The DOD's Revisionist History In National JROTC Curriculum
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed May 16, 2007 at 01:43:38 PM EST
"Because the portrayal of history so affects current policy, some groups have found it advantageous to their political agenda to distort historical facts intentionally. Those particularly adept at this are termed "revisionists." " - David Barton

Last Saturday, I uncovered revisionist US History within the Unit 6 core curriculum for the national Junior ROTC program ; about 1/2 million American high school students each year are unrolled in the JROTC. I was astounded ; a passage paraphrased from the writing of David Barton, the leading historical revisionist claiming that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation", has been embedded within a national educational curriculum produced by the Department of Defense and taught, across the nation, to American public high schools students enrolled in Junior ROTC.

How did that happen ? I'm looking into it, but let me say this - those responsible for adding this falsified history to the JROTC curriculum were either complicit, that is to say they did it intentionally, or they were wildly incompetent and did not know the basics of American history. Beyond that, though, I have to wonder ; does no one bother to read what gets taught to hundreds of thousands of American teenagers ? I'm no historian, but I know enough to spot some types of dubious history, and I was apparently the first person to actually notice that the JROTC curriculum contained material from David Barton. If the curriculum had claimed the Sun and the entire heavens rotated around the Earth, repudiating Copernicus, would anyone have noticed that ? I have to wonder.

So, why should you care ?

Well, first of all, one might have expected such government-sponsored lies from a totalitarian regime such as the former Soviet Union. But the United States government claims to foster the teaching of accurate history. Are we sliding towards totalitarian government ?

As a practical point though, you should care because church state separation has become badly eroded and breached over the past two decades. Consider - religious organizations that get federal funds to provide social services can now practice religious discrimination in their hiring practices;  a new federal program launching this summer will literally install courts in churches; several billion dollars in federal domestic and international aid dollars have gone to promote failed "abstinence-only" sex ed programs advocated by the religious right. I could go on. The list is long.

And, what has been behind growing support for such violations of church/state separation is the fact that millions of Americans, probably tens of millions, believe that the church/state separation principle is a fraud, a pernicious myth, and that the United States was founded, and intended, as a Christian nation.

A substantial percent of Americans now believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, and they believe that in part because the flood of revisionist history, based on historical lies, fabrications and distortions, and misquotes and false quotes incorrectly attributed to America's founders, that has been written over the past several decades.

Many of America's leaders, in fact, have come to believe in the "Christian Nation" myth and the precepts that myth has been built on have become, to a worrying extent, taught to American teenagers; through Bible class curriculum taught in hundreds of America's public schools, through homeschooling curricula and, through the JROTC program, to America's future military leaders. A 2006 US Army War College study analyzed possible adverse consequences inherent in the rightward lurch, since the Vietnam War, in the political and religious beliefs of America's military, and that's worth considering in light of   National Review Online Thomas Sowell's recent, apparent exhortations towards a military coup. Now, Sowell's just one columnist, just one voice, but what's more significant, I'd say, is that there hasn't been more public condemnation of Sowell's rabidly anti-democratic NRO diatribe.

So, history matters....

To quote my colleague Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History: "history should not be a partisan affair, but it has been made into one."  As the late Daniel Moynihan quipped :  "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."

Many Americans have become aware of the spread of "Creationist" beliefs, in their native form or, by way of a proxy idea, via "Intelligent Design". But, comparatively few of those Americans are also aware that fake history, manufactured to advance the ideology of the Christian right, has spread just as extensively.

You'd be suprised - we were. Fake history seems to be  everywhere

When Chris Rodda started uncovering and rebutting the historical lies spread by David Barton and others, she tells me, she had no idea just how extensive those lies were. Likewise, when I started working to publicize Chris' work and uncover instances of the extent to which those lies could be found in America's schools and political culture, I had no idea of how extensive the problem of fake history really is.

In fact, from the students in the nearly 400 public high schools across the US who are taking Bible classes taught from a fake-history larded curriculum created by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, to the 1/2 million public school students being taught fake history in the Junior ROTC curriculum, on to the hundreds of thousands and possibly even millions of children being taught falsified American history embedded in Christian homeschooling curricula, a sizable portion of an entire generation of Americans is being raised to believe in the falsified "Christian nation" myth.

For that reason alone, the claim that the Christian right as a political movement should be discounted is a dubious one because an entire new generation of leaders, now coming to the fore and inculcated with Christian right ideas including a fake "Christian nation" version of history, will soon take over to devise new tactics and strategies that will advance the movement.

That historical fabrication is more of a problem than many American political progressives might think - as historian Chris Rodda and I are in the process of uncovering, the lie has become noticeably entrenched among significant parts of America's leadership class, and  the "Christian nation" myth is a problem because it asserts the principle of separation of church and state to be a lie.

You can even find this "Christian nation" myth being peddled, as Talk To Action contributor Chris Rodda has recently noted, on television. It's become for many Americans, due to the media heft the Christian right has built up over many decades, omnipresent.  Like a sort of historical analog, and equally toxic in its way, to those persistent organic pollutants that now flush from the breast tissues of American mothers into the mouths of their nursing babies, fake "Christian nation" history has quietly diffused up the informational food chain, to little notice until now, to pollute America's political culture.

The "Christian nation" historical narrative does crucial work for the American Christian right; it provides the raison d'etre of the movement: fake history put forth by David Barton and others asserts that the true character of America has been subverted and that to address an alleged social and moral collapse patriotic Americans must work to install Bible classes in public schools and gain political power to impart an overt Christian character to American institutions, with the consequence that religious and philosophical minorities would be reduced, in effect, to second class citizenship. A 2005 incident that occurred in the Indian River School District of Southern Delaware underlines the point ; a Jewish family that complained about overt displays of Christianity within the Indian River School district, to the extent of targeting its children public schools in the district, after being harassed and subjected to death threats, sold its house and fled the area.

A 2006 US Army War College study analyzed possible adverse consequences inherent in the rightward lurch, since the Vietnam War, in the political and religious beliefs of America's military ; it's worth noting that many in the military leadership caste may believe the "Christian nation" historical myth and so Dick Cheney's recent suggestion, to the cadets at West Point, that it might be necessary to repeal the 22nd Amendment that limits US presidents to 2 terms in office takes on a distinctly ominous cast, as do this recent apparent exhortation, from a writer for the National Review Online, towards a military coup.

Dark, sure. Well, what's to be done ?

Remember this : truth is powerful. The fake "Christian nation" myth flourishes only to the extent that wider American society ignores or denies its existence. The way to disarm those who feel they must fight for a "Christian nation" is to remove the ideological ground under their motivation, by shining a light on the lies from which the "Christian nation" myth has been constructed in the first place.

The Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc Communist regimes were prone to peddling fake history and authoritarian regimes lack the checks and balances of Democratic nations by which people who know better can call out abuses of the historical record. But, even as fake history has become pervasive in the United States to an extent few Americans realize, we, as American and world citizens, have the liberty to fight the rewriting of American history that David Barton and others are attempting.

Here is Chris Rodda's analysis and thought, at Talk To Action, of the US taxpayer subsidized falsified history within Unit six of the Junior ROTC core curriculum produced by the United States Department of Defense:

[excerpt, from The Department of Defense -- Bringing Historical Revisionism to a High School Near You, by historian Chris Rodda ]

This sort of historical revisionism might be expected in homeschools and at Christian high schools, such as D. James Kennedy's own Westminster Academy, and the spreading of it by these means is bad enough. But now, bit by bit, this same historical revisionism is making its way into our public schools. I've already written extensively about how this is being accomplished via the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS) course. The NCBCPS, however, is not the only source of bad history in our public high schools. There is another, which, unlike the NCBCPS, is not produced by a private organization, but by the Department of Defense -- for the JROTC program....

Before even getting to the historical inaccuracy of the Barton explanation of Jefferson's letter, and disregarding the disturbing fact that anything by Barton appears in an official Department of Defense history text being used in our high schools, I think an important question needs to be asked. Why is the issue of separation between church and state in this chapter in the first place? The lessons in this chapter teach the cadets to decide on a position on an issue by majority rule, and then form a plan to promote that position. This is appropriate for the other examples that follow in the textbook, such as whether or not the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, but to foster the notion that a fundamental principle like church/state separation is subject to majority rule is incredible. To present what is described as "one perspective" on this issue when that "perspective" is based on inaccurate history is beyond incredible.

Beyond incredible, indeed.




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