Review of

PragerU Video: Goodbye, America

Our summary of James Robbins' claims: James Robbins decries the way he sees history being taught to young people, effectively destroying American identity. A “progressive” narrative took hold in the 1960s, seeking to replace the pride of American achievement with shame, and regarding anything short of perfection as a total failure. The outcome of the conflict between the two views of history will determine the future of the American experiment.

Let’s make education great again

Bill Wettergren Schaumburg, IL Published 19 Dec 2019

In these confusing and contentious times, we should not let our country down. The title of this video initially provoked in me a sense of fear and indignation.

But almost every sentence in this video is too easy to refute—either containing a logical fallacy or an opinion stated like it is a fact. It’s the kind of raw polemic that might get cheers at a Trump rally, but since this is presented to us as an educational piece, we have to evaluate it as such.

Let’s first acknowledge some fair points made:

  • Yes, a more nuanced, complicated view of the US has spread in recent decades.
  • Yes, it’s true that perfection can never exist.
  • Certainly, if all of history were erased (like in Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”), a society’s identity would also change.
  • Indeed no, the attention-seeking statement of Michael Moore (the most radical celebrity in the US) does not provide a balanced picture of who Americans are.

That said, let us slog through a few of Mr. Robbins’ statements.

If you read about it [America] in a history textbook, you probably learned about a land of oppression, racism, sexism, income inequality, police brutality, and imperial wars.

This is opinion stated as fact. Though critical history books obviously exist, there are no high school or college history textbooks like this. But wouldn’t it be scary if what he said were true?

Some history textbooks may mention some of the above issues. (So, probably, did 1950s textbooks.) But they do not obsess on them, as Mr. Robbins implies.

When you raise a generation of Americans to hold their country’s past in contempt by exaggerating America’s faults and ignoring its triumphs, then they will have no respect for American institutions or the beliefs on which the nation is based.

The presupposition of this awful cause-effect claim is that the current generation of Americans is holding their past in contempt. Robbins has hardly made a case for this; not even “from what I’ve seen…”, let alone from polling or other rigorous method.

Furthermore, the consequent does not follow. Why, hypothetically, couldn’t a citizen feel bad about America’s past behaviors and yet still respect America’s institutions (e.g. rule of law, democracy, free markets)?

I am not of course denying that, if enough citizens think that change is needed, they will vote for parties and candidates who are proposing reforms and solutions to problems. They might even promote a Constitutional amendment. Is that disrespecting America’s institutions?

Starting in the 1960s, a new, so-called “progressive,” narrative took hold that sought not to uplift, inspire, and unite, but to demean, degrade and divide.

Robbins aims to evoke an evil bogeyman character here. Sought to “demean, degrade, and divide”? For Pete’s sake.

Again, opinion posing as fact. Trying to put the mysterious perpetrators of this alleged narrative on the defensive.

But anything less than perfection—which can never exist, given that every society is composed of flawed human beings—is now considered a total failure…

This is nonsense. Straw man. What moron thinks lack of perfection automatically means failure?

American traditions that were perfectly acceptable even a few years ago—pledging allegiance to the flag, singing the national anthem, even saying “Merry Christmas”—have been called into question, mocked, and sometimes banned.

Instances of mocking by insensitive jerks do occur. But when have any of these three things been banned?

I sense that by this point I am taking Robbins too seriously. He is just trying to paint the worst possible picture of liberals/progressives. Facts aren’t too important.

Is America a country that was built by slavery? Or a country that overcame and abolished slavery at the cost of 600,000 lives?

Slaves for SaleWell, aren’t both true? American wealth in the early days was partly built on slavery. And then we outlawed slavery.

Robbins’ perspective is that of a parent, or a shepherd. He might concede that a few citizens can simultaneously accept these two statements about America. However, (like little kids, or sheep,) most people are incapable of that, so we have to feed them a simple, dumbed-down version so that they won’t be unpatriotic.

Maybe he’s right about people, maybe he isn’t.

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