What Have We Learned?
The life of a nation ten years later.


Many children born in 2001 start fourth grade this week. They are part of a post-9/11 generation in America’s schools, growing up in a country powerfully reshaped by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, yet aware of those events only second hand. How will they learn what they need to about causes and consequences of that day’s attacks on the United States as well as the actual events? It falls largely on our schools to teach them — and there’s plenty of unfortunate evidence that our schools aren’t living up to this solemn obligation. Curricula being disseminated across the land betray a startling willingness to use 9/11 as a segue to advocate tolerance, multiculturalism, or just plain irrelevancy, while teaching little or no actual history.

A new 9/11 curriculum offered on the website of the New Jersey Department of Education, for example, wants elementary students to learn the “power of words” and the “beauty of colors.” (The federal Education Department’s offering is at least as problematic.) They listen to Mariah Carey and Enrique Iglesias songs about heroism. The actual events of that day are referred to only as subtext.

Yet teaching kids that all cultures can get along with a little love and understanding is reckless and ahistorical. Indeed, the main lesson of 9/11 is that, in reality, all perspectives don’t coexist in peace and harmony. Students need to know the history of 9/11, as well as what came before and after, in order to appreciate that there are fundamental differences between America and its enemies — differences that demand strength, courage, and patriotism to overcome. With each passing year, the costs of teaching this wrong get higher.

— Chester E. Finn Jr. is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where Tyson Eberhardt is a research fellow.

For several years after 9/11, the outcome of the war against totalitarian Islam seemed certain, at least to me. Muslims worldwide would be dragged kicking and screaming through something like an Age of Reason — at which point Enlightenment values of rational inquiry and religious tolerance would supplant Islamic values of pious submission and spiritual purity. Islam would still exist, even thrive, but in a reformed, de-fanged condition. How could the war go wrong when the West held the trump card of absolute military supremacy?

That outcome still seems likely, but no longer a slam dunk. The twin idiocies of socialism and relativism are hollowing out Europe, leaving it defenseless against a Muslim demographic onslaught. (England and France should scrap their nukes now before the inevitable insurrections.) America, meanwhile, is beset by a crypto-Marxist (though many don’t realize it) pseudo-intelligentsia which has never forgiven it for fighting and winning the Cold War, and which now controls much of the media and most universities. Our children marinate in a worldview in which Muslims killing non-Muslims is America’s fault, and Muslims killing Muslims is America’s fault; in which defending ourselves is imperialist aggression and ending tyrannies is hegemonic exploitation.

The West remains salvageable. The war remains winnable. But the certainty is gone.

— Mark Goldblatt’s latest novel is Sloth, published by Greenpoint Press.