The Left and the Distortion of History

By John L. Hancock / October 25, 2014 / American Thinker

In the fall of 1991, the relatively small and quiet university of Alfred University in New York State was engrossed in controversy. Indignant professors led students in protests, heated debates raged throughout the divided campus, editorials filled the school and local papers. At the heart of the controversy was the newly-installed statue of King Alfred, the medieval English monarch after whom the town and school was named. Ten years prior, when the monument was commissioned, no one could foresee the controversy it would eventually cause. Yet, its placement offended the sensibilities of the university’s history professors.

By the strong and negative reaction one would think that Alfred must have been a tyrant, an oppressor of his people, a man deserving of the title Alfred the Terrible.  Surprisingly, it is the opposite that that is true.

From 871 to 899, Alfred was the King of Wessex, one of the four kingdoms that would eventually become England.  During his reign he revived the tradition of learning that had died with the fall of the Roman Empire.  He required all of his nobles be literate and increased their education by translating the great Latin texts into English.  Additionally, he has the honor of being the first king in English history to write a book, preceding King James by eight centuries. Thus, he is known as the “education king.”

More significantly, for the first time, English law would be written and would establish the tradition of England being a land ‘ruled by laws’ rather than by the whims of powerful men. Within these laws we find the genesis the principles of due process, trial by jury, and respect for the individual; no matter how lowly. His laws protected the commoner from arbitrary and excessive punishment. Even slaves were protected by his laws. There were limits on the number of hours they could be forced to work and were granted 37 work-free holidays per year. Furthermore, the slaves were allowed to work on their own behalf and retain all proceeds from their endeavors. Through the church, Alfred created a system that fed the poor and provided them with medical care.

For the 9th century, Alfred was a very enlightened king who was loved by his people and for this reason he is the only king in English history to be bestowed the moniker “the Great.”  Alfred the Great, the father of England and education king.

So why would the history professors be opposed to a memorial to this great proponent of education?

The truth is that the opposition to Alfred had more to do with what he symbolizes rather than actual history.  Linda Mitchell, who specializes in Medieval history, was one of the protesting professors.  As she explained in a New York Times interview, Alfred “is not a good logo to promote a modern university because virtually any historical figure who had any social or political influence is undoubtedly going to be a D.W.E.M. — dead white European male,” she said, “it would be foolish to choose a symbol so exclusive and effective in emphasizing the straight white male power structure of history.”

For Alfred, being a DWEM (Dead White European Male) means that his great achievements are to be ignored because they do not fit into the ideologically-driven, anti-Western civilization, revisionist history that is currently being taught in schools.

Sadly, Alfred U is not the only place in academia where the truth is sacrificed to the ideology of leftism.

In the mid-1970s, a young but brilliant Alan MacFarlane had just finished earning a master’s degree in history from Oxford and a doctorate degree in anthropology from the London University. As he was studying anthropology, he realized that the history he learned at Oxford had very little anthropological and historical evidence to support it.  As a project, he set out to correct that deficiency by using anthropological methods.  What he discovered is that the anthropological data did not support the revisionist history being taught.  In fact, it ran completely contrary to it!

This created a dilemma for the young MacFarlane. How could his research be contradictory to the history he had learned at Oxford? This quandary continued until he received a letter from the former headmaster of his prep school. The former master, who studied history at Oxford in the 1940s and was a recognized authority, compared MacFarlane’s research to the history being taught. The master’s observations are alarming:

It seems to me that something has gone awry between 1950 and 1970.  It seems that in the 50s and 60s the field [of history] has been captured by (a) Marxists and (b) by “peasant-model-minded” scholars who have so often ignored the conclusions of their own findings and forced them into a preconceived pattern.

  1. MacFarlane, The Culture of Capitalism, (Oxford and Cambridge, 1987)

The master went on the explain that MacFarlane had rediscovered history that was common knowledge up until the 1960s when it was replaced by a revisionism that attempts to show that Western (aka European) civilization as oppressive and exploitive. It does not matter if the historical evidence is contrary to the revisionism; truth is second to ideology.

These were some very serious accusations and MacFarlane dedicated his life to setting the historical record straight. His revisionist colleagues criticized everything he published.  He replied with more research and data that supported his position.  He knew history was on his side; and so did his critics.  Not being able to match his research, they quickly resorted to the use mockery and name calling to discredit him.  Yet, against such opposition, MacFarlane would rise to the top of academia by becoming the Chair of the Anthropological Department at Cambridge.

As David Coleman, a designer of the Common Core curriculum and current president of the College Board, recently stated, “History is not about facts, it is about narratives.” MacFarlane’s research just does not fit the revisionist narrative that they want to present to the unquestioning young minds that fill the classrooms each year. This is why the works of historical revisionists such as Howard Zinn is now common in the history curriculum of high schools. This has resulted in generations of people whose entire worldviews are based on an ideological revision of history that has no factual foundation.

Today, after several decades of being taught distorted history, every field has been infected by Marxist trained ideologues. What makes it so nefarious is that they do not even realize they are the purveyors of the distortions, myths, and lies that are destroying the greatest economic and political system ever created by man.

Next year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta; the first document in which the principles of limited government, individual rights, and representative government were put in writing.  Will we let this great document be, like Alfred, forgotten because it was written by DWEM and does not fit the narrative or is it time to let the historical facts speak for themselves?

John L. Hancock is the author of Liberty Inherited and a fellow of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles.

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