1619 Project revisited

A while back, I wrote a post, Historians destroy the NYT “1619 Project,” but it will still be used in K-12 classrooms.

Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton who was among those who took issue with the New York Times’ revisionist history project, has a long essay in The Atlantic today that gets into the specifics of the NYT’s false claims. It’s a great piece, not only as an effective fisking of the NYT, but for all the details about these events in their own right.

I’m tired of academics rolling over and suggesting that the NYT had “the best of intentions” when they started this project. They absolutely did not. The revisionist nature of the effort is a feature, not a bug.

No sane human being thinks the evils of slavery and Jim Crow need any embellishment to be compelling. So why don’t we talk about what they were really trying to achieve? Why don’t we talk honestly and openly about why the NYT doesn’t care about the factual basis of the narrative they are spinning and how they want it in K-12 schools?

This is not some innocent mistake, but a Stalin-esque effort to change public sentiment through propaganda, aimed mostly at children who do not yet have enough information or experience to discern they are being lied to. It is historically significant that one of the nation’s largest and oldest newspapers is engaged in this sort of behavior. I would submit to you that this sort of thing is not all that different than the white nationalists who wanted to use a recent gun rights rally to start a civil war. These are all people who are trying to create and amplify discord in our society, and their behavior is dangerous.

African-American spirituals – educational resources for kids

This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Searching for an educational resource on African-American spirituals. Our homeschooled daughter will be studying American history this year, and I am gathering folk music to pair with our daily lessons. (See our curriculum here.)

I did end up finding several very good books (with accompanying CDs) on spirituals to share. I am posting the Amazon links, so you can read summaries and reviews there. I am delighted to have found music not only from the period of slavery, but from Emancipation and the Civil Rights Era as well. (And I threw in some other related books and websites.)

No Man Can Hinder Me: The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation Through Song

No More!: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance

Free at Last!: Stories and Songs of Emancipation

Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round: Stories and Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

The People Could Fly: American Black Folk Tales

Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom

The Story Of Ruby Bridges


African=American Spirituals – Beth’s Notes

The Spirituals Database

Hidden Messages in Spirituals – PBS

Slave Songbook : Origin of the Negro Spiritual (YouTube)

African American Music from the Civil War Era (YouTube)

Blues as Protest – Library of Congress

What I am reading these days (a lot of history!)

I asked for a bunch of history books for Christmas (in addition to the world’s coolest garden hose) and received quite a haul.

My favorite periods of history are the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. I already had the Landmark Thucydides, but wanted the entire collection. So my husband gave me the Landmark Herodotus, Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika, Landmark Arrian Campaigns of Alexander, and my in-laws gave me the Landmark Julius Caesar. These are going to keep me busy for a while! I love having resources like this around the house for when Elise gets older too.

Before the holidays, I started two books that I would highly recommend. The first is Victor Davis Hanson’s A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. The second is Philip Matyszak’s Sparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation.

(I love Sparta and stories about Sparta. When I was younger and in far better shape, I used to participate in endurance sports, especially running. I’d have my husband drop me off in a nearby town with a CamelBak of Powerade and a credit card in case I needed food, and I would then spend all day running back home. No joke, it was nuts. Anyway, we had many inside jokes about Sparta during those days. When we were buying a new house, we had a meet-and-greet with our real estate agent, who asked in a very chipper voice, “And what kind of neighborhood do see as your ideal place to live? I just want a vision of what you are going for.” To which my husband replied, “Her ideal neighborhood is ancient Sparta. Do you have any properties there?” I can only imagine what personality category our realtor put us into.)

My husband also gave me Cicero’s On Living and Dying Well.

I recently read an outstanding biography on Cicero by Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician. I would highly recommend it in general, but particularly to any cultural conservatives out there who are worried about how our social institutions are going to hell. Cicero experienced many similar events during the Roman civil wars that played out during his boyhood. He retreated to his family’s country home and spent all of his time preparing himself for a political career once life in the city sorted itself out. He studied history, the law, and rhetoric intensely and avoided getting into trouble with the increasingly mad crowds. This strategy served him very well, obviously.

One of my all-time favorite writers is Plutarch. I have been working my way through Plutarch’s Essays lately (see my earlier post, Do you hear what I hear?) My husband gave me copies of Plutarch’s Makers of Rome, Rome in Crisis, The Age of Alexander, and On Sparta. I really love the Penguin Classics editions of these books, as the translation is very clear and enjoyable, as Plutarch was meant to be read.

Also in the stack is the Complete Sophocles, Volume I and Volume II.

Somewhat related to all of this, I find it incredible the books that public libraries are getting rid of these days. Our library here has a bookshelf in the foyer of books that anyone can take and keep for free, as many as you like. I have found the most unbelievable books there. And it’s not like the library is throwing most of them out because they already have the books on their shelves and do not want duplicates (though that is certainly the case for some of them). They simply don’t want to keep them on their shelves.

I picked up five books from Harvard University Press’ series on antiquity, Early Greece, The Hellenistic World, Democracy in Classical Greece, The Roman Republic, and the Later Roman Empire. I also found hardback copies of Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (part of Oxford University Press’ incredible History of the United States series) and Edmund Morris’ Theodore Rex. And a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. And The Penguin Opera Guide, M. Owen Lee’s The Operagoer’s Guide: One Hundred Stories and Commentaries, and The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia. I plan to use those books for a homeschooling unit on opera at some point.

The library was throwing out all of those extraordinary books. I don’t know what to think about what is happening at public libraries these days, to be honest. They exist to serve the interests of taxpayers and to provide a place for the community to gather. If ordinary people are legitimately uninterested in reading content like this, maybe libraries should stuff their shelves with mindless crap that they do want to read. At least they are keeping people basically literate, right?

I do sort of fear, however, that we are watching a new battleground in the culture wars play out. Many professional associations of librarians have been taken over by left-wing political activists (just take a look at what they are posting on their Twitter pages, and the fact that some libraries now host events like Drag Queen Story Hour). The children’s library where we lived before moving to Florida was unusable, as the shelves were fully stocked with identity politics-oriented fare instead of quality children’s non-fiction. (I’ve always found it amusing that books written by political actors tend to be written at an early elementary reading level. There is quite seriously nothing to be gained from consuming such nonsense, except perhaps some bizarre emotional catharsis.) So perhaps that is what I am seeing here, too, such that Harvard’s series on Ancient Greece and Rome is destined for the dumpster. If so, what a shame.

At any rate, if you are looking for a way to build your personal library on the cheap, I highly recommend checking out what your local library is tossing. There are some treasures in there.

As our DD7 is going to be studying American history in the upcoming academic year, I thought I would get back into American history for a while.

I like for my own pleasure reading to overlap with what she is studying. It helps me to make our lessons more interesting if I have engaging stories and digressions from the period to share with her that are not in her own books. A sort of educational synergy if you will. It also sends the message to her that I am not being compelled to study this topic, but I am still delighted to learn about it and find it fascinating. It reinforces the notion that education is not something with a state-mandated beginning and end, but the project of a lifetime.

(For more observations along those lines, see my earlier post, Modeling being a lifelong learner for your children.)

To that end, I am going to be reading soon Down the Santa Fe trail and into Mexico: The Diary of Susan Shelby Magoffin 1846-1847 and Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West.

Traditional vs symbolic logic: homeschoolers need them BOTH

When we first started homeschooling our daughter, our affinity toward classical education programs was clear. Choosing a curriculum, however, was less straightforward.

The first curriculum provider we chose to work with was Memoria Press. Memoria Press is based out of Louisville, Kentucky, and operates classical schools out of local churches around the country. We ended up dropping it in the middle of first grade, and I mostly regard purchasing their materials as an expensive mistake.

Memoria Press’ idea of teaching grammar is to have young children write out the rules of grammar over and over and over again. Then they get to recite them. It is the same way with Latin, though at least with their early books children can learn the Latin Mass. It is a brilliant way to make your child hate doing school work to the point of tears.

But the worst aspect of their curriculum was that their math and science education was virtually non-existent. In fact, I would say their math curriculum is actually below the standards found in public schools. That’s kind of difficult to achieve.

This is a problem that I have noticed with a lot of classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, however. They love teaching literature, poetry, and history. They hate teaching math and higher levels of science. Thus, most of them ignore math and long for the days when they can read The Screwtape Letters as a family. That’s no way to prepare your child to thrive in a thoroughly modern world.

At any rate, I still receive Memoria Press’ catalogs and find great humor in reading the articles they publish. The latest has an article on teaching logic that I feel compelled to share with readers here.

In Logic Is Not Math, Martin Cothran offers a polemic suggesting logic is a “language art” unrelated to the field of mathematics. It torments him, he confesses,. that so many publishers include logic materials under their math section. He blames those dastardly logical positivists for this unfortunate development. According to Cothran, symbolic logic did not exist until the early 20th century, when it was invented by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead.

As someone who studied philosophy in both my undergraduate and graduate years and aced both traditional and advanced symbolic logic, this article had me rolling. It reinforced for me that we made a good decision about what curriculum to use for our daughter. I cannot intellectually process someone claiming that mathematical logic is of no use for children, except if you really, really, really suck at every STEM field and want an excuse for why you are not prepared to provide such an education.

From Cothran’s piece:

The question I want to ask and answer here is this: If logic is not math, then what is it? The answer is that logic is a language art. It is the study of right reasoning. I cannot stress this point strongly enough. For classical educators, this point is absolutely crucial because it will determine the very makeup of the curriculum.

In the old listing of the liberal arts, there were two basic classes of subjects: the three language arts (the trivium) and the four math arts (the quadrivium). Logic was always considered to be the second of the language subjects, after grammar and before rhetoric.

Grammar is the prerequisite for logic, since the ability to argue and reason rightly assumes the ability to communicate competently. And logic is the prerequisite for rhetoric, since logic is one of the three persuasive appeals: to the will (ethos—the appeal to the speaker’s character), to the imagination (pathos—the appeal to the audience’s emotions), and to the intellect (logos—the appeal to truth).

In fact, modern symbolic logic is the creation of modern philosophers (such as Bertrand Russell) and didn’t even exist until the turn of the twentieth century. Russell and Alfred North Whitehead wrote a book called Principia Mathematica that attempted to create a logical calculus that could be used to solve scientific problems. To this was added “truth tables,” a procedure that purported to be able to resolve any meaningful statement into a set of symbols and determine its truth value.

This was at a time when philosophers in the English world were experiencing science envy. They wanted their discipline to have the same objectivity and accuracy as the hard sciences. For these people Principia Mathematica became a sort of totem, and for many years it was required reading for English and American philosophy students. This was, of course, a daunting task, since most students were not mathematically sophisticated (or patient) enough to even understand the book, with its complex technical formulas and turgid explanations.

It helped give rise to the school of philosophy known as “logical positivism,” which claimed that the only meaningful statements were statements which could be scientifically verified, a belief that persisted into the late twentieth century. But the close connection between modern logic and philosophical positivism has turned into something of a curse given the steep fall of positivism since the late twentieth century.

Logical positivism was in one sense a victim of its own criterion. Its adherents believed that there were only two kinds of meaningful statements: logical statements that were true by definition (the ones we see in modern logic) and factual statements that could be empirically verified. Statements that were neither logical nor factual (like the statement “God exists,” which is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable) were dismissed as meaningless.

But the central criterion of logical positivism does not meet its own criterion. The statement “There were only two kinds of meaningful statements: logical statements and factual statements” is neither a logical nor a factual statement, and is therefore meaningless.

As these and other issues arose inside and outside the movement, confidence in the movement began to erode, and, along with it, the original basis for modern logic.

What a bunch of poppycock.

Symbolic logic is not dead. In fact, it is thriving. Anyone who has been well trained in symbolic logic can easily learn any programming language they want. It is the single best preparation there is for landing a gig in the technology industry and breaking into the top 1% of earners in this country. The operating system of your computer, the apps you use on your phone, all of it, are constructed using the principles of symbolic logic. Do you think these operations work because the system is an accurate way of describing what is true and consistent?

Symbolic logic has not been some strange form of entertainment in the modern world. It physically built the modern world. It is the functional expression of intelligence.

It’s also not factually accurate to suggest that mathematical logic was “invented” by Brits in the 20th century. Elaborate systems of logic emerged across the millennia in the Far East, Greece, and in the Islamic world. It was the latter that gave the world mathematical logic, although the Greeks did use predicate logic to some extent in their work. It’s kind of hard to argue that symbolic logic was foreign to them. The Greeks loved the idea of proof.

It hardly took until the 20th century for mathematical logic to reach Europe, either. Leibniz, Lambert, Boole, De Morgan, Peacock, Peirce, and Frege all predated Russell and Whitehead.

Studying logic involves a lot more than merely knowing what ad hominem means. Thinking logically is not equivalent to being persuasive. It is the structural ordering and manipulation of ideas. It involves being able to test and prove concepts.

I think it is fine to suggest that children should study traditional logic during their K-12 years and save symbolic logic for college if their parent is not willing or able to teach it. But that’s not ideal. Teaching symbolic logic and math together is ideal. Beyond that, symbolic logic will likely improve your child’s ordinary quantitative reasoning skills. It’s certainly an odd prejudice to suggest that symbolic logic should be ignored because we are past its alleged decline and fall.

The political left's revisionist history continues

Here is a video of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg telling a room full of children that “the people who wrote the Constitution did not know that slavery was a bad thing.”

No one can claim that Buttigieg is uneducated. He reminds everyone ad nauseam that he was a Rhodes scholar. But despite receiving the best education money can buy, he is a profoundly stupid individual who frequently says things that are objectively untrue for no other reason than they serve his woke, fundamentally emotional worldview.

Any serious student of history would know (and explain) that slavery was a passionate subject of debate even when the Constitution was being drafted. Colonial America was not a philosophically monolithic place. Not everyone involved in the cause of liberty was rich. Not everyone was white. Not everyone was a slaveholder. The Founding Fathers cared about consensus as a political goal, but that does not mean they had uniform beliefs and lifestyles. That fact is why we have the system of government that we have.

The man who drafted the final text of the US Constitution was Gouverneur Morris, who represented New York in the newly created US Senate and served as Minister to France under George Washington.

Morris was a staunch abolitionist and gave many fiery speeches about the evils of slavery, including at the Constitutional Convention:

According to James Madison, who took notes at the Convention, Morris spoke openly against slavery on 8 August 1787, saying that it was incongruous to say that a slave was both a man and property at the same time: He [Morris] never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed. Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich & noble cultivation marks the prosperity & happiness of the people, with the misery & poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Va. Maryd. & the other States having slaves. … Proceed southwardly, and every step you take, through the great regions of slaves, presents a desert increasing with the increasing proportion of these wretched beings.Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them citizens, and let them vote. Are they property? Why, then, is no other property included? The Houses in this city [Philadelphia] are worth more than all the wretched slaves which cover the rice swamps of South Carolina.

According to Madison, Morris felt that the U.S. Constitution’s purpose was to protect the rights of humanity and that to promote slavery was incongruous with it:The admission of slaves into the Representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and S. C. who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections & damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a Govt. instituted for protection of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pa. or N. Jersey who views with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice.

I honestly doubt that Buttigieg even knows who Morris is. If he had known anything about Morris, he would have known that the Constitution was literally written by a man who was so devoted in his opposition to slavery that he used his personal wealth to purchase slaves only to set them free.

But what Buttigieg is saying falls neatly in line with recent propaganda efforts on the left like the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which aims to rewrite American history in a way that makes the Founding Fathers seem ignorant, if not downright evil, all in the service of removing any notion of American Exceptionalism from the minds of future generations.

What is astounding about these events is that these people have been told repeatedly by authorities on the subject that the things they are saying are factually wrong. They don’t care. What they care about is how it makes people feel to hear a new story.

These are dangerous individuals. And I think it says a lot not only about politics now, but the state of US higher education and public schools. Buttigieg has received all the rewards that only the most aggressive ass-kissers in education receive, and so this is the kind of person that teachers and professors now regard as the best of what they can produce. A person who cannot tell you who drafted the US Constitution or what he believed.

What is it about the Founding Fathers that these folks find so threatening, such that they are willing to invest immense effort in smearing and slandering them?

I say this all the time, but it is up to parents to make sure their kids grow into well-informed adults. That they read quality, honest history books and consult primary sources. That they understand the mechanics of how our government operates and where to find reliable information.

Our institutions are bent on making sure they become useful idiots like Buttigieg.

American History for homeschoolers (elementary)

I am in the process of preparing for our daughter’s upcoming academic year. For us, that begins in April – a totally arbitrary date that corresponds to when we relocated to Florida. We are planning on switching to American history from world history this year.

We have covered world history in previous years using Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World series and activity books. I think these are excellent resources for world history for very young children when supplemented with top-notch children’s literature. While she does address American history in the series, it absolutely is not a quality substitute for studying American history (and your state history!) in depth.

I have had reservations about recommending SWB for other reasons every time I mention what we use to homeschooling friends. Frankly, she went so deep into social media mob identity politics on her pages that I couldn’t stand following her anymore. You don’t find much of that in SOTW – perhaps because identity politics is such a new fad, and she hadn’t discovered it yet – but I would hesitate to buy a revised copy of Well-Trained Mind (her homeschooling companion book) or any new version of SOTW, if they ever get around to issuing new editions. Just my two cents.

After reading about what a disinformation campaign the New York Times 1619 Project – which is being directed at K-12 education programs – has become, I am making an extra effort to research the backgrounds and potential agendas of any author I include in our homeschooling curriculum. Fortunately, most revisionist history children’s authors love to write about their political agendas on Twitter. (What a time to be alive.) It’s not that I only want to supply our daughter with resources I “agree” with – to me, contrarian perspectives are an opportunity to discuss why we believe what we believe. But I do want content that is accurate and based on primary sources.

A History of US (Oxford University Press)

Oxford University Press has published a children’s series for American history by Joy Hakim called A History of US that is excellent. It’s a relatively pricey set, as far as children’s books go, but it is quite exhaustive and written in language that children can easily process. I was surprised to learn that Oxford is getting into children’s books, but I’ll take it.

I think to use this as a bona fide history spine, you’d need to read small chunks and devote two academic years to it. Maybe do American history through Reconstruction one year and then work until present-day in the next year. Kind like a college course, but drawn out for children.

Folk Songs

One of my goals for the new year is to work more songs into our homeschooling routine (folks songs, hymns, and so on). I have been searching and searching for collections of American folks songs from the colonial period to the early 20th century with lyrics. You’d be amazed at how difficult that is. If you do searches for books and audio of folk songs, most of the time you are going to get hippies singing about smoking weed instead of When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

My mother sent us Wee Sing America, which has a lot of great songs and the lyrics so children can follow along. This is great for very young children. I’m luckily at the point where our daughter is young enough to enjoy a silly chorus of children but intellectually advanced enough to appreciate a serious consideration of historical events. The authors have some other collections of folk music and Bible songs, which we will probably buy too.

If anyone knows of some good, traditional folk music collections, please send them my way. Wee Sing doesn’t have some songs I wanted to include, like Oh Shenandoah, but I can probably find nice versions on YouTube.

One series of children’s books I have found that I love are the “If You Lived…” series. These books focus on the details of everyday life during certain periods and among certain groups of people:

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620

If You Lived in Colonial Times

If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days

If You Grew Up With George Washington

If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution

If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon

If You Were a Pioneer on the Prairie

If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America

If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad

If You Lived With the Iroquois

If You Lived With the Sioux

If You Lived With the Hopi

If You Lived With the Cherokee

If You Lived With the Indians of the Northeast Coast

If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln

If You Lived 100 Years Ago

If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights

If Your Name Was Changed on Ellis Island

If You Lived at the Time of MLK

If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake

Some books with projects for kids in them:

Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself

Colonial Kids and Activity Guide to Life in the New World

History Pockets – Explorers of North America

History Pockets – Colonial America

History Pockets – The American Revolution

History Pockets – Moving West

History Pockets – The Civil War

Great history picture books:

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution

Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography

Duel! Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words

Conestoga Wagons


A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840


Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin

Samuel Morse and the Telegraph

Wanted Dead or Alive: The True Story of Harriet Tubman

Walking the Road to Freedom: A Story about Sojourner Truth

A Man for All Seasons: The Life of George Washington Carver

More than Anything Else (About Booker T. Washington)

Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs Virginia

Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War

Coming to America: The Story of Immigration

Grandfather’s Story

The Keeping Quilt

The Story of the Erie Canal

The Story of the Titanic for Children: Astonishing Little-Known Facts and Details about the Most Famous Ship in the World

Children of the Great Depression

Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp

Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929: A Wall Street Journal Book for Children

World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities

World War II for Kids: A History with 21 Activities

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

Ken Burns Documentaries and Other Movies

I have also been thinking about using Ken Burns’ documentaries in our lessons, though I am going to have to re-watch some of them with a kid’s eye first (for mature content):

Lewis and Clark

The West

The Civil War

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio

Brooklyn Bridge

Statue of Liberty



The Dust Bowl

Johnny Tremain (Disney)

The King’s Highway

A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation

American Experience: The Pilgrims

American Experience: Murder of a President

Lincoln at Gettysburg

Lincoln and Lee at Antietam (the single bloodiest day in American history)

The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt

The Gilded Age

Westinghouse: The Life and Times of an American Icon

Florida History

For any Florida homeschoolers out there, the State of Florida has a ton of resources for kids:

Florida history

A list of books on Florida history to check out

Seminole history

The official page of the Seminole tribe

Florida governors

Quick facts about Florida

Florida state symbols

The Capitol

Reading lists and podcasts

As my family and friends know, I am a bibliophile in the extreme. Our house is so cluttered with books that it would give Martha Stewart or Marie Kondo a nervous breakdown. And I have more or less been that way since I was a young child.

I have started a project to check off the major books in the Western Canon in my possession and then purchase what I don’t have. (Thankfully, I have a lot of them, so this is not as expensive as it sounds.) I would like for our daughter to enter her teenage years with a solid home education in the humanities, as I share Harold Bloom’s concern that such a thing does not exist at universities anymore. Hopefully, that will change.

At any rate, I have been working from several lists that I thought I might share:

Harold Bloom’s list of books in the Western Canon

Mortimer Adler’s reading list (from How to Read a Book)

List of Penguin Classics

Oxford University Press World’s Classics

While I am at it, here are some podcasts on history, philosophy, and whatnot that you all might enjoy:

Hardcore History

The History of Rome

50 Things that Made the Modern Economy

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps