On Conservapedia there is an essay entitled "Liberal Denials about History," which contains a list of these supposed denials along with the claim that "virtually no textbooks teach them." Where this is actually true, it is because the supposed denials are, to put it lightly, utter bullshit.
In this side-by-side, we respond to each supposed denial in turn.
| Supposed Liberal Denial
The following truths about history are typically denied by liberal history textbooks:
|That "Yankee ingenuity" (American inventions) far surpassed the rest of the world, and brought great wealth to it||Although the U.S. did bring forth many inventions during the Industrial Revolution (as did other countries, and the UK arguably led it), its great wealth has more to do with the abundance of natural resources (minerals, lumber, etc.) available there during that time. That, and the fact that slavery drove a great part of the American economy for 200 years or so. Many inventions which are often cited as American were developed elsewhere (the car, the assembly line, the lightbulb, etc.), and textbooks acknowledge this.|
|That military battles are an essential part of history, and of preserving freedom.||Most people are in agreement that, at least, the battles of World War II were essential to preserving the freedom of the world against Nazi encroachment. There has also been a huge reduction in the number of American military history professors at the college level, which is not good because it has resulted in the subject becoming more difficult to study. That being said, historiography that focuses on battles and generals overlooks the ways in which the vast majority of the planet's people, especially women, act as agents of social change.
Biblical battles often culminate with the wholesale slaughter of tribes, excluding the virgins among them; that is certainly a way to preserve freedom, specifically, the freedom for the victors to take liberties with said virgins. On second thought, even the Bible is too liberal for someone.|
|That there were valid reasons for past opposition to immigration which had nothing to do with racism; immigration did not enable the North to beat the South.||News to us; during the Civil War, the ranks of the Union army were swelled in its most desperate hour by recruits fresh off the boat from Ireland who joined for the hope of a hot meal.|
|That unions caused great harm, including senseless violence and lost jobs.||That labor unions have been known to abuse what legal privileges are given them, is not in question. That unions have been associated with organized crime, is not in question. However, more significant in the history of unions, and more worthy of inclusion in a textbook, is the good these organizations have done for working conditions. As the bumper sticker says: "Labor unions: the folks who brought you the weekend!"|
|That hard work was the key to the success of many Americans.||Success is usually brought forth by several factors, among which being lucky and yes, hard work. Why this usually isn't mentioned, is because it's just too obvious to warrant mentioning. You might as well mention that Christians believe that accepting Jesus as your savior is the key to reaching heaven.|
|That most great Americans, from Abraham Lincoln to Thomas Edison, were homeschooled.||The list of counterexamples to this point would probably run to book length. But if the Conservapedians were to provide a list of those "great Americans" who were schooled in their home, we will hazard a guess that most of them lived in the frontier days, when in-home tutoring was just about the only option; this is not homeschooling in the manner practiced today.|
|That Abraham Lincoln's faith grew while he was President.||That's possible. It's not very specific. Maybe Conservapedia is refering to Lincoln's probable deism?|
|That Benjamin Franklin abandoned the Deism of his youth later in his life.||Dr. Franklin changed his mind about the anti-clerical sentiments of his youth and came to embrace organized religion, but he never became a Christian. Even Christians agree on this point; see this article, written by Christians expressing their regret that Dr. Franklin did not join their ranks. Near the end of his life, he wrote a letter in which he praised the morals of Jesus, but expressed doubts about the fellow's divinity.|
|That Thomas Jefferson's religious beliefs were not representative of the other Founding Fathers.||To which we can only reply: They were not; Mr. Jefferson was a Deist and most of the other Founding Fathers were Christians. However, that is not the point, the point is that the Founding Fathers' religious beliefs were not homogeneous, and neither are the beliefs of America, so you can't claim that we were founded on "Christian Principles" when the author of the Declaration of Independence was not even a Christian|
|That Rhode Island and Thomas Jefferson, and their view of a "separation of church and state," had no role in the formation of the Constitution.||That Mr. Jefferson was not one of the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention, being the ambassador to France at that time, is not denied. Neither is it denied that Rhode Island boycotted the Convention, although it was over matters unrelated to that state's stance on religion. But it is naive to suggest that Jefferson had no role in the Convention; Mr. Jefferson strongly approved of it, calling its delegates "demigods," and the ideas championed by Jefferson were in the zeitgeist of the times.|
|That there were conservative Presidents before Ronald Reagan, such as George Washington, James Monroe and Grover Cleveland.||We can't put historical figures into modern political context so easily. They are assuming what they would have thought given a set of circumstances that did not exist at their time. NOTE* George Washington was neither consevative nor liberal. Washington himself said do not create political parties and was in fact neutral between the Federalists (Hamillton) and the Democrats (Jefferson) while he was in office.|
|That "anti-imperialism" movements against the United States were really communist or Muslim movements against Christianity, as in denying the Islamic basis for the Philippine insurgency around 1900.||Although communists were certainly involved in fighting "imperialism" in all quarters, the claim that Muslims, acting in that capacity, were responsible for any significant fight against the United States at that time is incorrect. The Philippines, in particular, is a predominantly Catholic country, with only 5% of its population being Muslims, and the idea that the revolutions there were Islamic in their basis is incredibly inaccurate. The Muslim Moro people of the Philipines had a long history of combating foreign rulers in the Philippines, probably because they didn't like being ruled by foreigners. Also, what history textbook even mentions the Philippine-American War?|
|That President FDR did not end the Great Depression, and may have prolonged it.||While the extent to which President Roosevelt's policies helped alleviate the Depression or not is a matter of debate among economists,[note 1] the claim that his initiatives prolonged it is hardly a credible position and one only found among New Deal denialists. However, there are arguments from economists that President Roosevelt's gold policy did much more to assist recovery than to hamper it. But the U.S. recovered from the Depression on his watch, and his social programs helped quite a few people while it was going on.
Although mindful of an argumentum ad populum, the voters who elected him in 1936, 1940, and 1944 must have thought he was doing something right.|
|That President LBJ's Great Society did little to alleviate poverty.||When President Johnson took office, 20% of the population was in poverty. When he left, that figure was down to 12%. Hardly "little."|
|That President Ronald Reagan's foreign policy was key to ending the Cold War.||Sure; we can't let Gorbachev have any of the credit!|
|That NO "triangular trade" existed in the 17th and 18th centuries with the New World. In fact, no specific "triangular" trade route has ever been identified and it is unlikely that there was significant sale of goods to Africa at that time. The term was invented by an historian more than 100 years later.||Sugar grown and harvested using slave labor was sent from the U.S. to Europe, while the by-product molasses was used to distil rum, which was sent to Africa, along with European manufactured goods such as cloth, guns, gunpowder and a variety of other goods used to pay for slaves which were shipped across the Atlantic where they worked to produce more sugar and rum which was... well, you get the picture. This is very well-documented. See, for example, this animation from the British National Maritime Museum.|
|Standard textbooks mislead students into thinking that contributions to history were somehow based more on status than by effort or Providence. This bias is a form of status worship.||In the old days, being the son of a king offered one many more opportunities to contribute to history than being the son of a farmer, so status and going down in history were closely intertwined. But insofar as history books take this attitude in a manner above and beyond simply pointing out facts, it is more likely done in order to criticize this historical importance of status rather than exalt it. The argument can be made that this is an obsession with status that does no one any good, but calling such an attitude "misleading" is a bit of a stretch.|
|Standard textbooks emphasize material things (like race, gender, wealth, scarcity) at the expense of the more important role played by ideas and "the power of the pen."||Ideas are important, and a whole schools of history and historiography, such as intellectual history or the history of ideas, deal with that field. However, most people live their lives dealing with, and trying to better their position, in the material world, and approaching history in a way that does not account for that fact risks omitting their voices. One cannot talk about ideas like citizenship and freedom divorced from the ways in which multitudes of people (e.g. women, workers, blacks, etc.) used those concepts as a means by which to get a better life for themselves.|
|Standard textbooks overemphasize the significance of popularity (e.g., JFK).||If one is not popular how would they get elected to office? Appointed by God like this guy claimed? In addition, it's a remarkable claim from a site that watches the approval ratings for Obama like a hawk.|
|Standard textbooks mislead students into thinking that presidential elections (which are usually just determined by the economic cycle) are more significant than warranted.||More Obama (and perhaps Clinton as well) bashing. Also, why do you hate Freedom?|
|Standard textbooks ignore or deceive students about the fact that most great contributions to western society have been made by conservative Christians.||Again, the list of counterexamples would run to book length. Here are a few of the more significant ones: the pre-Christian Hammurabi and many other non-Judeo Christians came up with codes of law pre-dating the biblical ones and using concepts such as the idea that the punishment should fit the crime; Hippocrates (a Pagan) is regarded the father of (Western) medicine; Cicero (a pre-Christian Pagan) was the granddaddy of rhetoric and a serious political philosopher along with such equally pre-Christian and Pagan Greek philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and a host of others too numerous to be mentioned here; democracy originated in pre-Christian and Pagan Greece; the pre-Christian Pagan Greeks founded Western philosophy while Pagan Romans (pre- and post-Christian alike) made significant contributions to both Western philosophy and legal systems, the latter further developed by the Byzantines (whose Orthodox Christianity probably wouldn't earn them a place in CP's "conservative Christian" pantheon[note 2]) in the Corpus Juris Civilis; liberal Christians in Virginia and elsewhere pioneered modern freedom of religion (a principle now thoroughly abused by the likes of the Conservapedians); Alan Turing, a homosexual, pioneered the concept of the modern computer (Turing machine see also the Turing test) and thus founded computer science. Conservative poster boy Thomas Edison was not a Christian and subscribed to a more pantheistic view[note 3] In addition, Edison was a pacifist and would only work on defensive weapons.|
|Standard textbooks portray all presidents have being comparable in effectiveness and accomplishment, when in fact some were successful and some were failures.||Surely the biased lib-burr-rul textbooks being referred to would downplay the achievements of St. Reagan and overstate those of "Slick Willie" Clinton?
But, all humor aside, we have yet to see any textbook that does not rank Washington or Lincoln at least a tad above their fellows.|
Specific truths that history books deny or distort
|Rhode Island was the only state to separate church and state, and as a result it became the biggest importer of slaves. Quote from the Sons of Confederate Veterans: "The largest slave trading ports in America were located in Rhode Island and soon rivaled those of Liverpool. The wealth and economy of New England was based solely on slave trading and exporting rum; and the southern most colonies were NOT part of that odious slave trade."||Whether Rhode Island's being a center of slave trading had anything to do with its separation of church and state is questionable at best, as is the assertion that it was the only state to separate with its church. Pennsylvania and Delaware never had any state church, while Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Georgia had disestablished theirs by the time of the Philadelphia Convention.|
|Thomas Jefferson was not as successful or important as liberals claim; for example, Jefferson was given a wealthy estate but died in substantial debt. He failed personally and as president, and little in the Declaration of Independence is attributable to him.||Uh, right; Jefferson was only the Declaration's primary author, so of course he only wrote the title, leaving the rest to trained monkeys with |typewriters quill pens.
As to Jefferson's presidency, it is quite debatable whether or not it was a failure. The Conservapedians should applaud him solely for his attempt to eliminate the national debt due to his belief in Limited Government, which of course every red-blooded American conservative is required to believe in, right up to the point at which it is given unlimited power to lock lib-burr-ruls up for treason. Apart from that, Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and won a war against the Barbary pirates.
|Chivalry was customary throughout most of American history.||As was the practice of treating women as inferior beings, compelling them to be skivvies and mothers, forbidding them the ownership of property, excluding them from voting and from any influence in the political and economic spheres.|
|The greatest corruption in government during the Grant Administration was by the Democratic-controlled "Tammany Hall."||This is probably meant to read - The greatest corruption in government during the Grant Administration, aside from the Grant Administration, was by the Democratic-controlled "Tammany Hall."|
|The misnamed "Gilded Age" generated tremendous prosperity for the world, thanks to an absence of stifling regulation.||That much wealth was generated during the Gilded Age is not disputed; the objection is that it fell disproportionately into the hands of a few industrialists rather than being shared around in its entirety.|
|Public school education in its current form in the U.S.A. is less than 100 years old.||Massachusetts had compulsory education and public schools to match as early as 1647. If any textbooks deny that these ideas were not widespread in the country until within the last hundred years, we have yet to see them.|
|Martin Luther King was a Republican who preached conservative values.||Oh, of course; a conservative Republican who inexplicably came under investigation from the FBI on suspicion of being a communist, and who was opposed by just about the entire right-wing establishment at that time. He also, in his last years, fought hard against the Vietnam war as he saw it as an imperialist venture--a position hardly in line with Republican or conservative positions of the time.|
|Nazism, with its insistence on the collective, was a left-wing doctrine.||The Political Compass puts it slightly center-right on economics, coupled with extreme views in the area of state power. But in any event, left-wing philosophies hold as a central point of theory the equality of all people, whatever travesty their adherents make of this in practice. Nazism did not have this feature, even strongly advocating stratification for stratification's sake. Moreover, fascism is a nationalist ideology, but you don't see the conservatives pointing finger at that (instead, they'd rather demonize someone for not wearing a flag pin, hmmm...).|
|That the Democratic Party supported slavery, while the Republican party opposed it.||If any textbooks claim that Abraham Lincoln belonged to the Democratic Party, we have yet to see them. Also, roles were flipped in the early Democrat- Republican two party system. Early Republicans are comparable to modern Democrats (1960s to present) and vice versa. Notice how southerners occupied the early Democratic party. To further back this argument, Southern Democrats advocated a small-centralized government, like modern Republicans|
|Who the leader of the Scientific Revolution was.||The Scientific Revolution was leaderless. Arguing that Christianity is responsible for the scientific revolution is a bit like saying that the British Crown was founded by white people. That statement is true,[note 4] but only because there just weren't many non-white people around at the time! Elements of the church encouraged the development of modern science, Mendel's contributions to genetics being a prime example, but one could argue that he was scientific and religious, and one did not depend on the other. Also, the church was eager to learn about God's creation, which is in stark contrast to the anti-science stance adopted by modern-day creationists. St. Augustine would likely refer modern day creationists to the following excerpt from his letter to Marcellinus. |
"If anyone shall set the authority of Holy Writ against clear and manifest reason, he who does this knows not what he has undertaken; for he opposes to the truth not the meaning of the Bible, which is beyond his comprehension, but rather his own interpretation; not what is in the Bible, but what he has found in himself and imagines to be there"
|The role of English history in shaping American history.||Much more overlooked until quite recently were the roles of Native American history, Latin American, African and African-American history, women's history, queer history and labor history in shaping American history.
And we aren't the ones omitting the war that pwned the United States from the World History Lectures.|
- ↑ Hardly a surprise, given that the profession includes these guys...
- ↑ Which is of course why you should reach for your irony meter as "orthodox" means "right thought" - though this is probably more a case of
No True Scotsman No True Christian.
- ↑ "...what you call God I call Nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter."
- ↑ Unless you ask this black supremacy crank, of course...