The War on History

The War on History

Deficiencies in historical education endanger American democracy.

Populism is on the march. More and more leaders who support globalization and liberal agendas are falling out of favor with their peoples. This pattern is spanning the globe. Many societies have reached a tipping point where fundamental social change or inclusion in federal organizations (like the European Union) must be either fully embraced or rejected. United States President-elect Donald Trump’s electoral victory, for example, has caused many to be fearful of American democracy. It has also stirred fears of populists being elected in other democracies.

The threat to democracy is bigger than one election cycle. Evidence shows that a growing number of today’s youth have a diminished view of democracy as a viable form of government.

In a July report titled “The Danger of Deconsolidation,” Harvard University researcher Yascha Mounk and University of Melbourne political scientist Roberto Stefan Foa explored some dangerous trends among American millennials. The researchers drew their data from World Values Surveys of Europe and America between 1995 and 2014. The data showed that many millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) are increasingly supportive of political radicalism and autocratic alternatives to democracy.

The study showed that while 43 percent of older Americans object to the idea of a military coup, only 19 percent of millennials do. In Europe, 36 percent of millennials object to coups, as opposed to 53 percent of older citizens. Mounk and Foa wrote in their report:

In the past three decades, the share of U.S. citizens who think that it would be a “good” or “very good” thing for the “army to rule”—a patently undemocratic stance—has steadily risen. In 1995, just 1 in 16 respondents agreed with that position; today, 1 in 6 agree. While those who hold this view remain in the minority, they can no longer be dismissed as a small fringe, especially since there have been similar increases in the number of those who favor a “strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament and elections” and those who want experts rather than the government to “take decisions” for the country. Nor is the United States the only country to exhibit this trend. The proportion agreeing that it would be better to have the army rule has risen in most mature democracies, including Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

A disturbingly high number of millennials in America and in Western Europe look more and more favorably upon undemocratic governments. It appears a high minority would rather have Julius Caesar or Benito Mussolini reign in the land of the free.

The study also points out that only around 30 percent of millennials see the civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution as “absolutely essential” in democracy (compared to 41 percent of older Americans). Around a quarter of U.S. millennials believe that free elections are not important to a democracy.

Nearly 25 percent of young Americans, millennials and teenagers, believe that democracy is a “bad” or “very bad” way to run the United States. That is significantly higher than most other age demographics. In 1995, 16 to 17 percent of young Americans thought democracy was a poor way to run the country.

Having rejected some of America’s fundamental political values, more and more millennials are becoming susceptible to being swayed into radicalism. Politicians and corporations are looking to empower the youth—yet they may do so at our own peril.

Identifying the Cause

Mounk and Foa point to the problem of deconsolidation, or the breakdown of support for democracy, which historically has led to sudden collapse. They point out three fundamental issues in their report:

In the famous formulation of Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, democracies are consolidated when they are the “only game in town.” This metaphor is as elusive as it is evocative. What does it mean, in concrete terms, for democracy to be the only game in town? In our view, the degree to which a democracy is consolidated depends on three key characteristics: the degree of popular support for democracy as a system of government; the degree to which anti-system parties and movements are weak or nonexistent; and the degree to which the democratic rules are accepted.

When a democracy becomes deconsolidated, it leads to a breakdown in popular support for democratic institutions, strengthening of anti-system parties, and increasing lawless attitude among the elected and the electorate. In America especially, we see all three of these conditions. Approval rating for Congress was at an embarrassingly low 13 percent early this year. Many anti-American forces have been at work in the government for decades, and a populist won the presidential election. Above all, there is an attitude of lawlessness and resentment toward the U.S. Constitution, especially from academia and the Obama administration. But this attitude has also been increasingly apparent in the average American citizen.

What caused this shift toward radicalism? These sorts of issues are never monocausal; family breakdown, economic woes and progressive social trends have all contributed. But there is another cause that directly correlates with these undemocratic trends in our young people: the decades-long decline in teaching history in American public schools and universities.

The millennial generation has become a victim of ignorance and distortion of truth. History instructs us on the failures and triumphs of the past so we can avoid the bad and repeat the good. The finds by Mounk and Foa suggest that young people do not understand the basics of their own history or the warnings trumpeted by the sands of time.

The War on History

The American Historical Association (aha) released a report showing that between the 2012–2013 school year and the 2014–2015 school year, there was a 7.6 percent decline in undergraduate enrollments in history. The survey asked 123 history departments about their enrollments; of those departments, 96 reported decreases, 55 of which had decreases of 10 percent or more.

The decrease in history degrees conferred over the same period is the greatest change, up or down, over the past 15 years. Millennials showed a marked disinterest in learning about history at the secondary level. Fewer young people learning from the past may explain why a rising minority are more accepting of military coups and authoritarian regimes. It is easy to believe an alternative to democracy is better when you don’t understand it.

However, even if someone is interested in learning history at American universities, what sort of courses can they find?

The aha pointed out in another report published in December 2015 that over the past 40 years, classic intellectual history is losing ground in the composition of history faculties.

Between 1975 and 2015, history studies regarding women and gender increased 797 percent, and the faculty share of those studies also increased from 1 percent to nearly 10 percent. In the same period, environmental history grew from 0.2 percent to 2.7 percent. Race and ethnicity studies grew from 0.7 percent to 2.1 percent—a 220 percent increase! At the same time, faculty specializing in legal and constitutional history declined from 3 percent to 2 percent. Faculty specializing in intellectual history have declined drastically from 10.3 percent to 5 percent. Diplomatic and economic history also declined about 5 and 3 percent respectively in faculty composition. One core history subject that increased over the past 40 years was military history.

These increases in specialized history have been accompanied by a decrease in the education of fundamental, core subjects vital to national well-being, such as the Constitution, the Civil War, and general history of Western civilization.

In an October 28 speech titled “The Decline and Fall of History,” historian and professor Niall Ferguson addressed the unimportant and overspecialized history being taught in American universities. After referring to the December 2015 aha study, Ferguson related several of the specialized history courses that are available at the most prestigious universities in the U.S. These classes are taking the place of content covering the lives of great leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

A small sample of such classes include Harvard’s “Emotions in History.” Yale offers “Indigenous Religious History,” “Witchcraft and Society in Colonial America,” “History of the Supernatural” and “Sex, Life and Generation,” to name a few. Stanford provides a study on “Mad Women: the History of Women and Mental Illness in the U.S.”

While studies into such subjects have their own time and place, they should not be the focus nor the majority of the content being taught. Other specialties, such as the history of race, gender and the environment are important to understand, but they should never replace the teaching of what America is, how it became a nation, and the key institutions of freedom.

This lack of education may be a key reason why so many millennials would tolerate a military coup or the removal of all checks and balances in the U.S. government. If young people do not realize how the American government has been a blessing to its citizens, or how American institutions of freedom have changed the world for the better, they will reject these fundamental tenets of American society. What is more, ignorance of world history leaves an individual without any guide by which to make decisions. A strong autocratic leader may appear attractive unless he is compared to the historical facts of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

Furthermore, these specialized classes usually carry a politicized message. The study of subjects such as race, gender, religion and the environment are popular because they are social issues. If the focus of the course is too narrow, how the subject matter fits into the arc of history will be lost and wrong conclusions can be drawn. The forest can easily be lost through the trees. It also can create an unfair bias in which the truth and the past are distorted.

History Hijacked

There is one more question to ask: Why would American history instructors neglect teaching the most essential parts of history? Not only are less millennials enrolling in secondary courses, the kind of history being taught is also deteriorating. The problem lies in the ideas of those teaching history.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, American politics became much more liberal. The various civil and social rights issues sparked a wave of change. It also opened the door for far more radical ideas to be accepted into the mainstream of American academia. American education readily adopted the liberalism of German rationalism at the beginning of the 20th century. This provided the foundation for American universities to shift even further left during the Cold War. Communism became very popular among professors, and this bias was introduced into the classroom. In his booklet Great Again, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes:

In the 1960s and ’70s, America had many problems with rioting and violence on college campuses. Educators would ask who was in charge, and in almost every case, there was nobody in charge except the people who were rioting.Soon, the New Left began to get into those institutions and gain control. It was in the education system that the left got its foothold into the nation: first in colleges, then high schools and even elementary schools. It is from the education system that a nation gets its leadership. Where did the ideas of America’s leaders today come from? From our educational institutions.

Further proof is in the revisionist movement that occurred during the Cold War era. This is once again becoming a persistent problem, especially as social justice warriors seek to justify their political beliefs by using history. John Lukacs wrote in his book Remembered Past:

The third, and much larger, wave of revisionism came not from the New Right but from the New Left. These were the historians who during the fretful 1960s attempted to rewrite the origins of the Cold War with Russia, arguing and claiming that American foreign policy and aggressiveness were at least responsible, if not more, for the coming of the Cold War than was the Soviet Union. … Unlike the revisionists of the 1920s and 1940s, these authors had little opposition from most of their historian colleagues: for such was the, generally leftist, intellectual tendency of the American 1960s.

The students who rioted on university campuses against the Vietnam War or protested over civil rights are now the instructors. Individuals with radical political views, and especially those who espouse communism, have become very powerful voices in the American educational system. Many view communism as an alternative to the U.S. Constitution. President Barack Obama is a product of such radical instructors (read America Under Attack for more background on the president’s education).

Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan stated that democracy must be the “only game in town” if it is to be secure. Why isn’t democracy the only game in town? Have millennials, scholars and educators found a better alternative to democracy? There is a twofold problem. First, the right kind of history is not being taught. Second, an antidemocratic, radical-left worldview is being taught at most universities. The fruits are plain to see.

A Law of History

The statistics reported by Mounk and Foa do not portend a revolution against the American government, but they do show a disturbing trend among a minority of millennials. Democracies die at the hands of those they govern. While there are many causes for this discontent, ignorance of the alternatives may very well be a major explanation. Unless the deficit in historical education is fixed, these statistics will only become worse.

The war on history is being waged by our own educational system to the detriment of our people. This self-defeating trend can only lead to terrible consequences. Do we not owe it to our forefathers—whose strength of character led them to dare the odds to forge this great nation, those whose deeds were noble and worthy—to change our wretched state? Do we not owe it to all of those who lived and died for us, and who through prayer, blood, sweat and tears changed the course of history?

A law of history is that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. We may well add, those who fail to teach history are doomed to become history.

Germany Hardens on Immigrants and Islam

Germany Hardens on Immigrants and Islam

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Germany plans to ban the burka. Will states turn a blind eye to anti-migrant violence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the door to thousands of immigrants has proven the most significant of her long chancellorship. Every bit as important is her repeated refusal to backtrack. The pragmatist who defined her chancellorship by following public opinion stood firm.

Or, rather, stood firmish. While she has not abandoned her position completely, she has certainly shuffled away from it. German attitudes to both Islam and immigration are hardening in a way that not even Ms. Merkel can resist.

On December 6, Ms. Tolerance herself declared that she wanted Germany to ban the burka, the Muslim full-face covering. “The full-face veil is not acceptable in our country,” she said at the Christian Democratic Union’s (cdu) convention, to great applause. “It should be banned wherever it is legally possible.” This would probably see it banned from schools, government buildings and when driving.

This is a revolutionary step—the moment Germany joins Europe’s cultural clash with Islam.

Until five years ago, with the exception of Yugoslavia, no country in Europe had a ban on the burka. The Netherlands has been talking about it for the last decade, but still has not managed to make it law. When France instituted a ban, it received international condemnation—not just from Muslims, but even from Amnesty International, a nongovernmental organization focused on human rights. The France police union complained that the law would be “extremely difficult … if not almost impossible” to enforce.

But the move was popular with the French, and the left has grown used to it. Now that Germany is heading toward a ban, the most remarked on aspect of the story is not that Europe’s leading nation is embracing something that was once seen as controversial and Islamophobic. Instead, the main discussion revolves around German politics.

Conservative critics say that this law is little more than a token gesture—that it does not go far enough in confronting the problems of radical Islam. That is true. But it is still a major step. Thus far Germany has fought the war on terror by focusing on individual terrorists—by raiding houses and cracking down on incitement to violence. For the first time, its target is a cultural symbol—this time a symbol of a more radical and repressive strain of Islam. Germany is starting to accept that it is involved in a clash with a religious movement, not just a few individuals.

During the same speech, Ms. Merkel did not quite admit that she was wrong to open Germany’s doors in 2015. But she did say it would never happen again. “A situation like the one in the late summer of 2015 cannot, should not, and must not be repeated,” she declared.

At the same time, her government is hardening its stance on migrants. Foreign Policy contributing editor James Traub wrote:

After spending several days in Dresden last month, what became clear to me is that Germany is trying very hard to get rid of many of the refugees to whom it opened its arms. After a change in policy by the Interior Ministry last spring, Syrians now receive only one year of asylum, which must be renewed, rather than the three years they routinely got before. During the same period, the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, passed a law putting an end to “family reunification” for those who only receive these one-year grants. And Germany has increased the pace of deportations for those who do not receive any form of protection. …There have been more than 250 recorded incidents of violence against refugees in Dresden alone this year; many involve attacks on their housing. Ali Moradi, the managing director of the Refugee Council of Saxony, says in years past the state government simply turned a blind eye to racist and far-right activism, but now it sees the Nazis—a word that Germans apply broadly to violent far-right groups—as potential allies in its own campaign to persuade refugees that they are not welcome. The government has largely stood aside, Moradi says, as violent youths have terrorized refugees, especially in the state’s small towns and villages. At times, federal prosecutors have had to step in when local authorities failed to act in the face of attacks on immigrants.The combination of national legal changes, local restrictions, and growing public intolerance has convinced some of the refugees I met that they made a terrible mistake seeking asylum in Germany.

On October 2, the European Union signed an agreement with Afghanistan to send back Afghan migrants. Now, in general, Germany is deporting migrants that arrived from North Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, not everything has changed overnight. The federal government pays up to $750 for accommodations and living expenses per migrant. But this simply means that costs to the government continue to spiral.

It’s clear why Ms. Merkel is making these changes. While she can still command significant personal approval, many Germans disagree with her when it comes to immigrants and Islam. The strength of popular opinion is forcing her to change course.

During the same convention, Ms. Merkel’s own party voted against her, voting to repeal legalization she passed allowing German citizens to have dual citizenship. Previously, Germans with dual citizenship had to choose which citizenship they wished to keep once they turned 23. The change was mainly designed to allow young Turks who had grown up in Germany to retain both their German and Turkish citizenship. Now her party wants that reversed.

“[T]hey overruled Ms. Merkel on a central, symbolic question. The signal is clear. You can be German or Turkish,” wrote the Financial Times. “You cannot be both.”

The same principle is at the heart of the burka law—there are certain strains of Islam that are not German.

There’s much to like in these changes in Germany. A more common-sense migration policy and better recognition of the danger posed by radical Islam. But other elements—like the blind eye state governments are reportedly turning to anti-migrant violence—are more disturbing. Mass migration and radical Islam have done major damage to Germany. But there are already indications that Germany’s response will be just as dangerous.

Europe is building to a clash with radical Islam. The hardening mood in Germany is a sign of this coming clash. To learn more about how this clash is building, read our article “Will Europe Rediscover Its Christian Identity?” from the November-December Trumpet.

Week in Review: German Burka Ban, Reclaiming Sirte, a Phone Call From Taiwan, Undermining Parents, and Much More

Week in Review: German Burka Ban, Reclaiming Sirte, a Phone Call From Taiwan, Undermining Parents, and Much More

Ashley Pon/Getty Images, Fairfax Media/Getty Images, JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images, ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images

All you need to know about everything in the news this week

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Germany bans the burka

  • As German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues her pursuit of another term in office, she is changing her tune to blend with strong popular opinion.
  • On December 6, she declared that she wanted Germany to ban the burka, the Muslim full-face covering. “The full-face veil is not acceptable in our country,” she said at the Christian Democratic Union’s convention. “It should be banned wherever it is legally possible.”
  • This is a revolutionary step—the moment Germany joins Europe’s cultural clash with Islam.
  • Post-Islamic State Libya: chaotic and divided

  • The announcement Tuesday that Libyan militias backed by United States airpower had finally routed the Islamic State from its northern Libyan stronghold of Sirte was supposed to be a moment of jubilee and hope for unity.
  • Yet, as Sudarsan Raghavan wrote for the Washington Post, “Libya could become even more chaotic after the Islamic State loses its stronghold.”
  • Foreign Policy’s Tarek Megerisi referred to the development as a “hollow victory.”
  • The longer Libya remains chaotic, the more vulnerable it becomes to intervention from foreign powers. Daniel 11:40-43 indicate that the chief powers involved in Libya will be a German-led Europe and an Iranian-led alliance.
  • The Taiwan-Trump phone call

  • On December 2, President-elect Donald Trump received a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
  • But according to China, Taiwan isn’t a real country, and that means a phone call with the next American president shouldn’t happen.
  • Will China give in to the rhetoric of Donald Trump—this man who has made it clear that his decisions are based on an isolationist, America-first worldview?
  • Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in August 1998: “How could anyone fail to see that Taiwan is destined to become a part of mainland China? These 21 million people are going to be forced into the Chinese mold; and it is going to happen for one reason: because of a pitifully weak-willed America.”
  • War on family in Ontario, Canada

  • Ontario law once stated that “for all purposes of the law of Ontario, a person is the child of his or her natural parents,” with the exception of adoption.
  • Now, with the passage of Bill 28, known as the “All Families Are Equal Act,” on November 29, the terms “mother,” “father” and “natural parents” are being purged from all Ontario statutes and replaced with the neutered term “parent.” The new law makes it possible for a child to have up to four “parents.”
  • Other news:

  • In 2009, Germany’s ruling coalition stated that removing American-owned nuclear weapons from German soil was one of its goals. Now the debate has moved on—and some want Germany to build its own nukes, as Ulrich Kühn, fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in “The Sudden German Nuke Flirtation.”
  • Anti-Assad rebel forces in Aleppo, Syria, have essentially been defeated. It’s likely that we are about to witness a fracturing within in the Assad alliance, as both Iran and Russia vie for dominance over Syria’s future.
  • Get the details on these stories and more by subscribing to the Trumpet Weekly!

    Enemy of God

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    Have We Forgotten God?

    The two most blessed nations in history have rejected the source of their prosperity and wealth.

    Listen to the Trumpet Daily live each day at 7:00 am (CST) on Trumpet Radio.

    The most remarkable fulfillment of biblical prophecy in modern times was the sudden sprouting forth of the two mightiest world powers: Great Britain, forming the greatest world empire of all time; and the United States of America, the single most powerful nation in history.

    Both of these nations, with incredible suddenness, came into possession of more than two thirds—nearly three fourths—of the cultivated wealth and resources of the whole world. This sensational spurt from virtual obscurity in so short a time gives incontrovertible proof that God’s Word is divinely inspired!

    God made an unconditional promise to the ancient patriarch Abraham that his descendants would be the recipients of unparalleled blessings. The story of how those birthright blessings were passed down through the generations, delayed, and finally fulfilled thousands of years later is one of the most fascinating truths in the all the Bible.

    On this episode of the Trumpet Daily, we look at the birthright inheritance God promised to bestow upon the latter-day descendants of the two birthright tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh.

    The Obama Doctrine—It Won the Nobel Peace Prize, but Lost the Peace

    The Obama Doctrine—It Won the Nobel Peace Prize, but Lost the Peace

    JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

    Listen to the Trumpet Daily radio program that aired on December 9, 2016.

    Barack Obama was two weeks into his presidency when nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He went on to receive the award less than a year later—not for anything he had done, but for what he had promised to do. Seven years after he accepted that award, the world couldn’t be further from the peace everyone hoped for. On today’s show, Stephen Flurry looks at the Obama Doctrine’s impact on stability and peace around the globe.

    Listen to or download Trumpet Daily Radio Show on: