- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

They’re called “revolutionaries,” but the Founding Fathers were actually conservative. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to ship 1 million Russian prisoners of war back to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who imprisoned or killed them. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” only made poverty worse.

Those are a few of the inconvenient facts professor Thomas E. Woods Jr. explains in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.” Written as a teaching supplement to counterbalance revisionist history texts, Mr. Woods’ book has turned into a surprise best seller, soaring to No. 2 on the Amazon.com list last week after he appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” program.

The following excerpts are from a recent telephone interview with Mr. Woods, who teaches history at Suffolk County Community College in New York:

Question:What prompted you to write this book?

Answer: I teach history at the college level and I’m always faced with the question of which textbook I’m going to use. Other conservative teachers across the country are faced with the same problem — which liberal-leaning book [or] least-bad book are we going to use? I decided I would write something that is not a standard line text but is something that can be a supplement to a textbook. It’s not bogged down to the traditional left-wing philosophy; it’s a fresh perspective on American history. My students, who will be reading it next semester, will be walking away with a more thorough understanding of history than their counterparts across the country.

Q: It appears to be popular with more than just history students and teachers. Why is this type of history attractive to Americans?

A: It occurred to me that there would be a lot of Americans who would be interested in this, who are worried that they didn’t get the whole story [of history]. … I think [the subject] just struck a chord with people. It really hit a nerve.

Q: During the writing of the book, did you uncover any politically incorrect history that you had not recognized before?

A: There isn’t a whole lot of it that when I went into it shocked me. The book could only be a certain length, so I didn’t really have to go out and seek a lot of things out — most of it was written off the top of my head. Because I teach this day in and day out, it is permanently engraved in my head. So [I was] able to just sit down and think about what types of lectures I give in my classrooms. I just translated that into book form.

Q: What historical facts in the book do you think will most surprise your readers?

A: I think a lot of people will be surprised by the claim that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not get us out of the Depression with New Deal programs.

I think they’ll be very surprised at the influence of the Supreme Court in moving forward the civil rights movement. They’ll be even more surprised at the fact that though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly forbids affirmative action, the court allowed it and ruled that it was not the letter of the law that mattered, it was the spirit.

Another thing that would be surprising to people was my claim that the Puritans did not steal the Indians’ land. Now, that might just sound like a semantic issue, but it’s not. In no way do I want to imply that the Indians did not suffer tremendous harm in history … but the point I want to make is that modern scholars more and more agree that the Puritans were not so unbalanced. The Puritans deserve a better reputation than they have previously had. …

Q: You do not talk at all about Watergate, say very little about Vietnam and leave former President George Bush’s presidency out altogether. How did you decide what subjects to tackle and which to ignore?

A: If it had been up to me, I would’ve mentioned everything, but then the book would’ve been the size of a phone book. … People don’t buy phone books. Sometimes I had to cut things I had already written to keep the book at a reasonable length. Usually the factor that informed my decision was how likely was it that people already knew [about things]. [For example,] one radio interviewer asked why Watergate wasn’t included. Well, I think a lot of people already know about Watergate, but I didn’t think a lot of people know about Lyndon Johnson stealing his first Senate race.

Q: Why do you think your book is important as a challenge to politically correct history?

A: [The] politically correct movement is a problem from the elementary school level to the college level. It’s all over the textbooks; it’s the desire to be multicultural, which is up to a point OK, as long as you are telling the truth when you do it and as long as you don’t make things up to make groups feel good about themselves.

But more than that there are a lot of unstated assumptions that go into a liberal view of history. … That is one of the things about this book. … It challenges all the reigning paradigms about American history and it opens questions that are supposed to be closed.

I don’t know that there are any questions that are supposed to be closed. History is a question that we are supposed to re-evaluate constantly and I am trying to do that [in this book] in a sweeping and dramatic way.

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