The End of History or a History of the End?

A few years ago, Francis Fukuyama was widely criticized for his book claiming that mankind had seen “The End of History.” Fukuyama contended that liberal democracy had won the debate over which system was best and, therefore, there was necessary no more “moving forward” for man’s social order. While Fukuyama might have thought the question of the best system was settled — that being the Western democratic system — what good does a great system do if no one is aware of it? Unfortunately, we are quickly nearing a time in our schools where any knowledge of our political system or western history is going untaught. It’s so bad that most standard history courses are disappearing from our universities to be replaced by specialties about minorities or single subjects like “genocide” or “homosexual studies.”

Of course, much of the criticism of Fukuyama’s premise was based on a mistaken reading of what he said, but with this failure to teach proper history to our students we might be seeing at least one reason to doubt that liberal democracy is strong enough to stay as top dog, regardless of its efficacy. The liberal democracy as being practiced in the U.S., for instance, is weakening to the point of frivolity, one prone to a breakdown from within, and this lack of a useful education is just another example of this societal crash. Dangerously, proper history is being taught less and less in our universities.

Not long ago, an ominous article in the New York Times reported that specialty courses and professors now far outnumber standard history.

At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, out of the 45 history faculty members listed (many with overlapping interests), one includes diplomatic history as a specialty, one other lists American foreign policy; 13 name either gender, race or ethnicity. Of the 12 American-history professors at Brown University, the single specialist in United States empire also lists political and cultural history as areas of interest. The department’s professor of international studies focuses on victims of genocide.

This is exactly inverted. There should be one or two “gender historians” (if any at all) and 13 professors of military, diplomatic, and general history at any university. But this upside down status portends a complete loss of useful historical study.

Sadly the problem isn’t just evident in our institutes of higher learning. It’s also getting hard to imagine our primary schools successfully teaching anything much less mere history. Recently I had opportunity to visit a few classrooms of a north suburban Chicago middle school and was shocked by its new way of serving its developmentally disabled students, a way that served neither these special needs kids nor the rest.

As it happened the school no longer had a special needs class. Each of the school’s special needs kids had their own Teacher’s Assistant sitting next to them right in every classroom. Was this good for the special needs kids? Perhaps. But regardless it isn’t good for all the other kids in that classroom.

What I saw was unnerving because in every class there was at least one kid constantly yelling out, laughing inappropriately, violently pushing at his TA handler and generally disrupting every single class. I saw exasperated teachers repeating themselves over and over to be heard over these disruptive kids, I saw students distracted, and above all I saw a failed environment for learning.

Was it the disabled kid’s fault? Certainly not. Their constant disruption was a result of their diminished mental condition not any maliciousness.

Now, was it good for these kids to be among normal kids? It may be. However, we have to weigh what is good for these mentally disabled kids with what is good for the 95 percent of the others. Is it worth destroying the education of 20 kids in a classroom to make one developmentally disabled kid’s life easier for his mental incapacity? Is that good for our society? The only logical answer has to be no, it isn’t a good idea.

Certainly a caring society will do its best for its mentally disabled. Without question we should do our best to educate these kids. But should we do that at the expense of normal, potentially productive members of society? It would be a mistake to do so.

In any case, what does all this mean? It means we are disgorging from our schools students that know nothing of our system. In fact, we are graduating kids that really haven’t been taught much of anything. They know nothing of our political history, our governing philosophy, our founding, our civics and our diplomatic relations. It all adds up to the end of history, alright. It’ll end not because anything has been solved, not because we have found a system that works best for the most, but because soon no one will even know it all happened before contemporary times.

History will end because no one will even know it exists. Unless we act to save it.

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