Vacation Liberty School: The Dogmatic Destruction of America?
by Brian Magee
Try and think of a scenario where, after teaching American history to children, students should be influenced on how to vote in a modern election.
Well, that’s the stated aim of at least one of the organizers of Vacation Liberty Schools, a 5-day program put together by Glenn Beck’s 9/12 crowd. Eric Wilson, the head of the Kentucky 9/12 project and member of the 9/12 National Board of Directors, gave an interview to a Kentucky group called Coal Fed Families, with the video posted on their website and on YouTube. In this video, Wilson clearly states that the goal of this program is to influence how children eventually vote:
Eric Wilson: …what we’re going to do is go back to the founding principles and say, “Hey, this is what our country was founded on,” and we’re going to instill that into our youth, because that’s where it’s [undecipherable word] important. Nov. 2nd [election day] going to be a great day and hopefully we can gain back control for conservatives and liberty. But, more importantly is Nov. 3 and more importantly is generations from now. They’re going to [be] faced with decisions as well, and if we lay that foundation now in today’s youth, they’re going to make the right decisions in the future.
Interviewer (Randy Walters): The children you are targeting on this thing–the 10-15 age group–well now, in three years those 15-year-olds will be able to vote.
Walters: And they may have a different idea when they go to the polls than what they might have had had they not been exposed to this information…
However, in typical right-wing revisionist style, Wilson sings another tune when talking to a larger audience. In a story on the program by the AP, Wilson claims that politics would not be part of the program:
Eric Wilson, head of the Kentucky 9/12 Project, acknowledges he and many others behind the school are strong supporters of the conservative tea party movement, which claims Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul as one of its highest-profile members. But he says the curriculum was carefully planned to make sure politics didn’t creep in.
“We may be playing in the same sandbox,” Wilson said. “But in the 9/12 Project, we’re going to tell you where the sand came from while the tea party is telling you what sand to buy.”
The likely reason that Wilson seems to not want to make it publicly known that the program is political in nature is that the churches that support these programs and in which these programs are held can lose their tax-exempt status if they engage in politics. However, when Wilson is talking to people sympathetic to his real aims (the Coal Fed Families audience), he’ll tell the truth about the political motivations of the program.
The Vacation Liberty School website is full of references to religion as a motivating factor in their creation of this program. The very first thing under the web site’s heading is a Bible verse and the main picture on the page is in a church with a huge cross in the background.
On the site’s curriculum page, there is an invitation for people to create their own programs and not be too careful about being factual.
“It is intended that you creatively embellish upon the concepts and plans laid out here to whatever extent your independence leads you. It is expected that the collective wisdom and creativity of free thinking individuals across the country will ultimately lead to a product far superior to the one originally provided here.”
(If there was a god, then claiming to be “free thinking” would have caused the keyboard to melt when typing it. But, that’s another issue.)
History is not a place for people to “embellish” anything. History does contain provable and verifiable facts. Do you think that the embellishment being suggested is only on methods of instruction? Throughout the website the authors continually stress the teaching of “principles”, not facts.
“The VLS curriculum is designed to teach fundamental principles of liberty as discovered and implemented by the founding fathers of the United States of America. It is targeted for children ages 10-15. The approach taken places the emphasis on the principles themselves. While dates, names, places, and events may be used in the teaching of these principles, they are there in a supporting role providing evidence and origin of discovery. No attempt is made to have the children remember the dates and places a year from now. It is the principles we wish to firmly implant into their being.”
If a school is in place to support a “principle” first and not actual facts first, then its interpretation of events and facts are wide open for abuse and outright creation of falsehoods in order to support that principle. The fact that they downplay “dates and places” is not a virtue. Rote learning is not ideal, of course. But the order in which things happen and the places they happen give context, which can easily be manipulated when left out or downplayed.
The sources of the school’s material is solely from right-wing revisionist sources, including David Barton’s WallBuilders.com group, a featured presenter on Glenn Beck and “instructor” for Glenn Beck University. Barton’s “facts” have been proven to often be outright lies (see LiarsForJesus.com) to further an agenda of Christian Nationalism.
The Vacation Liberty School initiative is only the latest to become public where a political agenda is intertwined with religion and revisionist history. The political and religious right are aiming to deceive the public of their true aims while privately congratulating each other for their efforts in promoting their dogmatic agenda.
Real historians need to get together and publish a joint statement in opposition to these efforts to re-make history and teach it as fact. If hundreds — or even thousands — of true history teachers, authors, and professors make a concerted, continuous, and joint effort, then people may actually notice and pay attention. A press conference with hundreds of historians in attendance would be wonderful.
History does tell us that when religious conservatives of any society gain power, it’s always a disaster. But, rewriting history in order to support their effort to take yet another society down the path of dogmatic self-destruction is part of the playbook.
America doesn’t deserve to die that way.
Brian Magee hosts Appreciate Your Mind 11 a.m. – noon Saturdays on KNDS, 96.3 FM in Fargo, ND. Stream the show live at www.kndsradio.com, or download podcasts at AppreciateYourMind.podomatic.com. Keep in touch with Brian through the Appreciate Your Mind Facebook page.
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