How the teaching of American History was changed - and why - Norman Dodd

2 minute read

Did you ever wonder how it came to be that so many Americans know so very little about their own history?

Half a century ago certain members of congress became concerned about tax-exempt foundations. In 1954 they launched a Congressional investigation. Norman Dodd was the staff director.

Late in his life Dodd reflected back on some of the things the committee discovered. Particularly interesting was the revelation of a concerted plan by leaders of the Ford, Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations to change the way history was taught in order to ensure that future Americans would never return to the types of attitudes that prevailed prior to World War I. The audio above was recorded in 1982 (transcript below).

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Norman Dodd:

At that time their (Ford Foundation) interest shifts to prevent a reversion of life in the United States to what it was prior to 1914 when WWI broke out. And they arrived at the conclusion that, to prevent a reversion, we must control education in the United States. They realized then that’s a pretty big task. It was too big for them alone. So they approached the Rockefeller Foundation with the suggestion that, that portion of education which could be considered domestic be handled by the Rockefeller Foundation, and that portion which is international should be handled by the (Ford Foundation) endowment. **They then decided that the key to the success of these two operations lay in the alteration of the teaching of American history**. So they approached four of the then most prominent teachers of American History in the country, people like Charles and Mary Beard[^883b7c24]. And their suggestion to them is, would they alter the manner in which they present this subject? And they get turned down flat. **So they then decide that it’s necessary for them to build, “our own stable of historians”.** And then they approach the Guggenheim Foundation, which specializes in fellowships, and say, “When we find young men in the process of studying for doctorates in the field of American History, and we feel they are of the right calibre, will you grant them fellowships on our say so?” And the answer is yes. So under that condition, eventually they assemble 20. They take these 20 potential teachers of American History to London and there they’re briefed on what’s expected of them when, as, and if they secure appointments in keeping with the doctorates they will then have earned. And that group of 20 historians eventually becomes the nucleus of the American Historical Association.

George Orwell

George Orwell

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. -George Orwell, 1984

For further reference:

  1. Chris Pinto, Noise of Thunder Radio program 2011/05/30
  2. Rene Wormser. Foundations: Their power and influence.
Originally published at: Comfort for Christians



After retiring from the service I kicked around a little bit then went to college, In the 25 years I had been out of the academic world I found what had happened to history and civics utterly shocking. Prereqs for a degree required one course in history and nothing for civics (its no longer even given). What history classes I could take were nearly pathetic, one teacher proudly professed the falsehoods that the only sane person on the allied side in WWII was Neville Chamberlain and that Byzantium had little to nothing to do with western culture. History had sank to a morass of personal opinion, false statements, and misinformation designed to solidify the professors personal liberal bias When a history professor began whining about Joe McCarthy and his House Unamerican Activities committee I stood and loudly demanded to know how a US Senator was put in charge of a committee in the House of Representatives. This is a lie that he had been teaching for years and not a single student had ever called him on this. Then again this confessed draft dodger had never had a proud 20 year military veteran who demanded good value for his hard earned tuition dollars sitting in his class room. I started taking education classes to see if I could make a change but there was no way I could. A voice of reason was drown out by a sea of empathy for race, sexual orientation, and a perceived need to let young teenage girls go to school dressed like hookers.

WideAwakeChristian, What a story you relate. The “education establishment” is one of the filters by which quality teachers are eliminated before they could do any good. I used to call these types of posts, School makes stupid. A better name might be Learned ignorance. Thank you for not letting your values be destroyed by your experience, and for telling it here. Alec

Well, well, well! So thats what happened to our Public Schools! My husband and I love to study history, my specialty being medieval Tudor times. I am astounded at how much had been left out of my education compared to his. Hubby was born in 1948, Im 8 years younger. His education is far superior. When I speak to teenagers now, they are so ignorant its astounding! Most of them use the word “like” so much I can barely understand the conversation. Plus, they dress like street urchins or prostitutes. Sad really. Im going to share this with a conservative teacher friend. Im sure shell be able to incorporate this into her lessons somehow. Thanks Alec.

Hi Sparky, Yes, with our perspective we can see the steady deterioration of knowledge and education step by step decade by decade. Isnt it astounding? Teachers have gotten angry at me for stating the obvious: At the turn of the 20th century, many Americans had only a grade school education and learned to read with McGuffeys readers and phonics. Yet they easily understood Henry James and Shakespeare. They could also do all kinds of arithmetic in their heads. And they could teach themselves all kinds of things. And we need new methods and lots of tests and homework because???? Thanks for passing the information on.
Alec McGuffeys readers

After being a full-time teacher for 12 weeks, I can safely say that education is not the goal. We really have no plans of teaching them anything, other than to jump through the hoops so they can pass the tests. But at the end of the day… they know very little. This is all forgiven if we get them to have some deep thought, or a conversation about the topic. That is success.