October 27, 2021
By Fiona Baum
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the United States, affecting every American. However, there is another pandemic plaguing America: the widespread effects of cancel culture and the redefining of history. Over the past year, we’ve seen the “woke” mob destroy Americans’ livelihoods, rewrite and efface American history, and remove and vandalize renowned statues and monuments of our nation’s founders.
The most recent example of the culture canceling and redefining of history targets one of America’s most prominent Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson.
As Fox News reported:
“The New York City Public Design Commission voted on Tuesday to remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson from the New York City Council’s chambers at City Hall, despite earlier predictions from reporters and liberals that statues of the Founding Fathers weren’t at risk of being removed.
“‘We acknowledge that the piece needs to be removed from the City Council chamber,’ Commission President Signe Nielsen said after the vote. ‘We as a commission will act before the end of 2021 in finding an appropriate location where it remains in the public realm.’
Why have progressives been so persistent in their efforts to remove this historical statue? New York City councilwoman Adrienne Adams summed up her aversion to the monument: “Jefferson embodied some of the most shameful parts of our country’s long and nuanced history.”
Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, has a different take. “To say, ‘Well, Jefferson owned slaves’, as if that is the sum of his contribution or his character, shows a degree of historical ignorance that I think is perfectly represented by tearing down a Thomas Jefferson statue. They’re basically telling us who they are: they are people who are too stupid to open a book,” Sandefur said last week, discussing the decision to remove the statue on the “Armstrong & Getty” radio show.
“Jefferson definitely has a good record on the question of slavery, especially compared to his peers. So this really shows a lot of historical ignorance on the part of the city of New York,” Sandefur continued.
This is just the latest example of how proponents of Critical Race Theory are forcing their views on the rest of us. To these activists, it no longer matters that we are all Americans—it’s “us” versus “them.” Black vs. white. Oppressors vs. the oppressed. This is what CRT teaches.
To make matters worse, the same people who have exiled Thomas Jefferson are also forcing their radical ideas on children in schools. As the Goldwater Institute detailed earlier this year:
“Critical Race Theory sets up people for failure by telling certain individuals that America was not created for them—that the American Dream was never theirs—when, in fact, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is promised to all Americans, regardless of gender, color, or social circumstance. Ivy League academic Dr. Carol Swain has summed up the corrosive impact of Critical Race Theory: ‘No one around me encouraged me to see myself as a victim. I never fixated on the fact that I was black, poor, and female. Had I done so, I doubt I would have achieved anything.’
“We have sometimes fallen short of realizing the American Dream, but the promise is still alive, and that is what makes America unique and worthy of saving. America is the only country in the history of the world founded on a shared set of principles. By destroying monuments—by erasing history—we’re telling generations of Americans that this country is not theirs and is not worth preserving.”
After all, those who erase history are doomed to repeat it.
The Goldwater Institute believes America and its history are worth preserving. Politically charged, anti-American curricula have no place in the public education system. That is precisely why the Goldwater Institute developed the Academic Transparency Act, which would require public schools to make all curriculums available and easily accessible online for parents. Empowered with the knowledge of what their kids are learning, parents could be directly involved in their children’s education and thus make well-informed decisions about their schooling. Academic transparency reform can save the education system and the millions of children who are at risk of being fed dream-crushing and divisive rhetoric.
The blatant removal of Thomas Jefferson from New York foreshadows how extreme ideologies are infiltrating schools and, more generally, a free and prosperous society. Sandefur summed this issue up perfectly: “America isn’t perfect and Americans aren’t perfect. But we strive ever toward the goals and the realization of the principles that Thomas Jefferson articulated.” It’s those principles—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— that form the American promise.
You can listen to the full interview with Sandefur above.
Fiona Baum is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.