We Teach Nothing, We Know Nothing—and That Could Cost the United States Everything

A couple of years ago, a retired teacher who stays in close touch with history teachers across Texas told me something disturbing. Like most states, Texas has standardized testing. Unlike most states, Texas requires public school students to study Texas history in the 4th and 7th grades. Texas history is red in tooth and claw and full of big personalities and big ideas. Standardized testing is forcing teachers to drop about half of the second semester of Texas history to focus on U.S. history -- not to deepen students' understanding of American history, but to teach to the standardized tests.

This, according to my friend, shortchanges students from learning about key parts of Texas history. Teaching to the test is shallow. Add in that history teaching is being watered down overall across our public education system, and we have a problem.

That problem was exposed, unintentionally, by an Obama administration official.

Far be it from me to agree with an Obama acolyte, but Ben Rhodes infamously said, "They literally know nothing" about the journalists he manipulated to sell the awful Iran nuclear deal. This, he said, made it easy to sell that deal. He was a liberal, most journalists are default liberal, so they believed whatever he told them. Lack of knowledge makes a whole lot of things easier for crafty people.

He wasn't wrong. And he wasn't just talking about journalists. Most people literally know nothing about history. And along with losing foundations in history, public schools no longer teach rhetoric or critical thinking. So people don't know what they don't know, and don't know what that means.

Cracking foundations

If Americans had solid foundations in our history, things like what's happened to Thomas Jefferson wouldn't happen. When museums such as Monticello turn away from much of Thomas Jefferson's life and his ideas to focus on slavery, this distorts history. Soon enough, the city he lived in and founded a major university in votes to stop acknowledging his birthday. They're erasing him from history. The fact that Jefferson is among those responsible for their even having the right to vote is entirely lost on them. Jefferson was like everyone else in that he was a man of his times, and he was imperfect. But today, he must be denounced as irredeemable based entirely on the flawed thinking of our times.

Just in the past few months we have seen the political landscape shift dramatically. The Democrats now have a spiritual if not electoral leader, Bernie Sanders. Sanders won't win the nomination but he has dragged his party hard to the left, to the point that their entire presidential field is endorsing some version of the following platform.

  1. "Free" healthcare. Some of them have endorsed free, meaning taxpayer-funded, healthcare for non-citizens. Think about the implications of that
  2. "Free" education. Again, meaning redistributive and taxpayer-funded.
  3. Some version of nationalizing energy policy, either a fracking ban or something along the lines of national policy. Think about the economic and national security implications of that, with a war brewing in the Middle East (again).
  4. Andrew Yang is promising to pay millions of Americans a "universal wage" -- create dependence, via confiscation and redistribution.
  5. Beto O'Rourke is a special case. He's promising to disarm Americans, destroy our churches and force wealthy Americans out of their homes. You may think "I'm not wealthy, so why should I care?" The definition of "wealthy" being elastic, this could mean a whole lot of people would get shoved around at gunpoint under a Beto regime. Including you. Like Sanders, O'Rourke won't win. But he is shifting issues left in that his fellow Democrats will not condemn him.
  6. Ban all fossil fuels. How? And what would this do to our economy?
  7. Open borders.
  8. They're gathering around these proposals under the guise of "ending income inequality."

Ending income inequality is literally impossible. It cannot be done, ever, under any human circumstance. Some people will always make more money than some other people. You have rich and poor people in capitalist countries, and you have rich and poor people in communist and socialist countries. The main difference is, the rich in the communist and socialist countries are more likely to have openly killed and stolen from large numbers of people to acquire their wealth. They're less likely to create something of value and profit from that, because socialist and communist systems either strongly curb or outright ban private property and profit. There's more blood in the treasure chests of rich communists and socialists.

And there are more billionaires, millionaires and thousandaires in capitalist countries. Everything gets democratized under capitalism. Everything gets centralized into the hands of the powerful few under socialism/communism. It's just common sense. That's how the different systems literally work.

Power corrupts

Fidel Castro died a very rich man -- almost a billionaire. Cuba is an extremely poor country thanks to him. Hugo Chavez died a very rich man -- half a billionaire. Chavez destroyed Venezuela, which as recently as the 1990s was the third-richest country in the Americas. It's not anymore. These aren't faraway places. They're in our neighborhood. Cuba is closer to Florida than Austin is to Dallas.

China's communist rulers are getting filthy rich right now.

How. Does. This. Happen. under regimes that bill themselves as offering economic equality and ending "income inequality"?

Once you seize power in a centralist system you're free to take whatever you want from whoever has it. Who's to stop you? You "nationalize" industries, meaning you grab them and treat them as piggy banks. You kick everyone who speaks out against you square in the face, mock and ostracize them, run them out of the country, de-platform them by controlling the media, imprison and torture them, or line them up and shoot them.

That's exactly what Castro did, and he had henchmen like Che Guevara to help him. It's what Chavez did and Maduro is still doing in Venezuela. This is less history than current events, but absent context and the means to process, it's too easy to ignore or distort.

Red platform

The Democrats' emerging platform appears to be a mix of two recent, modern regimes -- that of Venezuela, and that of the Khmer Rouge. Both regimes are modern horrors. The former has been publicly praised by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Robert Kennedy Jr. The latter sounds like a makeup line pitched by the Kardashians and probably 95% of Americans have never even heard of it. Johnny Depp and other Hollywood derps run around wearing Che shirts. Probably 99% of Americans have no idea who Pol Pot was or what evil things he did, or the influence of Chinese communism on him. He's not a brand of legalized Colorado cannabis. He forcibly relocated people, stole their property and killed them -- killing about 25% of his country in about three years. If you've ever met a Cambodian living in the United States, you have probably met someone Pol Pot was trying to kill.

Hugo Chavez ran on a platform pretty much identical to Sanders' and now most Democrats'. Chavez's platform was:

  1. End income inequality
  2. Make education free
  3. Make electricity free (by nationalizing it)
  4. Get rid of privately owned guns to "improve security"

He promised free stuff -- safety and security. He won. And He proceeded to enrich himself, disarm the people, crush dissent and destroy his country. Every single one of these newly minted Democratic socialists in the United States is wealthy. Sanders is a millionaire who owns three houses. Even former bartender AOC now gets $300 haircuts and wants a raise on top of her very high congressional salary. Sanders isn't sharing his wealth. None of these Democrats are. But they'll happily confiscate and "share" yours.

The price of knowing nothing

Texas fought a whole revolution over just this idea -- centralist government or federalist (republican) government. Thankfully the latter won. But hardly anyone is aware of this, and the left will rewrite that story the first chance they get and turn it into a war over race and class -- not ideas. The left won't forget the Alamo, they'll just remember it incorrectly. Or do we think the same forces denouncing Jefferson now don't have designs on the Alamo, Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, Yorktown... wherever the American story can be destroyed? Of course they do. They've already attacked the national anthem and the Betsy Ross flag.

Because millions know nothing, warnings about what's happened in the past or now don't work. Thomas Jefferson is worse than that Cambodian dictator they've never heard of. The National Basketball Association should've been more specific with the "national" part of its branding. Which nation do they belong to now? This past week they've enforced speech codes on behalf of Maoist communist China. Golden State (social justice) Warriors coach Steve Kerr, an outspoken critic of the United States, refused to criticize China's abysmal human rights record. They've been joined by Apple and Blizzard. Right now, Hong Kong may be the most important city in the world. But too many Americans who know nothing don't understand that, and are happily selling it out for Chinese money.

History is not dusty books and broken swords and statues without arms and noses. History is how we got where we are -- and it's often a foreboding warning. In modern times it's a stream of events from the bloody French Revolution through Marx and Engels to the Cold War and the Killing Fields to Havana and Caracas to prisons full of Chinese dissidents being harvested for organs, to statements coming out of the mouths of people who, without irony, refer to themselves as social justice warriors and "Democrats."

Socialism should be exposed for what it is and will always be: a mix of greed, lust, envy and slavery. If you are not allowed to own property, if you are not allowed to keep the fruit of your ideas and labors -- you are enslaved. That is the ultimate promise of socialism.

But because we teach nothing, we know nothing. And that stands a strong chance of costing us everything.