The story of the United States of America is remarkable, and in the average American school, we’ve lost the ability to remember how unusual and impressive a place America is. As Stanley Kurtz wrote this morning, “our schools have buried the glory and beauty of America’s story under a mountain of misplaced guilt and tendentious ideology.” Does this mean that we ought to look back on our past with unabashed and thoughtless pride? Absolutely not. But if we teach our students to feel nothing but regret when they study our past we neglect the full truth of our American story. Above all, students deserve honesty from their teachers.
Thanks to a panel of scholars at the National Archives last week, our national conversation about what it means to be an American—and when our country truly began—is becoming more focused. The argument of the panel was that our students ought to study American history in a balanced way: recognizing that America’s founding charted the course for previously unattainable human liberty, prosperity, and excellence, and that despite the great sin of slavery and subsequent injustices, the promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence still shows us the path forward.
A video of the discussion, featuring Prof. Wilfred S. McClay, author of Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, Allen Guelzo, a scholar of, among other things, the American Civil War, Jordan Adams of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative and others, is below.
McClay’s Land of Hope: An Introduction to the Great American Story, is at the center of this honest and clear approach to teaching American history. It’s author, Wilfred S. McClay, understands how to celebrate the achievement of America without obscuring the truth.
His book is the subject of Hillsdale College’s free online course on American history, and for an engaging and informative look at the last 250 years there is no better place to begin. Here’s an introduction to the course: