This article appeared in the
in The Textbook Letter, March-April 2000.
[Franklin's] face had never been expressive; today it was a mask. Not the slightest frown or grimace greeted the diatribes rained down on him. When instructed to submit to questions, he silently refused -- a refusal that seemed to seal his humiliation.
But he was not humiliated; he was outraged. The mask concealed not mortification but anger. Who did these people -- this bought solicitor, these smug lords, the corrupt ministers that made the proceeding possible -- who did they think they were? Who did they think he was?
It was the question of the hour; generalized, it was the question on which hung the fate of the British empire. Who were these Americans? To the British they were Britons, albeit of a turbulent sort. The Americans might live across the ocean, but the colonies they inhabited had been planted by Britain and were defended by Britain; therefore to the government of Britain -- preeminently, to the British Parliament -- the Americans must submit, like any other Britons. To the Americans, the question was more complicated. Nearly all Americans considered themselves Britons, but Britons of a different kind than lived in London or the Midlands or Scotland. Possessing their own assemblies -- their own parliaments -- the Americans believed that they answered to the British Crown but not to the British Parliament. At its core the struggle between the American colonies and the British government was a contest between these competing definitions of American identity. Put simply, were the Americans truly Britons, or were they something else?
That question would be answered soon enough: The Americans (and certainly Franklin) were something else, and they soon would declare their independence and would dissolve their political bonds with Britain. Brands concludes his prologue thus:
Franklin's story is the story of a man -- an exceedingly gifted man and a most engaging one. It is also the story of the birth of America -- an America this man discovered in himself, then helped to create in the world at large.
Brands's biography of Franklin is called The First American. That figurative title reminds us that our nation did not take shape until the 18th century -- and Brands's prologue then reminds us that our nation originated as an offspring of Britain, and that most of America's proximate history is British history.
When I refer to America's "proximate" history, I mean the history that directly explains why we live as we do. I mean the history that has immediately and forcefully and pervasively shaped our customs, our law, our government, our intellectual disciplines, our technology and, above all, our language. I mean the history that began with the Roman conquest of Britain (some 2,000 years ago), that extended through the Enlightenment and the evolution of democracy in England, and that is reflected ubiquitously in the America we inhabit today. We see it all around us, and we hear it continually in our words.
The agents of multi-culti have reviled and rejected all of that history, and they have invented some bogus "American history" which falsifies our nation's origins and denies that America is a scion of Western civilization. This pseudohistory includes two discrete, contradictory fantasies about how America came into being. One fantasy pivots around the claim that "the first Americans" were nomads who founded our nation, thousands of years ago, after they wandered here from Asia. The second is centered on the claim that "the first Americans" were Europeans, Amerindians and West Africans who, soon after Columbus's discovery of the New World, converged here and created America through a "blending of cultures."
Both fantasies are absurd. There is no connection whatsoever between prehistoric Asians and the founding of America, and (to my knowledge) no peddler of multi-culti pseudohistory has even pretended to cite evidence for such a connection. As for the "blending of cultures": It never happened, and anyone who can read a dictionary can see this for himself. Thumb through a dictionary of American English and see how many words you can find that have been derived from Amerindian or West African precursors. Better yet, try to find such words in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, or our national anthem.
Teachers who have bought into the multi-culti fraud want textbooks that will help them to advance that fraud in their classrooms, and such products are now abundant. Schoolbook-writers have toiled to meet the demand for texts that present multi-culti claptrap as "history" -- and no schoolbook-writer has toiled more diligently than Joy Hakim has. Indeed, Hakim has distinguished herself by putting both the Asian-nomad fantasy and the "blending" fantasy into the same book. As far as I know, she has produced the only book in which there are, quite explicitly, two sets of "first Americans," and she has even mustered the gall to employ the phrase "the first Americans" as the book's title.
Hakim's The First Americans is Book 1 of A History of US, a series of eleven slim books, issued by Oxford University Press and dated in 1999, that allegedly tell America's story. Oxford sells them for use in elementary schools and middle schools.
On the very first page of The First Americans, directly opposite the title page, Hakim courts the multi-culti mob by promoting the "blending" fantasy:
In this book the title, The First Americans, refers to three groups of peoples who met at the very end of the 15th century and began the process that, three centuries later, turned into the American nation.
That doesn't make any sense. How could a "process" have turned into a "nation"? And how could those 15th-century people have been "Americans" three centuries before "the American nation" came into being? Students will surely be puzzled by Hakim's opening statement about the "first Americans," but there is worse to come. The students will be reduced to hopeless bewilderment when they read the text of The First Americans, for on page 21 they will learn that the "first Americans" were prehistoric people who "had come from Asia," by walking across Beringia, thousands of years before Columbus! Hakim makes no attempt to resolve the contradiction between that claim and her earlier statement that the "first Americans" were people of the 15th century. She is intent on pandering to the multi-culti crowd -- and students be damned.
William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes frequently about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.
Readers who want to learn more about Joy Hakim and A History of US should consult these articles:
"Textbook-Writers Promote Religious Tales as 'History' "
"More Hokum from Hakim"
"Joy Hakim Should Not Write About the History of Europe"
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