blank.gif (51 bytes) Second Thoughts
Unmasking Today's Many
False Assumptions

by Ralph Heller, NPRI Senior Research Fellow

t was in the year 1650 that the Archbishop of Ussher in Dublin solemnly proclaimed that God had made heaven and earth on Saturday, October 22, 4004 b.c. One rarely encounters the charm of such medieval scholasticism in our presumably more rational Age of Reason—except among IRS auditors, of course, and among those who are blinded by irrational, exclusively ideological political agendas.

For the politically astute but irresponsible no assumption is too improbable to digest, which is why even newspaper editors swallow all sorts of statistics with their morning coffee, utterly unexamined. Just last month the Reno Gazette-Journal celebrated the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, which the editors solemnly proclaimed killed "about 140,000 people in the first use of a nuclear weapon." But a check of August newspapers over the last 50 years reveals casualty figures of 40,000, 60,000, 75,000 and "over 100,000."

And next year? We can only hope that the number of people who died at Hiroshima won’t exceed the total population of Japan at the time. Also from the dust and ashes of World War II we have the image of Germany as history’s quintessentially anti-Semitic state, which turns out to be a true characterization of Germany only in the lifetimes of many of us.

Prior to the rise to power of Hitler and his Nazis, Germany had been the most hospitable country for Jews in all of Europe. While constituting only 1 percent of the German population, Jews represented 10 percent of the country’s doctors and dentists, 17 percent of its lawyers and were recipients of no fewer than 27 percent of all Nobel Prizes awarded to Germans.

In our own country those of us who are professing Christians—which includes me—tend to find comfort in the fact that the founding documents of several of the original 13 colonies include specific mention of propagation of the Gospel. After all, wasn’t Boston founded by Puritans and Philadelphia settled by Quakers? And Baltimore was founded by Catholics, who named their city after Lord Baltimore, the only Catholic in the British Parliament at the time.

Forgotten as often as not is the disquieting fact that a disproportionate number of early American settlers were primarily adventurers, including more than a few scoundrels. At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, only 7 percent of the people in the original 13 colonies belonged to a church.

While historical misconceptions owe their existence to ideological posturing and faulty memories, the long list of false assumptions about life in the United States today owes its existence to political agendas, both ideological and self-serving. For example, we’re told again and again—mostly by teachers’ unions and politicians who represent teachers’ unions—that what African-American and Latino children need most is more generous funding for public education.

But in a recent issue of Vanity Fair, editors put this question to Fran Leibowitz, one of the nation’s clearest thinkers and philosophers: Isn’t public education the real solution to the problems of minority children?

"Absolutely," replied Ms. Leibowitz with a smile—"look how well it’s working for white children!" She went on to say, "It is generally agreed that the great scandal in this country is the state of public education."

Sadly, the failure of American public education to excite inquiring minds and stimulate intellectual curiosity is showing up in every aspect of American life. Just two months ago, for example, it was reported that among musicians playing in the big, famous orchestras heard at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center today, American-born players are outnumbered by about 5-to-1 by musicians from Japan, Germany and Russia.

Closer to home, Nevadans find themselves bombarded almost daily by false claims ranging from the myth that Nevada is a low-tax state to the claim that out-of-state visitors pick up the largest part of our tax tab. All of this is false, as this magazine and its authors and editors have demonstrated countless times.

Meanwhile, for those who are more comfortable with ideological myths and false assumptions than with truth, the press has recently discovered a town they may want to visit when vacationing next year. It seems that in Soest, Germany there is a 15th century cathedral with a stained glass window depicting the Last Supper. And clearly pictured on the table for the delectation of the disciples is pumpernickel, Westphalian ham and beer.

So try to remember these things: The Hiroshima death toll increases by 10 to 20 percent a year, all the residents in colonial America went to church daily, U.S. education is the best on earth, Nevada is a low-tax state, and the disciples were served pumpernickel and Westphalian ham at the Last Supper. u

Ralph Heller is senior consulting editor of Nevada Journal.


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