Randy Forbes, you get an “F” in history — I don’t care if you are a Congressman

January 6, 2008

Oy.

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, wants a resolution designating a week in May as “American Religious History Week.”

Alas, alack, and every other epithet you can think of, Forbes’ resolution, H. Res. 888, is loaded to the gills with historical error. Adding hypocrisy to error, Forbes plagiarized a raft of “citations” in a lengthy set of footnotes in an oleaginous “footnoted” version of the resolution. It’s clear that Forbes did not read the sources of the footnotes, and it appears that he didn’t bother to read the footnotes either. The footnotes claim religious language in the case of Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U. S. 127, 198 (1844), for example, but fail to note that the language mentioned was repudiated by the Supreme Court in their upholding of the will of atheist patriot Stephen Girard, turning back arguments that the U.S. is a Christian nation with Christianity in its common law. Forbes is a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a graduate of the University of Virginia’s law school. Hypothetically, he should know better.

The resolution is so wrong on history, it has the effect of repudiating the No Child Left Behind Act’s call for standards in education, in the worst possible way.

Chris Rodda, the author and indefatigable correcter of such historical error, has a long post at Daily Kos detailing the problems.

Baffled at the astounding lack of scholarship in the resolution, I want to know:

  1. Does Rep. Forbes’ mother know he turns in work like this?
  2. What is the view of any serious Virginia history association?
  3. Will any Virginia university history department endorse the resolution as accurate? Would such a paper not violate ethical standards for a student at Randolph-Macon College (Forbes’s alma mater)?
  4. What is the view of the American Historical Association?
  5. What does the Department of Education say about it? Nothing? How about the mavens at the National Assessment of Educational Progress? Is there any way this resolution could fail to damage the history attainment of the entire nation?
  6. Is Forbes bucking to get on Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment, in the playoffs?
  7. Why does Rep. Forbes hate America’s history teachers so?
  8. Wasn’t there any staffer with enough sense to stop Rep. Forbes from embarrassing himself with this stuff?
  9. Has the House historian signed off on the historical accuracy of the resolution’s “whereas” clauses?
  10. Has Rep. Forbes ever looked at the 23 bas relief portrayals of lawmakers around the House Chamber and wondered who they were, why they were there, and why his resolution insults most of them? (He cites the sculptures in one of the whereas clauses — one might wonder if he ever looks up.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.
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