My wife recently gave me a copy of Michael Farris’ What a Daughter Needs from Her Dad. Overall, a good book encouraging fathers to do right by daughters, including working hard to build a relationship that meets her emotional needs. Farris is a Virginian, lawyer, father of ten and founder of Patrick Henry College, the premier college for homeschooled students with significant academic ability.
When reading the book, I nearly fell off my chair when he mentioned that he’s read aloud Uncle Tom’s Cabin to his children, in his words to teach them both “history” and “compassion for other people” at the same time.
So here’s a Southern, Christian man reading aloud to his daughters third-rate melodramatic propaganda written by a Yankee Unitarian (with no direct experience with southern slavery) who maligns his daughters’ ancestors as savage rapists. It could be argued that the false charges of rape in this novel led directly to the fervor of Northern citizens to support a civil war against their southern brethren. And he presents this to his daughters as “history”? You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, this is like a Jewish family snuggling up to read aloud from Mein Kempf (the analogy is apt: both were books of propaganda that motivated violence towards their targets). This ought to be obviously ridiculous, except to that curious American species, the conservative schizophrenic.
A friend of mine sent his daughter to Patrick Henry College and had a unique perspective on what was going on there. Mostly, the kids receive an excellent education, pulling from original sources and assembling a comprehensive Christian worldview. However, there’s a twist. Farris used to (and may still) teach one of the history or constitutional law courses, and the course included his clever rationalization of Lincoln (I forget the specific argument Farris uses). My friend related that most of the homeschool students, being marinated in the original sources, naturally bristled at Farris’ sophistry to justify Lincoln, but it’s clear to me in part where Farris’ motives lie. The school routinely brags about how many of its students serve in the federal government, as Congressional interns and (under Bush II) at the White House.
So the school, named after the great anti-federalist prophet Patrick Henry, serves to take the cream of the homeschool community and turn them into brilliant, well-educated servants and apologists for the federal Beast. The schizophrenia of this worldview is staggering: name a college after Henry, who warned against ratification of the Constitution because of the threat of a tyrant like Lincoln, then use it to propagandize homeschooled kids about why Lincoln was right. Farris rehabilitates the legitimacy of a federal government that sanctions the murder of unborn children while making southern kids feel guilty because their ancestors caused black people to be slaves in America instead of slaves in Africa.
This reminds me of why we badly need a real American history curriculum. On the one side are the liberals who portray America as an evil, racist country. On the other side are largely the conservative schizophrenics, like Michael Farris and David Barton, who share the egalitarian premises of the liberals but try to rehabilitate our history by portraying it as a progressive revelation of salvation through equality, with God’s Providence working all the way from Thomas Jefferson’s Abrahamic promise in the Declaration, to Moses Lincoln leading us out of the wilderness and to the Promised Land and finally culminating in the legacy of the true King of kings, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. Think I’m kidding? Ask Barton or Farris if they support a federal holiday for MLKJ. The only other holy-day we celebrate for a man is Jesus Christ.
Here’s an idea: how about we teach our children to love our land and ancestors as it and they really were? We’re not perfect, but nor is any other race of fallen human beings. I’m tired of white guilt, and I’m determined to liberate my children from it.