This will be a short note to highlight a link to a subject I researched for a commentary about Manifest Destiny mentioned in historian Bernard DeVoto’s book 1846, the Year of Decision (1943). Almost no American student, history major or otherwise, had much interest of that period but I’d been a fan of Prof DeVoto because he was the foremost authority on the Mountain Men. I first read his Across the Wide Missouri (1947) while in college, (and which won him the Pulitzer Prize). Between 1822 and 1840 mountain men explored and blazed every conceivable trail across the Great Plains, the Great American Desert and the Great American Continental Divide (several mountain ranges, not just the Rockies) and mapped virtually every river drainage system. And to pay their way, they trapped beaver for high hats in Europe.
DeVoto’s opening chapter was about the various ways “Manifest Destiny” was thought of by the parties actually participating in it, but never knowing its name. DeVoto actually didn’t care for “manifest destiny” as a slogan that compelled America “to go West”. Americans looked and went West for a variety of reasons, and he proved this in his book, as those reasons were stated in their journals, first hand, and not from historians who began writing it a generation later.
But having looked “Manifest Destiny” up in Wikipedia, I saw that it had been ambiguated beyond recognition based on modern theories of historical interpretation that had begun in the 1980s and carried forward since.
So I did some further digging on my own.
Because I knew in 1960 that the average 10th grader, when having to turn in a 2-pg paper on almost any subject, raced to the school library to look the subject up; a person, an historical event, then copy it. They had almanacs and encyclopedia sets, plus books on every subject. Teachers actually encouraged this…just don’t copy it word-for-word, but “use your own words”. In fact, as I learned later when I taught college courses, that was the purpose of the whole exercise…to cause a student to first read, then swish it around in their mind, and spill it back out onto a piece of paper. That way the student would remember the subject for years to come.
But library-use came with a warning, the main one about plagiarism, stealing someone else’s words and using them for our own.
So I know how students were taught, and how they would always seek the line of least effort to report things they really weren’t that interested in. So when I went onto the internet around 1999 (at age 54) and bumped into Wikipedia I generally knew what it was there for, especially since both my sons, aged 29 and 25 respectively, had urged me to go there. Wikipedia has started in 2001, today, for over 20 years now, students, aged 12 to 18, have had a well-marked lazy trail to information, where they can find factoids just to please Teacher; birth dates, publication dates, the basic events and biographies, and then, later, in college, steer them to be able to give the professor what he or she is looking for with whatever slant they have telegraphed to the students for that necessary B or better. I only had a couple of professors in the 60s who openly told students what they wanted to see regurgitated back to them on papers or final exams. But these days it seems to be the rule, not the exception.
And Wikipedia is there to tell the student what some professors want to hear.
Then I ran into The Killing of History, by Keith Windschuttle, first published in 1994, a few years before Wikipedia was officially launched in 2001. What he did was outline the process by which several university disciplines were politicized to restate History, Art, Philosophy, Literary Criticism etc., employing many of new-speak intellectual disciplines being to destroy the ability to report history factually and in easy-to-understand language.
These new disciplines were designed to create a new enclave for the intelligentsia, including their own language (you recall Obama’s gibberish) but also status as guardians of the gate. Only through this door can you pass and Wikipedia, whether by design or happenchance, happened to be there to make research easier for the student, plus a reference guide of names to know.
These movement(s) predated Wikipedia by 10-15 years, but laid out the scope for how it would report. I can attest to the role the “lazy-student factor” plays in educating young minds.
An interersting period, I had never heard of Saul Alinsky until I had been to the Soviet Bloc for 10 years, where I got my first taste of “killing history” by real professionals, and even watched in Macedonia as the Kosovo War roared in ’98. Then there was the Gordon Gekko-ization of the American corporate world which I had watched, only didn’t know it, but which seemed to make government-and-business alliances look all too similar with 1934 for anyone who knew old-style history. And of course there has been the incessant numbing down of American youth, now narrowing their attention span to 240 characters.
And then comes along an Aussie scholar who tells us this dumbing-down has been going on since the 1980s. And with a purpose.
Wikipedia is just a role player, as set out by Ayn Rand in 1971 in describing Haters as the basic ground troops for Manipulators, Profiteers and Appeasers, or Saul Alinksy in the same year, or VI Lenin with this simple axiom, “Give me four years…”
So I searched Wiki to see what they had to says about other well-known names brought up in my Manifest Destiny essay. My general rule of thumb is that if Wiki’s Reference and Bibliography citations are from 1990 or afterward, which I noted in about 80% of the references of those subjects (Daniel Boone, Fenimore Cooper, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”, the Oregon Trail, “Mountain Man”), they have a political agenda and are probably not reliably factual.
I still read modern historians from the 80s and 90s, but only a couple. I’ve closed many a book after the first chapter. Many are hacks, seeking money or status or approval. But If you’re interested in History and truth, plus the intellectual war going on inside the university systems (which we’re losing by the way) read The Killing of History,
It’s not just History being assassinated here, but the very soul of our People and (y)our ability to build a thing, anything, from a log cabin to a small shop to a state, from scratch, and I truly believe that the morons who are pushing these ideas so wrapped up in self-love they don’t know what they have unleashed on all mankind. I was in the USSR 1991-2 when it fell and 30 years later there are still people there trying to rediscover their history.
So if we let that happen here, in Jefferson’s words, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”