Our colleague Steve Hayward is the author of a brand new book called Patriotism Is Not Enough. I finished a pre-publication copy this weekend and strongly recommend it.
Patriotism may not be enough, but it is plenty — at least in Poland. The Washington Post has a story about the alleged evils inflicted by Poland’s populist government. The Post’s Anthony Faiola bills what’s happening in Poland as “a harbinger of the power of populism to upend a Western society” — a “window on what happens when populists come to power.” He makes explicit reference to the coming presidency of Donald Trump.
As described by Faiola, Poland’s “neo-Dark age” (as critics call it) bears little relation to Trumpism. Under its populist government, Poland apparently is teaching less science and “playing down” the theory of evolution. It has rejected an international convention to combat violence against women. It seems to be anti-contraception. It has slashed the retirement age. It is giving money to families with children.
To my knowledge, Trump has advocated none of this. I don’t think he has even hinted at any of it. Much of it seems inconsistent with Trump’s attitude and/or agenda.
The populist government of Poland has done one more thing, according to Faiola. It has proposed adding extra hours in school for patriotic history lessons. Faiola cites this in support of his proposition that “in the land of Law and Justice [the name of the populist party in Poland] anti-intellectualism is king.”
Is patriotism really “anti-intellectual”? If it is, so much the worse for intellectualism. But Steve’s book shows, among many other things, that it is not.
To my knowledge, Trump hasn’t weighed in on how and to what extent schools should teach American history. I don’t expect him to, nor do advocate it.
However, the teaching of U.S. History is a big issue in America — a major battleground between leftists and, well, patriots. Right now, the fight centers around the curriculum for AP U.S. History imposed by left-wing history professors via the College Board. We have written about this here, here, and here.
In essence, the College Board wants to teach high school students that American History consists of one hateful thing after another. It’s a basket of deplorable events, so to speak.
The 2016 presidential election suggests that large portions of the country disagree. In wanting to “make America great again,” the people in these parts reject the idea that Americans history is a nightmare from which we should escape.
The left has two ways in which it could respond. It could attempt, in the manner of Bill Clinton, to take love of country off the table as an issue by easing up on its assault on America’s past (no one suggests that evils and mistakes be ignored) and giving our remarkable accomplishments their due. Or it could keep hammering away in attempt to persuade the next generation that America is deplorable.
I’m guessing the left will choose the second option. And complain about “populist anti-intellectualism” when the country pushes back.