American Elephants

Remember This Man. by The Elephant's Child


It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of
safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.”

Do you recognize this man? This is Calvin Coolidge. He inherited the position of chief executive when scandal-plagued President Warren Harding died in office in August, 1923.  He was elected in his own right in 1924.  Amity Schlaes’ new biography, titled simply Coolidge, highlights some of the achievements the nation enjoyed during Coolidge’s time in the White House.

Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate came down by half, to 25 percent. Under Coolidge, the federal budget was always in surplus. Under Coolidge, unemployment was 5 percent or even 3 percent. Under Coolidge, Americans wired their homes for electricity and bought their first cars or household appliances on credit. Under Coolidge, the economy grew strongly, even as the federal government shrank.

Under Coolidge, the rates of patent applications and patents granted increased dramatically. Under Coolidge, there came no federal antilynching law, but lynchings themselves became less frequent and Ku Klux Klan membership dropped by millions. Under Coolidge, a man from a town without a railroad station, America moved from the road into the air.

After he won a full term, Coolidge pressed Congress for tax cuts. The top income tax rate was reduced from the wartime 70 to 25%. The economy burst into robust economic growth. Now we call it “the Roaring Twenties.” That helped Coolidge achieve budget surpluses every year — surpluses that he used to pay down the national debt.

He also said:
“Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

Our Colleges And Universities Are Failing History, And It Shows by The Elephant's Child


I dislike  President’s Day, which is a mixture of Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday, supposedly honoring both of our most important presidents, but mostly an occasion for a three-day weekend and special sales. I liked it better when little kids cut out pictures of log cabins and cherry trees and axes, which at least indicated the possibility that schools might actually be talking about President Lincoln and President Washington, albeit with faulty symbols.

The warfare between President Obama’s Democratic Party and the Republican-led House over the budget, the national debt, entitlements and regulation represents an historic chasm over the size and scope of the federal government. Understanding accurately just what is at stake in the struggle requires  knowledge of American History. That is the very subject that today’s liberal education is denying to today’s college students.

The Constitution begins “We the People of the United States , In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Note that We the People is in great big letters for a reason.

A recent report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?” clearly demonstrates that our colleges and universities are doing a bad job. History departments promote a distorted vision of America by concentrating on the teaching of race, class, and gender at the expense of nearly everything else. Universities usually avoid transparency and accountability, so it’s hard to determine what is actually being taught in their classrooms.

Texas mandates that undergraduates in the public universities take two courses in American history, and that faculty member’s backgrounds, research interests, course assignments be easily available.At the University of Texas, 78 percent of the courses through which students could satisfy the American history requirement  devoted half or more of their readings to issues of race, class and gender. At Texas A&M 50 percent of the courses did the same. Key documents  of American history were rarely assigned. In 2010 not one qualifying course for the history requirement asked students to read the Mayflower Compact or Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

I took little history in College, largely because my history professor was a date freak. His concept of history was ordered by dates rather than understanding of how events followed each other. He was big on snap-quizzes on Saturday mornings at 8:00 a.m. in which he would ask us to enumerate what happened between 1872 and 1893, for example. That turned me off of history for several years, until I discovered that not all historians approached history in that way, and learned that history could be fascinating. Many universities do not require any American history.

Last week we learned that according to a study of 2,200 people by the National Science Foundation, one in four Americans do not know the Earth orbits the Sun, and fewer than half know that humans evolved from earlier species. The survey is conducted every two years and is reported to the President and Congress. The president believes that sending more Americans to college is the answer to economic growth. Andrew Cuomo has just announced that he wants to send the people incarcerated in New York prisons to college. Where apparently, studies in race, class and gender will make them employable in the 21st century. At least they couldn’t cut class.

If we are to retain our liberty, we must have some understanding of our own history and some understanding of how the country is supposed to operate. When a president takes it upon himself to revise laws, change laws in direct contradiction to his oath of office under the Constitution, why would those who have never read the whole Constitution nor learned about past struggles to preserve our adherence to the Constitution think it is a big deal?

“The clear lesson of history is that individual liberty, the basic underpinning of American society, requires constant defense against the encroachment of the state.” (Walter Wriston) Will the people who don’t know that the Earth orbits the Sun understand what is important about the preservation of individual liberty and why? Sending more kids to college to study race, class and gender isn’t going to do it.

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