Thomas Sowell
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One of the reasons our children do not measure up academically to children in other countries is that so much time is spent in American classrooms twisting our history for ideological purposes.

"How would you feel if you were a Native American who saw the European invaders taking away your land?" is the kind of question our children are likely to be confronted with in our schools. It is a classic example of trying to look at the past with the assumptions -- and the ignorance -- of the present.

One of the things we take for granted today is that it is wrong to take other people's land by force. Neither American Indians nor the European invaders believed that.

Both took other people's land by force -- as did Asians, Africans and others. The Indians no doubt regretted losing so many battles. But that is wholly different from saying that they thought battles were the wrong way to settle ownership of land.

Today's child cannot possibly put himself or herself in the mindset of Indians centuries ago, without infinitely more knowledge of history than our schools have ever taught.

Nor is understanding history the purpose of such questions. The purpose is to score points against Western society. In short, propaganda has replaced education as the goal of too many "educators."

Schools are not the only institutions that twist history to score ideological points. "Never Forget That They Owned Lots of Slaves" is the huge headline across the front page of the New York Times' book review section in its December 14th issue. Inside is an indictment of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century.

People of every race and color were enslaved -- and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed.

Everyone hated the idea of being a slave but few had any qualms about enslaving others. Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the 18th century -- and then only in Western civilization.

Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there.

But who is singled out for scathing criticism today? American leaders of the 18th century.

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Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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