Freedom belongs to all Americans, not to any self-selecting elite. We each benefit from our society’s willingness to protect the Rights of the Individual. We all have a responsibility to work to strengthen that freedom. Without educated and involved citizens, our Republic will fall.
Unless we understand how our freedom developed throughout the history of our Western Civilization, we can do none of these things. The few hundred years of American history and politics originated within a wider Judeo-Christian Western Civilization; developed over the past few thousand years on several continents. America is impossible to understand without first knowing the West.
While this effort initially focuses on my home state Idaho, it applies to all of these United States, and also to other Western nations around the world.
“You are yourself, plus your circumstances.” -Jose Ortega y Gassett
Despair blights the lives of too many people. Yet, throughout human history, so many different individuals have chosen to act and, in doing so, have changes everything; for example these very few out of so many.
Alexander the Great
Jesus of Nazareth
Constantine the Great
Gregory the Great
Alfred the Great
William the Conqueror
Joan of Arc
Ignatius of Loyola
Catherine de Medici
Queen Elizabeth I, Tudor
Frederick the Great
The Anonymous Chinese Man facing the Tanks near Tienanmen Square, June 4, A. D. 1989
Our freedom comes from a distinct heritage, including the Babylonian Hammurabi’s Code, the Hebrews’ Ten Commandments, the Athenian Constitutions of Solon & Cleisthenes, the Roman Republic’s Twelve Tables, Jesus’ Golden Rule, the Byzantine Justinian’s Code, the English Magna Carta, Luther & Calvin’s ideas in the Protestant Reformation, Ignatius of Loyola’s Catholic counter-arguments, John Locke’s English Bill of Rights, and the philosophies of Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Jefferson. Our freedom has since matured alongside and in competition with the ideas of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Sartre, and Derrida.
This heritage is crucial to both Progressives & Conservatives, reminding us that what unites us is more important than what divides us.
Progressives need to understand the unique history of protracted and successful self-scrutiny, constructive criticism, and social reform that characterizes Western Civilization. No other culture is so eager to rip itself apart and reinvent itself in order to bring positive change. Today’s Progressivism comes from the West’s unique reform tradition.
Conservatives, who purport to be defenders of tradition, should deeply understand that tradition that makes both the United States and the West exceptional.
Our American society is a part of the broader culture of Western Civilization. Our freedoms, what they mean, and how they are preserved all come from a distinct heritage spanning from the Neolithic Revolution, Egypt & Mesopotamia, the Hebrews, Greece from Homer through Alexander, Rome’s Republic & Empire, Christ & Paul, the German conquerors of Rome, Medieval Christendom, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French & Industrial Revolutions, the age of Western Imperialism, the two World Wars, Totalitarianism, the Cold War, the Global War on Terror, through today’s Volkswanderung into Europe. Western Civilization’s history is the narrative that bring us to the contemporary American and global situation.
“World History” is easily made into a confusing hash of uncoordinated information by the desire to give “equal time” to as many cultures and civilizations as possible. It may be unfashionable to say, but it is simply not true that the Ashanti of Ghana, the Inca of Peru, and the Lamas of Tibet have had equivalent historical significance to the development of today’s world as did those Western epochs previously referenced. Even today’s “East”, India, China, the Koreas, and Japan all employ Western politics (Liberal or Communist), Western economics, and Western Military Sciences. For better or worse, Western Civilization is now worldwide.
While each School District determines the details of its own courses and curricula, all must meet or exceed the Idaho Content Standards in Social Studies. Here are the courses listed in these standards.
Western Hemisphere Geography
Eastern Hemisphere Geography
World History & Civilization
United States History I
United States History II
In these standards, there is a category that must be addressed in each course, Standard 5: Global Perspectives. This requires all courses to demonstrate that they, “… build an understanding of multiple perspectives and global interdependence”.
However, there is no such thing as a “Global Citizen”. Our students should be trained as American Citizens. The basic duty of all Education is to pass on intact the culture from one generation to the next. To the extent that a coherent study of our own Western Civilization is not taught, our schools fail in this basic duty of acculturation.
The predictable result of this failure is the increasing inability of Americans to deal positively with people of differing views. If we lose our ability to recognize a common identity with our “loyal opposition”, the American Republic shall certainly fall.
At its heart, the Western tradition is the story of how we develop from societies that punish all deviation from royal & religious orthodoxy into a Republic where Americans can disagree about everything, except for the legitimacy of our Constitution. The West’s story is how we have expanded the definition of a fully-enfranchised and valued human being from a single Egyptian God-King to now include every person without exception.
Western history is simply too nuanced to be grasped by most Middle-Schoolers. It is more detailed than can be properly covered in a single year. It is more coherent than “Global Studies” or “World History”. Idaho’s Content Standards should be revised as follows.
Standard 5: Western Civilization, “…(to) build an understanding of our society’s traditions and perspective in comparison with others and how diverse human cultures interact”.
Ancient & Medieval Western Civilization
Modern Western Civilization (> ~AD 1450)
United States History & Government I (or A. P. U. S. History)
United States History & Government II (or A. P. U. S. Government & Politics)
*Economics should be available as Electives