Sunday, March 6, 2016

History Is Dead: The Reinterpretation of a Simple Poem


I've taught US History for many years. I've seen history texts go from basic narratives, to the postmodern social history of Howard Zinn, to a mishmash of ideas roughly related to history but mostly which pronounce a diatribe against Western civilization.

I have seen students who, because of Common Core and other failed educational theories, can no longer read and understand basic texts.

I've come to expect socialist drivel to crop up in student essays, since teachers no longer seem to be able to teach the basic truths of the foundations of the US.

Yet, once in awhile I get essays from students that completely stymie the imagination.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:

For the chapter on the American Civil War, I require an additional reading of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I also ask for a short essay, asking the question: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic became a standard for the armies of the Union. How did it justify the actions of the North in preserving the Union and fighting against slavery?"

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

Along with the usual, painful essay interpretations of this rather straightforward question, one of my students wrote an essay that in nowise answered the question, basically saying that Julia Ward Howe didn't believe in Jesus, that she was angry at the Union army for being hard on the South, and that the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" wasn't a religious song at all.

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:

Apparently, the student had learned from some book that was so anti-religion, that the author couldn't concede the obvious about Howe's poem - it is a hymn, based on Old and New Testament texts, that encourages Northern soldiers to fight to make men free.

His truth is marching on.

Unfortunately, this is the state of education today. Students either cannot read, or cannot understand basic historical texts, even when the meaning is spelled out in plain English.

I grieve for the students of this generation. They have been neutered of any ideas that might allow them to understand the past, and to think for themselves.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.