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It seems that history is often poorly taught in America’s public schools.
From reading Rick Howell’s columns in recent months, for example, it seems that he believes that Harry Truman, not Joseph Stalin’s post World War II aggression, started the Cold War. Then, two weeks ago, he wrote, “President John Adams said it best when he refused to start a war with France despite intense urging to do so: ‘Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.’” He neglected to mention, and I suspect it’s because he didn’t know any better, that the United States actually engaged in an undeclared naval war in the Caribbean with France during the Adams administration. The war, usually called the Quasi-War, was the result of attacks by French warships and privateers on American merchant ships that were trading with Great Britain. The French navy fared very poorly in this war with the U. S. Navy capturing a number of French ships, including the 32 gun frigate L’Insurgente.
Then, there’s the carpet in the Oval Office. I don’t know who is to blame for this, but an article that appeared in the Washington Post on Sept. 4, points out that a quote attributed to the Rev. Martin Luther King was actually made by a 19th century Boston abolitionist named Theodore Parker. The Rev. King, who was familiar with Parker, quoted him in one of his speeches. King didn’t claim it as his own, but acknowledged Parker as the source. The folks in the Obama administration responsible for the carpet mistake apparently didn’t know this.
The problem isn’t limited to the left.
Last summer, when we rounded up 10 Russian spies, and traded them for three men languishing in Russian prisons, a conservative writer named Ken Blackwell wrote an opinion piece stating how naive President Obama was to just toss these fish back without extracting valuable intelligence information from them.
There was no valuable intelligence information to be gathered. The FBI had been watching this deep cover operation for a decade and, as the result of this surveillance, their handlers had been uncovered and rendered unusable, by Russian intelligence. The FBI also knew that this crew never provided Russia any information that wasn’t available in unclassified sources. All they did was enjoy lavish lifestyles at Russian government expense.
In return for releasing Boris and Natasha, we got former high ranking KGB officers who provided us with valuable information on the Soviet Union. Plus, we got Igor Sutyagin, who doesn’t appear to be a spy at all. Sutyagin’s attorney commented that the United States got three intelligent men while Russia got 10 fools.
Black, in his piece, referred to Soviet spying on the Manhattan Project, the WWII project that developed the atomic bomb, implying that nobody knew at the time. Actually, our government was aware that Soviet spy networks were trying to penetrate America’s nuclear research. The real damage was ultimately done by Americans who provided secrets to the Soviet Union, not deep cover agents that Stalin sent here.
The same was true in Britain, where the Soviets used British subjects rather than deep cover agents, to pass secrets on to Moscow.
In the last century, when I, and most of today’s adults were in school, history and government were usually tossed to a coach to give him an academic subject to teach. The coach, however, was primarily interested in coaching and his academic subjects took a back seat. As a result, his students were bored, concluded that these subjects were boring, and paid no further attention after their classes were done.
I hope our schools are doing better than that in this century.