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Hijacking of American Education: Part 1 - War of the Poets

By Ruth Nourse
Published March 1, 1989

Writers of history select and document occurrences which they see as significant. Most of us who studied history or literature in the public school never stopped to ask, “Is this the whole story? … Are these really the people, the decisions, and events that have had the greatest influence on Americans?” We simply studied history and literature as it was taught.

In this column, the reader will notice the names of many literary critics, philosophers, and writers who consciously determined the direction of American education, as well as American values, generations before we were born. Some of those most influential in setting this course were not Americans at all, but Europeans who had nothing in common with our founding fathers. Unfortunately, ordinary Americans know little, and are probably concerned less, about the kind of people that have altered our course.

Twenty five years ago I awoke with a start to the significance of what literary critics were saying – and a whole new world opened up before me as I saw how our nation has been shaped by writers and educators. These people have been tampering with our future, but they are not strangers; their names are well known to us from literature, history, and political science courses. And part of the story has been omitted from our textbooks.

Most of us assume that the good purpose of our founding fathers, the U.S. Constitution, and the promises of elected officials will guarantee our continued freedom. Because we respect differing religious and political views, we suppose that our own views will be respected in the same way. Governed by this view, our founders allowed a small segment of their countrymen a century ago to change the direction of education and thereby the course of American tradition and history. Dazzled by teachers and books which offered a “superior view” of man and the world, 19th century activists imported ideas from abroad and used public money and public schools to spread them among us.

Regarded at first by their contemporaries as radical and eccentric, these promoters of a new age held to their unorthodox ideas with determination until they finally worked their way into positions of influence and power. Their purpose was nothing less than revolution. Their method was a form of warfare I have called “the war of the poets.”

The right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has been enjoyed in our times with little reference to what principles or conditions may underlie all “rights.” The upheavals of the 1960s seem to have awakened a new national concern. Some of us have undertaken to examine personal and national roots, and have found the study of history profitable for the light it casts on today’s trends and events. Why did America remain for nearly 400 years a land of promise to pilgrims and hardy immigrants? And why now are we producing hordes of our own homeless, hungry, despairing or violent people? We can gain the answers to these questions by consulting history.

The “Longfellow War”

Before my quest for historical answers began, I made most of the usual assumptions about history and entertained the usual prejudices. “Who needs to bother with the dates of wars, elections, panics and depressions?” I thought. Then, suddenly, I grasped an important thread in this tapestry, and it began to unravel. That thread of history was found in a biography of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet. It was my first introduction into an episode in history called “The Longfellow War.”

I had read several biographies of Longfellow and knew something of his poetry. Granted, his view of life was through a window of optimism and faith. He shared with his readers many reasons for hope. Longfellow was once loved as no other American poet. He was an all-around great man – husband, father, teacher, neighbor. Schoolchildren across the nation celebrated his birthday.

James Russell Lowell, U.S. ambassador to England, said this at the unveiling of Longfellow’s bust in the Poets’ Corner at Westminister Abbey: “Never was a private character more answerable to public performance than that of Longfellow. Never have I known a more beautiful character.” But in spite of world renown during his lifetime, Longfellow is by no means considered a loved friend in our generation. Is it because he lived so long ago that he is no longer honored?

Biographies and works of Edgar Allan Poe are still in great demand by students assigned to American literature. Walt Whitman, who was Longfellow’s younger contemporary, is not neglected. But why is Longfellow now all but forgotten in the public school? I asked myself, “If Longfellow is no longer great, who has taken his place and what is American literature now?” Since the research for this book began in 1961, I have spent many hours looking at American authors of the 19th and early 20th century. This led to excursions into history as well, and to the headwaters of political and social movements with which we are all familiar. There has indeed been a revolution – a “bloodless coup” affecting all of American education.

What I discovered, particularly from reading Herbert Gorman’s biography of Longfellow – A Victorian American – is that a certain band of intellectual elite deliberately came against Longfellow’s Christian worldview. “It is possible,” said Gorman, “that the world sees in [Longfellow] a personification of those gentle virtues of living that are so agreeable to contemplate and so dull to put in practice.” Margaret Fuller, another outspoken literary critic, called Longfellow a “clever magpie” who should not be allowed to teach others to write.

From our earliest beginnings, the Christian faith has been woven into the warp and woof of national life, and, to a great extent, is needed to explain America. How has it come about, in a nation boasting individual freedom, that the faith of our fathers still burning brightly in the hearts of many of her citizens, young and old, must now be excluded from the mainstream of knowledge?

Next month, we will examine in detail just how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christian ideas were carefully and deliberately edited from our textbooks and concealed from our children.


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Your comments are welcome!

This is such a good article. I plan to use it in my class, the Foundations of U.S. education. My assignment is to connect a philosopher and contributions to contemporary American education. I don’t know what my teacher is going to say but I picked Jesus.

Posted by Melissa A. Gills on 03/11/2010 10:49 AM #

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House. More recently, it was by catching just a glimpse of what this film reveals that Planned Parenthood director and abortion advocate Abby Johnson turned and became a strong advocate for the pre-born.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

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Amazing GraceAmazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism (DVD)

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Just what is Calvinism?

Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?

This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.

Running Time: 257 minutes

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

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God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

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God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

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Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

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The Beast of Revelation IdentifiedThe Beast of Revelation: Identified (DVD)

Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?

Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!

Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.

Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)

Running Time: 145 minutes

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