Opinion: Instead of striking Lincoln’s name from schools, teach students totality of his life

A bust of the Abraham Lincoln statue looks out over visitors at Lincoln’s tomb within Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
A bust of the Abraham Lincoln statue looks out over visitors at Lincoln’s tomb within Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Credit: Seth Perlman

Credit: Seth Perlman

Political scientist says: ‘We erect statues of historic figures to pay tribute to their contributions, not to honor their flaws’

Douglas Young is a retired University of North Georgia political science professor.

In this guest column, Young takes on the current purge of presidents’ names from schools, including Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Two weeks ago, the San Francisco school board voted to strip the names of Washington, Lincoln and other historical figures from 44 schools because of acts and speech by the honorees now deemed unacceptable. Among those booted from school buildings was Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator, because of an action she took while mayor of San Francisco.

By Douglas Young

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.... Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell

Now officially condemned as “racist” by the leftist San Francisco Board of Education are Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln (President Obama’s favorite), Garfield (an abolitionist and Union general in the War Between the States), and McKinley (another Union soldier), revolutionary patriot Paul Revere, and many other notables.

So, all city schools named for these heretofore heroes will be renamed at a cost of close to half a million tax dollars.

Even the school named for California’s Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be renamed because in 1986, as mayor, she had a Confederate flag in need of repair replaced at City Hall.

In the new “woke” America of 2021, great people’s accomplishments are utterly irrelevant, and they are reviled as villains if contemporary leftists find they ever did or said anything the leftists don’t like. Indeed, in the tradition of the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, and the Chinese communists’ Cultural Revolution, today’s politically correct standard is nothing less than 200-proof progressive perfection. How proud Chairman Mao would be of America’s Red Guards.

This is all part of today’s cancel culture in which leftists seek to destroy – professionally and personally – anyone daring to deviate from their orthodoxy. Thus, a record number of Americans – famous and ordinary alike – have been removed from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media. Indeed, when a U.S. president can be banned, we are all vulnerable.

Major pressure is now put on advertisers to stop sponsoring any TV or radio shows whose political views offend the Left, and many major corporations no longer do business with any company whose politics are insufficiently progressive, for fear of leftist boycotts.

The effort to purge our culture of non-leftist ideas also seeks to excoriate or erase from history anyone who ever deviated from the shifting present dictates of political correctness.

So, we see a record number of statues being torn down, most because of leftist charges of “racism,” with no regard to historical context. Not just Confederate monuments are toppled, but statues of our Founding Fathers (especially Washington and Jefferson) are defiled as well.

Statues on the chopping block even include those of Abraham Lincoln. “The great emancipator” is now disdained by leftists for not adhering to present attitudes toward Native Americans and for having made some racial statements no enlightened person would make today but were sadly the norm two centuries ago.

Dr. Douglas Young
Dr. Douglas Young

Credit: Salai Sayasean

Credit: Salai Sayasean

Even a statue of the greatest abolitionist of all, an escaped slave and father of America’s civil rights movement, Frederick Douglass, was destroyed last year in Rochester, New York.

We erect statues of historic figures to pay tribute to their contributions, not to honor their flaws — flaws being far less remarkable than contributions. That someone was able to accomplish a lot of good in spite of weaknesses only makes his achievements more impressive, and perfect people don’t make history. As William Faulkner understood, “You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.”

Of course, we wish President Lincoln had protected Native Americans more and had never said a racist word. Instead of stripping President Washington or Jefferson’s name from schools, why not teach students about the totality of their lives and let each student decide how to assess them? Teach all the facts, freely discuss many interpretations, and let students think critically for themselves.

But totalitarians have no interest in letting people think for themselves. By definition, they have no tolerance for any but their own views which they seek to impose on the rest of us.

Throughout our vast, corrupted educational-industrial complex, such leftists seek to delegitimize America itself (especially our Western Judeo-Christian capitalist foundations). The goal is to convince the youth that our founding and entire history are so irredeemably stained by racism, imperialism, classism, and sexism that our national heritage is not worth preserving.

But, as radio talk show host and writer Dennis Prager points out, it’s not fair to compare America to a utopia that never existed — but to the rest of the world. And can you name a better country that’s done remotely as much good for remotely as many folks all over this planet?

Finally, as Christ said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

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