One year ago I began to work to make
the History of Western Civilization a Graduation Requirement in Idaho’s High
Schools. I am proud to say that the
effort has made real progress. Rather
than being one eccentric’s pipe dream, many have responded positively and a few
have stepped forward to bring this dream closer to reality.
Judd Wilson, then a Staff Writer for
the Coeur d’Alene Press, was the first person other than my long-suffering wife
Tina to offer real encouragement. He
interviewed me, took my idea seriously, and made a fine Front Page article of
it (“Teacher promotes return of Western Civ”, July 16, 2018). In addition to giving this proposal a wider
coverage, his incisive questions revealed areas I needed to think through more
Les Atchley, CEO of the Atchley
Financial Group, has become a real partner in this enterprise. He brings decades of successful experience in
the worlds of business and politics, a subtle wisdom that balances my own
impulsivity and inexperience in these realms, and a common sense appreciation
of people and possibilities in proper proportion. His willingness to make this cause his own
has humbled me, and I can only aspire to be worthy of such trust.
Letters have been sent to every
Idaho School Board member, and I have made this proposal known to Idaho’s State
Department of Education, as well as to several Elected Officials. I expect that my most intensive efforts over
the next year will involve expanding and deepening these conversations. However, I am convinced that this will succeed
if, and only if, everyday people begin to insist on the importance of Western
Civilization’s History in the education of Idaho’s teenagers.
Local organizations such as the
Rotary Club of Coeur d’Alene, along with its Evening and Sunrise Chapters, have
graciously afforded me opportunities to publicly advocate this proposal, as
have the Coeur d’Alene History Club, the Reagan Republicans, and the Republican
Women’s Group. I am eager to speak in
front of other groups, including Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats. Western Civilization is something that every
single American shares in common.
Regardless of one’s personal ethnicity, gender, subculture, faith, or
convictions, we each inhabit a common American society. Our Melting Pot is, itself, a subset of
The Inalienable Rights of each
individual to freely dream, speak, and act on the basis of conscience within
the broadest possible limits are quintessentially Western, coming only from the
Western tradition. Nowhere else can a
common person stand up to their leaders and survive, let alone succeed. Several thousand years of courage,
creativity, and conflict have produced a society where the conviction of the
individual can sometimes stand against the power of the elite as well as the tyranny
of the majority.
Our Judeo-Christian Western Heritage
includes the world’s only functional Reform tradition, championed today by
Progressives and Liberals. We need informed
and empowered Reformers to insist that we more fully live up to our ideals, and
to point out where we fall short.
Without them, we are prone to a self-serving self-delusion.
What students will do with an
understanding of the West is a matter of personal choice. They might fight to reform the worst in our
society, or they may strive to preserve our best qualities. In all cases, they need to understand where
we have come from in order to effectively advocate a best path forward.
“World History” clouds the focus on
the West by implying that all cultures are equally significant. All cultures have value, but the history of
the West focuses on the narrative leading from the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans,
Early Christians, Medieval English, and Reformation Europeans to the Founding
Fathers and beyond. “United States
History” begins too late. Students also
need to know the history of modern Europe’s Industrialization, Imperialism,
Revolutions, and World Wars. Students
must be mature enough to grapple with these lessons; the History of Western
Civilization must be taught in High School, Grades 9-12.
What memory is to an individual, History is to a society. Our identity is preserved, moment by moment, by our memory. If we continue to neglect the teaching of our history, we will lose what makes America special. It will simply be forgotten. We cannot afford to let our cultural identity become irrelevant. We must add the History of Western Civilization into our High School Graduation Requirements.