and ever since, much more emphasis is being placed on Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X and Cesar Chavez than on our former great presidents.

Abraham Lincoln was a truly great president and deserves better than a brief mention in public school history classes. William Katz – an author, a former CIA officer and editor of The New York Times Magazine – offers us a tribute to Honest Abe. Although Katz did not list Lincoln’s many accomplishments, his tribute should be read to every high school student in this country. Maybe then some of the brighter students will want to go to the library to learn more about this truly great president.

By William Katz
February 15, 2011

February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s real birthday. We used to know that as kids until the powers that be morphed Abe with George to form President’s Day. Lincoln would be 202 this year.

Since our educational system seems determined these days to present Lincoln, warts and nothing else, it’s time to put in a good word for Abe. He provides one of the strongest reasons for the “great man” theory of history, that history revolves around the decisions of great (or evil) men in critical times. No Hitler, no World War II. No Reagan, no end of the Cold War on our terms. No Lincoln, no saving of the union.

Indeed, Lincoln was probably the indispensable man. We cannot really imagine anyone else in the American presidency in his place. He reminds us that great men are usually known for one great thing. Who recalls Lincoln’s agricultural policy? They are also known, not simply for great decisions, but the unique ability to explain those decisions, often in memorable prose. Lincoln is revered as much for his speeches as his actions. The speeches explain, and inspire.

Lincoln had one year of formal schooling. Take that, Ivy League.

We used to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Any literate American knew “With malice toward none, with charity for all…” Do young kids know those words today? I doubt it, and I doubt if they’re made to care. I doubt most even know when the Civil War occurred.

We recall FDR’s “Four Freedoms,” and his “day of infamy” speech after Pearl Harbor.

Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” has become a staple of American rhetoric.

Sadly, some of our recent presidents, and certainly the current one, don’t comprehend the power of a well-turned phrase. Do we recall anything that Bill Clinton every said, except for “I did not have sex with that woman…”? As for Mr. Obama, he’s a bright man, but a second-class writer. He mouths the words beautifully, but he’s like a bad date. You forget what he said immediately.

So, happy birthday, Abe. You did good. I wish we had film.

1 comment:

bob walsh said...

It is truly sad that American history has become homogenized, sanitized and ignored. We have, as a people, done some truly stupid and shameful things. We have also done some truly marvelous and heroic things, and as a people we strive to make ourselves better, and our country better, on an ongoing basis. Its a damn shame our schools ignore that, and ignore our past, or try to twist it into something that the PC generation wants it to have been.