Sundays With The Christianists: American History Textbooks Fighting Godless Communism From Korea To The U.N.
If there's anything that gets the editors of our textbooks for Christian homeschoolers exercised, it's communism. And evolution. And deviations from fundamentalist Protestantism. And secular humanism. But especially communism (which is influenced by Darwinism and atheism). And so, it stands to reason that they have a fine old time with the Cold War. And as usual, our 8th-grade textbook, America: Land I Love (A Beka, 1994 & 2006), is the far more enthusiastic Cold Warrior; as we saw last week, Land I Love doesn't describe the conflict merely as a geopolitical contest for influence between the USSR and the U.S./Western Europe, but as a fight between "the ideologies of Americanism and Communism." Our text for 11th/12th grade, Bob Jones University Press’s United States History for Christian Schools (2001), is a lot less excitable, but still very firmly anticommunist. And of course, since humans are inherently sinful and real peace can only come from God, both books find efforts at cooling international tensions, like the United Nations, to be somewhere between naïve ( U.S. History ) and downright anti-American ( Land I Love ). Foolish hu-mans, thinking that "international cooperation" can accomplish anything!
U.S. History is no fan of the UN, but its tone is fairly restrained, with a mainstream conservative critique of the organization as well-intended but ineffectual:
Proponents of the United Nations hoped that the body would provide a forum for rational discussion and a means of furthering world peace. Instead, it has often become a sounding board for propaganda, particularly for Communist and anti-American views. The ability of any permanent member of the Security Council to veto an action limits the UN's ability to act. Likewise the inability of the organization to force members to recognize its authority has hampered its efforts to preserve peace. Good intentions lay behind the founding of the United Nations, but its record as a mediator and preserver of the peace has been uneven
Considering the rightwing penchant for freaking out over UN resolutions as violations of American sovereignty, that line about the UN being unable "to force members to recognize its authority" seems especially weird -- we're assuming the geopolitical editor didn't consult with the raving paranoia editor on that one. After all, the U.S. refused to ratify resolutions on the rights of children and the disabled precisely because super patriots feared that blue-helmeted troops would be telling Americans they couldn't spank their kids or build a house without wheelchair ramps.
Land I Love more than makes up for U.S. History's tepid disapproval of the UN. Not only did the UN go and adopt a ton of "socialist policies," those very socialist policies were opposed by no greater a patriot than "General Douglas MacArthur, who had called for a spiritual rebirth of Japan at the end of World War II." What the spiritual renewal of Japan has to do with his objections to the UN goes unexplained -- the most charitable explanation we can come up with is that the line is intended as a reminder of the last time MacArthur was mentioned, when he was optimistically flooding Japan with bibles and missionaries.
The book's real objection to the UN, though, is that it's simply not fair to America. We're not entirely sure the editors gave much thought to the lesson about equity that this next paragraph is teaching good little Christian children:
Though the United States provides much of the financial aid to keep the UN going, it has had little to say in how the United Nations is run. More than half of the UN member nations have a population smaller thanNew York City,the site of the UN building. Yet the vote of each small country counts as much as the vote of a major country like the United States, which bears the largest financial load to keep it operating.
Got that, kids? Whoever has the most money should get to run things, and if you're bigger and stronger, you should also get to tell the pipsqueaks what's what. Just like Jesus said. (Needless to say, the book doesn't complain about how unfair it is that big states like California have only two U.S. senators, just like tiny states whose entire population is smaller than Los Angeles County.)
In addition to this numerical injustice, the UN is a nest of anti-American thinking:
Since World War II, many nations in the UN have been decidedly anti-American. Over the years, Communist countries have convinced many Third World nations (poor and undeveloped nations) that Communism (or socialism) is the answer to their problems and that the United States is their enemy.
And once again, there is no suggestion in this paragraph that the USSR is no longer a going concern, because why would you want to confuse the kids with boring details?
Strangely enough, the firmly anticommunist Land I Love says nothing about the "who lost China?" controversy of the late 1940s; the closest it gets is a mention of Roosevelt "betraying" Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nationalists at the Yalta Conference. U.S. History gives us only a brief paragraph about how China's "fell to communism," but again, is surprisingly uninterested in blaming any U.S. leaders for that -- not sure why that opportunity to bash the State Department wasn't seized by either text.
The books diverge again in discussing the Korean War, which ran on CBS from 1972 to 1983. U.S. History goes with a fairly straightforward narrative of the war's events, plus a full-page text box about the U.S. Marines' escape after being encircled by Chinese troops at Chosin Reservoir.* Land I Love, on the other hand, uses its section on Korea as an opportunity to advance the old rightwing trope that Harry Truman sold out the Greatest Patriot Ever, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The main section on the war is headed, MacArthur: "No substitute for victory," and we learn that MacArthur was on the verge of defeating North Korean forces altogether in October 1950 (mostly true) when Communist China sent troops to support their North Korean allies.Land I Love puts the strategic options as a fairly simple choice:
MacArthur asked President Truman for permission to invade China and wipe out Communism once and for all in that part of Asia.
Simple! It's pretty startling to contrast the two books' discussions of what followed. U.S. History seems sympathetic to MacArthur's position, quoting the "no substitute for victory" line, but also acknowledges that Truman wasn't exactly a weakling who blithely passed up the chance to wipe out the commies forever:
Truman, however, held to the principle oflimited war,a war with a limited objective short of total victory over the enemy. Calling war with China a "gigantic booby trap," Truman refused to expand the conflict and risk, as he thought, a third world war. MacArthur disagreed publicly with the president’s decision, and Truman relieved him of his command.
Land I Love, on the other hand, stops just short of suggesting that Truman was colluding with International Communism:
President Truman believed in a foreign policy known ascontainment,which committed American troops to stay on the defensive and simply keep Communism from spreadingrather than helping nations that had already fallen to Communism become free again. Thus, Truman ordered MacArthur to return to South Korea and let the Communists keep North Korea. Congress supported the President, opposing an invasion of Communist China. General MacArthur told the President that containment was a weak policy that encouraged Communist aggression. He insisted that "there is no substitute for victory." Because of MacArthur’s criticism, President Truman released MacArthur from his command. The United States then withdrew from North Korea, leaving the North Koreans enslaved under a cruel Communist dictatorship.
Darn that weakling Truman for not invading China, because that would have been a cakewalk that couldn't possibly have led to a nuclear war. (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed...) While U.S. History at least acknowledges that MacArthur's airing his criticism in public led to his loss of command, neither book says a word about the principle of civilian control over the military, which you might think would be something worth mentioning. Nah, save that nonsense for the liberals in the secular schools and Wikipedia.
Next week, we'll take a look at domestic life in the 1950s. Spoiler warning: One of our textbooks thinks Joseph McCarthy was a great American hero. Can you possibly guess which one it is?
*And here's another of those bits that makes us grudgingly love U.S. History at moments -- the text quotes a Marine colonel who told his troops, "The enemy is in front of us, behind us, to the left of us, and the right of us. They won’t escape this time." There's never anything fun like that in Land I Love.
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