Aug. 17, 2011
During a recent family move, my wife and I had the pleasure of helping our son-in-law and daughter pack out in their new digs. While my wife and daughter rushed to put away all towels and sheets and our handy son-in-law put the lawn mower back together, I got the plumb assignment: I was to read and occupy our two-year old grandson.
As soon as the movers dropped the couch in the living room, I opened the special book Id brought for this occasion. MOON LANDING is the story of Americas victory in the race to the Moon in 1969. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote the text, but its specially made for boys. Its a pop-up book. Everything from the Redstone rocket that began Americas mission to space to the Lunar Landerthe famed Eagle that first touched the surface of the Moon on July 19, 1969was shown in three dimensions. Its a wonderful book, the kind of book I wish Id had when I was a boy--a boy of eight.
My wife and daughter were tolerant of my enthusiasm. Eight and Above was clearly written below the title of the book. Wasnt I stretching it a bit? Our grandson sat quietly on the couch as I read him the book, but did not respond.
I had personal reasons for sharing the Moon with him. Years ago, I was assigned by Gary Bauer, then the president of Family Research Council, to analyze the National History Standards. That was a 214-page volume of everything American high school students need to know about their countrys history. Some three hundred history professors and high school teachers had labored for several years to compile the NHS.
When it was released, however, a storm of protest arose. Lynn Cheney, the wife of Dick Cheney, and the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, protested.
She was sorry she had launched the project, she wrote. She was appalled at the dark and negative picture the NHS experts had portrayed. Columnist George Will skewered the 214-page tome as anti-American history standards.
Gary Bauer cares a lot aboutU.S.history and education. He wanted FRC to weigh in.
Find out whats good, whats bad, and whats missing,Garyinstructed me. He didnt add that it had better be quick.
With the able assistance of two bright young interns, Jennifer Marshall and Scott Sonju, and a Lexington, Mass., school teacher, Eric Unsworth, we pored over the National History Standards. Whats good. Whats bad. Not so hard to determine. But whats missing? Not so easy.
Suddenly, at 2 am, I awoke with a start. What about the Moon Landing? What did these 300 history experts say about the U.S. Landing on the Moon? I raced into the office next morning and seized the volume. I couldnt find it.
The NHS listed Soviet gains in space in the 1960s. Well, OK. But only until 1965. It listed the Challenger disaster of 1986, but failed to note President Reagans moving address to the nation that very night:
We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.
The 300 experts who compiled the list of what every American should know completely omitted any reference to the U.S. Landing on the Moon. They might as well have joined that little cult that thinks the whole thing was faked on a back lot in Hollywood.
This was a stunning omission. Gary Bauer laughed. So did the rest ofFRCs small staff. We raced into print with a full-page ad ribbing the mostly liberal crew of historians:
They Promised Us the MoonBut they missed it.
Those historians are the kind of folks who today dismiss Thomas Jefferson simply as a slaveholder and regale students with stories of George Washingtons false teeth.
The U.S. Landing on the Moon was an epochal event. It was the fruition of young John F. Kennedys bold gamble. In the last speech of his life, he said Americahas thrown its cap over the wall of space as he bade us go after it. The night that Astronaut Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind someone put flowers on President Kennedys grave atArlingtonwith this note: The Eagle has landed.
All this drama they had left out. Why? The picture those experts painted of America was so grim, such a record of injustice and oppression, youd think wed have to put up a fence along the Rio Grande--to keep suffering Americans in.
I didnt expect to unload all of this on my grandson. Last week, however, his parents took him for a ride around their new neighborhood on his tricycle. A full moon came out.
He pointed at it and said: Mans walk on the Moon. Hes working on his plurals.
We need to re-kindle that excitement and awe. We need to give the rising generation a sense of infinite possibilities. Our reach should exceed our grasp, else whats a Heaven for?