Do you like American history – especially history in which the Founders never did anything wrong and the American Revolution was fought to free the slaves? History in which the Founders rejected evolution and chose creationism almost a century before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species?
If you answered a vacant-eyed “Yes,” then I have a deal for you! For the low, low price of $375, you (or your child!) could attend one of Glenn Beck’s two-week historical internship programs. Students aged 18-25 can learn American history in projects and classes with themes like:
• A Biblical Worldview
• The Truth in History
• America’s Godly Heritage
• Early Education in America
• How the Bible Influenced America
• American Exceptionalism
• God and the Constitution
• Reclaiming the Land
Yes, political pundit Glenn Beck – pulling a page from the likes of the Creation Museum and Liberty University – is now peddling his lies and ignorance in the guise of academic rigor and respectability. According to Beck:
“Your kids will be challenged to go and find the documents to make the cases that they’re most likely going to have to make in college with their professors. If you want to know, Where did the Founders actually stand on God? Where did they stand on abortion? … I guarantee you the professors at college will have the wrong answer.”
Yeah, because the historians who have spent their whole careers studying U.S. history don’t know what they’re talking about.
The internship program is just the latest step toward Beck’s larger goal: founding a museum to share America’s “real” history.
The museum and the internship classes are being developed in conjunction with David Barton, author of America: To Pray or Not to Pray. The 1988 book argues that the modern rise in abortions, premarital sex, and divorce (among other “evils”) can be directly linked to the Supreme Court’s 1962 ruling against government-directed prayer in public schools. Which makes sense, since there were no other socio-cultural developments after 1962 that could possibly explain the changes Barton was wringing his hands about. According to Salon’s Julie Ingersoll:
“A self-styled historian with no real academic credentials, Barton went on to build an extensive collection of primary source documents from America’s founding era and write several ‘Christian American history’ books that argue that the founding fathers intended America to be a Christian nation and that argue for a Christian reading of the Constitution they wrote. This work has shaped a generation of Christian school and homeschool students.”
A subsequent book, The Jefferson Lies, purports to clarify the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson. But the ironically titled book reads more like hagiography than biography. It won the History News Network’s 2012 award for Least Credible History Book in Print. The factual errors in the book were so numerous that publisher Thomas Nelson ultimately decided to stop selling it altogether.
Now, Barton and Beck are teaming up to peddle a fake history where the Founders are informed not by Enlightenment philosophy but by Christian theology.
Of course, they’re hardly the first people to co-opt history to push their right-wing agenda. In 2015, the Texas board of education approved a history book that asserts the Civil War was primarily driven by sectionalism and states’ rights issues, not slavery. Other historical topics like Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan were minimized or removed.
College is a time to challenge oneself with new ideas, not to retreat into the safety of dogma. Students who choose to attend Beck and Barton’s program are not only wasting their time and money, they’re depriving themselves of an opportunity to learn real history and grow intellectually.
And there’s a larger problem. Effective democracy requires an informed public. Alternative facts – in the realm of science, politics, or anything else – are bad enough. But alternative history? That’s just as dangerous.
History is like a road map. It can tell us where we are and where we’ve been. But without that map – or with an inaccurate map like Barton and Beck’s – we’re just lost, wandering, and likely headed in the wrong direction.
Featured image via YouTube video.