Please allow me just one more set of background observations before I say what I think ought to be done in Ukraine.
When we teach math to kids, we are not training future mathematicians, although some will wind up there. We are training future grocers, carpenters, housewives, etc. We want what they learn about math to be consistent with what the future mathematicians will eventually learn, but it need not be anything like so complicated.
When we teach history to kids, we are not training up future historians. We are educating Christian kids to be faithful citizens in the country where God has placed them. God wants them here, and God wants them to honor their father and mother. As a third grader honors his fathers and mothers, there is no way to keep this from being “simplified” and coming across to academic historians as yet another instance of “monocausality.”
Fine, but monocausality shows up in biblical histories. Why did Herod get eaten by worms?
And at the same time, there are standard monocausal explanations that are simply anachronistic or wrong. A prime example of that is the standard view that the Civil War was “over slavery.” I would prefer to say that the Civil War was in the first instance, a tax revolt, in the second a battle over states rights, in the third a struggle over the expansion of slavery into new territories, in the fourth a cultural struggle between two different kinds of civilization which would have happened had there never been a Union, in the fifth, the Whig/Republican desire for centralization, in the sixth, Mark Twain’s assessment that Sir Walter Scott was to blame for instilling in Southerners an uber-sensitivity over chivalry and honor, and seventh, a judgment from God over the South’s participation in the land grab from Mexico, and their gross treatment of the Indian nations that were largely centered in the South — the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, etc. There were other factors as well, that we might as well leave unmentioned for now, such as Virginia’s noble desire to prevent the rise of Al Sharpton.But in junior high and high school, to teach all sides of every conflict, from any imaginable point of view, is not academic “objectivity.” It is indistinguishable from postmodern relativism. We are to shape their loyalties first, and fill in the fullness of the story later. That filling in of detail must be honest, but the pretense of disinterested objectivity is nothing other than another laugh riot from the groves of academe.
This is hard to do with kids, but it can be done. For example, I have seen our kids at Logos taught that the shabby treatment that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce received was in fact shabby, but this was done without that lesson being turned into a morass of multicultural micro-sensitivities that would earn our alums a place on the Lord High Executioner’s “little list.”
“Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own.”
Now, bring all this down to the Cold War, and to the current state of affairs in Ukraine. You are the superintendent of a Christian school, and things are currently bad in eastern Europe. You are reviewing the curriculum for your history of the twentieth century. Do you teach the kids to be suspicious of Russia, or not? I do. Do you sympathize with any small nation along Russia’s Western border? I sure do.
Some might say that I think this way because I am a child of the Cold War. We had fire drills at school when I was a kid, but we also had nuclear war drills. Not much you can do in such drills except go down in the school basement, sit crouched along the wall, and say your farewells to the planet. It has been such a great seven years! And if you count the submarine I was stationed on as my house, like Tina Fey, I have seen Russia from my house. So I am in fact a child of the Cold War. But to dismiss an argument simply because you think you have discovered why your opponent came to advance it is simply what Lewis called Bulverism.
We are required to honor our father and mother, which includes our civic leaders as the Larger Catechism teaches, and we are required to do so honestly. This necessarily includes our history. We are to observe the fifth commandment, but without violating the ninth. In the fifties, the ninth commandment was often sacrificed on the altar of the fifth, and that was admittedly not good. But you are fixing nothing if you do what I see being done with facile glibness by the current generation, which is to sacrifice the fifth commandment on the altar of the ninth. We are supposed to obey them all, and we are supposed to teach our children to obey them all.
Do you do all this in such a way as to instill a jingoistic approach, one that is incapable of recognizing those instances when the United States has played it false, or made a hash of it, or weighed in on the wrong side? Of course not.