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Four Fallacies, Four Lessons

Posted on Monday, January 29, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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13 Comments
Learn About Our Nations History Concept

Lessons: Learn, give credit, take responsibility, go forward. Simple as that. These lessons, if remembered, are empowering. They are the foundation for happiness, realism, and optimism. They follow common fallacies, which should be tossed.

Fallacy one: History does not matter. Everything around us pushes us to undervalue the past and succumb to modern fads, fictions, immediacy, and currency.

So common is this fallacy that old ideas are often dead-on-arrival, dismissed for being old, not sufficiently radical or transformative, and unworthy because there is no change.

Ironically, to quote an old Joni Mitchell song, only after we have “paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” do we sometimes realize what we have lost.

History is a treasure, some a caution, some to be held dear. All we have today – our liberties, peace, medicine, communications, transportation, understandings of equality, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy – comes from history.

We know our present wants and needs, but the world at large is a product of centuries of trial and error, risk, sacrifice, fights, victories, and advancement.

To ignore the billions of lives who preceded us, whose suffering made possible our air-conditioned, gas-powered, temperature-controlled, well-fed, nimbly medicated, convenient, relatively easy lives and sound laws is to misunderstand life.

To miss history’s cumulative nature and impact, our good fortune to be born now, is either willful ignorance or a mix of laziness, arrogance, and sheer stupidity.

Yet here we find ourselves, confronted by politicians and educators who want to throw it over, sure they have figured everything out, and disparaging traditions.

They imagine all who came before were just dumber, less enlightened, or wrong, all that accumulation, sifting, recording, and memorializing just a lot of blather.

So widespread is this particular fallacy, this profoundly false teaching, disrespect for wisdom, that American students are in retrograde, ignorant of how we got here.

American history scores for 8th graders have plunged from 2014 forward and continue falling, as if they are actively being taught to discount history. Soon, of course, scores will be tallied to accommodate or obscure their ignorance.

Leftist educators suggest “nothing to see here,” just an effect of the pandemic. Untrue. The slide accelerated in 2014, steeper and deeper than in three decades.

The pandemic was two years of oppressive, damaging government shutdowns, yes – ironically ignoring historical data on what happens if you do that kind of thing.

Recent studies show students dismissive of tradition, a fatal error. As Henry James noted, “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.”

Or, as George Santayana famously noted 100 years ago, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That includes never learning it.

So, lesson one is to learn history, do not be afraid of it, do not destroy it, do not rewrite it – and do not let others rewrite it for you. Learn it, then think about it.

Fallacy two: Got here myself. If hard work and good fortune count, you did not get here by yourself, wherever “here” is. So, be quick to give credit to others.

Not one great or good got to where they are without help, goodwill, and often unacknowledged generosity of others, not one. Not George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, great inventors, scientists, or educators, not one.

That means two things, two lessons: Own your debt to others, embrace it, work to repay it, in a phrase, pay it forward. And give credit – to those who helped you.

Fallacy three: Not my fault. Or whatever goes wrong is on someone else. Wrong, that is an excuse. Excuses never cut it, never. You are responsible for you.

Even now, you can strive for your destiny, pray for it, think, fight, love, and be willing to die for it. Your destiny, wherever you end up, is not on anyone else. This day, you change it, but the fact is no one owes you anything. Take responsibility.

Fallacy four: I am stuck. You are not stuck. We are only stuck if we decide to be stuck, regardless of physical, mental, or emotional constraints; we control our attitude. We have a real choice, and the right one is to look forward.

Colin Powell often said, “all decisions are made on incomplete information,” all of them, but we must still make them, and must still go forward.

Remember Einstein’s wild hair on his wobbly bicycle? His simple quote: “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.”

So, here is the source of modern discontent: People believe in fallacies, ignore history, fail to give credit, take no responsibility for errors, and let ambivalence win.

Want happy? Do the opposite. Learn, give credit, take responsibility, and go forward. Simple as that.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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SusanW
SusanW
2 months ago

Thank you, Robert, for highlighting an issue that is very dear to my heart – the importance of studying history. As a semi-retired educator, one of my favorite author’s is George Orwell. He pretty much summed up why history should be taught in every grade, school, and state in his novel 1984. – “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” By weakening our knowledge of the past and really our education overall, makes us easier to control. Every citizen of the United States of America should read Orwell’s novel, Many lessons to be learned. Learning history helps us analyze and explain problems in the past, to better see patterns that might be invisible in the present, which would help us to have a better perspective for understanding and solving current and future problems. It also builds empathy by being taught the importance of diversity through different cultures. I could go on forever, but won’t. Basically, Robert, you summed it up in your article when you said, “These lessons…are the foundation for happiness, realism, and optimism.” Well said! And, many thanks again for being a beacon of hope.

Myrna
Myrna
2 months ago

It is way too late for Biden to learn any life principles

Max
Max
2 months ago

Well, RBC, history is always repeating itself and the mistakes that were made are NEVER corrected so the mistakes are REPEATED OVER AND OVER, ETC.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
2 months ago

This article is of great importance , has much wisdom in it. Things that are fundamental to living right – similar to the four fundamentals needed for good management , of a business, a government , a family . Planning , organizing, coordinating and scheduling — all connected by intelligent, clear communication . That is what makes for good management and good decision making. Respect for truth and the value of history. Like a hand and glove situation. And acknowledging how other people were needed to accomplish whatever it was that was accomplished — just much common sense with that.Being responsible – absolutely, something that provides much incentive to do things right.And what Colin Powell said about going forward ,even with the decision making ingredients being incomplete, that is also inspiring – and very true. I am reminded too of the parable of Christ about the lamp and how the light symbolizes doing what is morally right and how we should be a good example to others. Just a thought about that parable – it may have been something very humorous at that time – when Christ said that a lit lamp should be put on a stand for all to see – not put under a basket – that may have had those listening laughing quite bit ! And the lesson of the miracle on the Sea of Galilee – the lesson of the value of having faith, and how courage develops from the faith . You wrote a very important article Robert Well Done !

Jackie
Jackie
2 months ago

I wish there was more studying of history in schools!!! There is so much to learn and so many mistakes to not make again!! But this cancel culture that just wants to get rid of any reminders of the horrors that happened in the past and that makes you available to make the same miserable, horrible mistakes again – since you don’t want to learn from them!!! You take your anger out on removing statues, names from streets and buildings instead of changing your own behaviors and attitudes so nothing is going to change!!

Patriot Bill
Patriot Bill
2 months ago

Preaching to the choir

spitfire?1940
spitfire?1940
2 months ago

RBC,GENERAL Powell was a great man.My only criticism of him was his endorsement of BH.Obama for President.I have to believe he came to regret that decision.

Patrice Flaherty
Patrice Flaherty
2 months ago

My daddy had four rules.
1.Love God
2.Do Right
3.Work hard
4.Serve your community
Worked for me

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