Just the other day the Daily Mail ran an article in which Dominic Sandbrook recalled a survey conducted in Britain about a decade ago. Who, it asked, were the most important people in British history? Princess Diana came in third, John Lennon seventh. “Recent polls,” noted Sandbrook, “show that nine out of ten adults [in Britain] can name all David Beckham’s children, yet one in three thinks Churchill was a fictional character and one in four believes Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep out the French.”
Yes, that’s right: one in three British people thinks Winston Churchill was a fictional character.
“Through no fault of their own,” wrote Sandbrook, “thousands of our children are leaving school every year ignorant of what their parents and grandparents once took for granted: the inspirational, heart-warming knowledge of what we all once recognised as our national story.”
Needless to say, the same goes for American kids. By and large, they don’t know much about the American national story, and what they do “know” is, to an alarming extent, anti-American propaganda straight out of books like Howard Zinn’s poisonous – and ubiquitous – People’s History of the United States. Instead of learning the facts of history, and learning to appreciate how and why America became (as Madeleine Albright put it) “the indispensable nation,” all too many of them are indoctrinated with identity politics and multiculturalism – with an ideology, in short, that teaches them not to appreciate their heritage of freedom but, at best, to be barely aware of it and, at worst, to mock it, dismiss it, or deny it.
If knowledge is power, ignorance is weakness. A Western world run by people most of whom either think Winston Churchill was a fictional character or are barely aware of who he was and what he did – and how radically different their own lives would be if he had never existed – is the stuff of nightmares.
The West is, after all, engaged in a struggle on many fronts with a civilization (to use the term loosely) that has a long, long memory. It’s no exaggeration to say that this struggle will decide the future of freedom. And the grim truth is that freedom stands very little chance when those who are supposed to be fighting for it are so innocent of history that they can’t properly appreciate just how hard-won and precious a legacy that freedom is.
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