…Or so it would seem from the hysterical rush to take down Confederate statues in the South and to cover up a Puritan blunderbuss on an inconspicuous architectural feature at Yale University’s Sterling library. Not to be outdone, a star of the musical Hamilton draws the conclusion that perhaps it’s time for monuments to slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to come down as well.
Doubtless, we can blame the universities for a leadership role in triggering this folly, which follows in the wake of Princeton wondering if the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs needs to be renamed — given that Wilson was an active racist — or the campaign for Yale to rename Calhoun College, named for its alumnus John C. Calhoun, a spokesman for slavery.
Ironically, one of the few voices of sanity has come from Public Enemy #1 of the American Talibanists — Donald Trump — who calls for Americans to learn from history rather than destroying it.
Years of surveys have underlined Americans’ ignorance of history, for which we can thank our schools and colleges for either neglecting the subject or bowdlerizing it to conform to contemporary norms of racial, ethic, and gender norms. We suspect that the present Confederate statue toppling craze will go down in history alongside the 17th century Salem witch trials. A more constructive response would be to erect some additional monuments to Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, and John Quincy Adams — or better yet, add their writings to American history courses.