Salon: Racist, Conspiratorial Right-Wingers Would Distort U.S. History Curriculum

The uproar on the right over new standards for AP U.S. history courses has caught the attention of lefty writer Sean McElwee. In a Sunday article for Salon, McElwee suggested that of all the reasons that conservative activists shouldn’t dictate the American-history curriculum, the salient one is that they’re not truly conservative.

McElwee argued that old-school conservatism, which focused on “understanding tradition and the limits of human reason,” has been replaced by a “reactionary” ideology “imbued with racism, conspiratorial thinking and a hyper-individualistic capitalism.” Right-wingers of this stripe, he argued, have furthered “distortions of history” on topics including the War on Poverty, the legacy of slavery, and U.S. foreign policy.

From McElwee’s piece, headlined "Why the GOP hates U.S. history: Inconvenient truths that freak out American conservatives" (emphasis added):

Here are the most important distortions of history the right has promoted recently…

…Many conservatives will argue that the War on Poverty has done nothing to reduce poverty and instead we should rely on private charity. But the War on Poverty has actually done much to eliminate poverty and private charity could never fill that chasm that would open up if federal poverty programs were eliminated

…[W]hen slavery permeated society — the legal structure, culture, science — nothing was left untouched by racism and racial hierarchy. The conservative “I built this myself” mentality denies that most wealth is passed from generation to generation, and so is privilege. Erasing the memory of racial hierarchy allows conservatives and Americans to pretend that individual effort, rather than structural racism, is keeping black people down…

…[T]he basis of neo-conservativism [sic] is a belief that imperial violence can spread democracy. To maintain this myth, the long history of imperialism must be re-written…

…[The right ignores that] America’s foreign policy history is littered with failed attempts to impose our ideas on others — often with the ulterior motive of stealing resources…

There was a time when conservatism was a philosophy concerned primarily with wrestling with and understanding tradition and the limits of human reason and ability. However, these days conservatism is reactionary — it has been imbued with racism, conspiratorial thinking and a hyper-individualistic capitalism. Instead of questioning the limits of reason, it has jettisoned it. In its place remains free market dogmabad Biblical interpretation and a sentimentalized past. In place of reason and argument, most conservatives rely on fantasy and reminiscence. Allowing conservatives to redefine the past will be incredibly harmful.

Culture/Society Education Conservatives & Republicans Salon History


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