by Ralph K. Ginorio
| July 22, 2020 1:00 AM
As the third year of my initiative to restore the coherent teaching of Western Civilization to our schools dawns, I am happy to report real progress thanks to several partners. Thanks to Les Atchley and Beverly Guenette, I have had several opportunities to speak about this to, among others, Syd Albright’s History Club, the North Idaho Pachyderms, and the Reagan Republicans.
I addressed Idaho’s State School Board at their October session in Lewiston, explaining why it is necessary to establish a four-year High School Graduation Requirement in History. Nothing less than two years of Western Civilization (before and after 1492) and two years of United States History (before and after 1898), will give young Americans a clear understanding of their own traditions and shared national identity. History is our common cultural memory, reminding us moment-by-moment who we are and for what we stand. Without it we are as vulnerable as any amnesiac.
Most recently, thanks to Bjorn Handeen, the Idaho Republican Party has added the following Plank to its 2020 Party Platform. “We believe we are inheritors of a distinct Western Civilization, and that our traditional culture safeguards our identity as a free people.” These words affirm that we are stewards of the only human culture that developed a functional system of individual freedom. This legacy comes to us from the Jewish, Athenian, Roman, Christian, Germanic, English, and Enlightenment traditions, which together assert the supremacy of individual conscience over any other priority.
The heart of Jewish culture was and remains the worship of a singular omniscient, omnipotent God, whose regard was more important than anything on Earth. This gives us a dedication to transcendent values beyond mere pragmatism.
Athenians asserted the intrinsic value of unfettered human creativity in pursuit of authentic excellence. Neither they nor we abide any limit, other than to our imagination.
The Roman Republic offers a blueprint for a popular government that slowly expanded political rights and lasted twice as long as our current American Republic. No man could serve in political office who did not first place his life at risk for the Republic. Then and now, no freedom exists without bravery.
The Roman Empire is an example for our immigrant nation of a diverse society that became unified by a shared culture. Rome and America are both based on the proposition that neither race nor religion are determinative; a person’s choices define who they are.
Christianity offers hope in a physical world whose only outcome is death. By making the radical claim that the Creator of everything personally loves each one of us, believers overcome logical despair with simple faith. Such a person is self-governing.
When Germanic peoples conquered Western Rome, they saw themselves as free men who chose to follow worthy Kings. They expected and received legal rights to make wide-ranging personal choices without government interference.
Medieval England placed the Church beyond the power of secular rulers. Further, Englishmen limited the power of their Kings and built a Parliament which eclipsed their monarchs with popular sovereignty.
The Enlightenment developed philosophies of inalienable rights and a social contract into our Constitution. Americans need to understand how and why our free system balances the rights of the individual with the needs of society. We need to appreciate how our choices can save or damn our Republic.
Preserving a living memory of these traditions is essential to our ongoing freedom. Much of today’s bitter divisiveness stems from the fact that for half a century, our schools have de-emphasized the study of the history of Western Civilization. This must change!
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Ralph K. Ginorio is a Coeur d’Alene resident. See: https://restorethewest.org.