It Rings a Familiar Bell

The ideologically motivated battles over science and history that we’ve witnessed over the last few years at the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) can be exemplified by a 10-second sound bite by a certain former governor of Alaska and the resulting revisionist attacks on the Wikipedia page for this man: Paul Revere.

If ever you’re hanging out with friends from out of state and they ask you about the culture wars in Texas, point them to the Sarah Palin-Paul Revere dust up of a few days ago. Though it didn’t happen in Texas or involved anyone associated with the SBOE, it’s a perfect example of how far-right revisionists on the board have operated, how they abhor facts and how they’re willing to flippantly manipulate history for political ends.

It was earlier this month when Palin and family were rolling through parts of New England on her much-publicized bus tour of historical sites when — during a stop in Boston — someone threw this softball of a question at the tea party and media darling:

What have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?

In true Palin fashion, what was an easy enough question to answer quickly turned into a viral video.


Everyone at one point or another in his or her lifetime has flubbed a historical fact or two. But what’s so unnerving is what happened next, when what appeared to be Palin supporters tried to unblunder her blunder by editing Revere’s Wikipedia page to fit Palin’s version of history.

Wrote one would-be Wikipedia editor:

“I think the addition represents this fairly — the mainstream position is that Revere’s warnings were verbal, but there are differing accounts that the warnings were done with bells — with two sources: WDHD television plus a live interview, with a highly influential US politician relating these facts.”

Differing accounts? What differing accounts? Facts? What facts? Palin getting it wrong is not a differing account, nor was she relating facts.

Excuse the pun, but this incident rings a few bells. It sounds a lot like “TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!” and the “strengths and weaknesses,” doesn’t it? You know, the move by the far right to take down already settled evolutionary science. It also sounds a lot like the far right using Texas social studies curriculum standards to revise history for political purposes.

Really, people, have we gotten to the point where it would be so terrible to admit you made a simple mistake and move on instead of trying to hit the reset button on history?

8 thoughts on “It Rings a Familiar Bell

  1. I don’t think that strengths and weaknesses clause had as much influence as creationists wanted. When I read that TEKS I didn’t know it was supposed to have some special meaning. I took it literally Read this Hypothesis and given what you know about “Concept”, is the hypothesis logical. Think about the hypothesis is it testable? It was part of my bellwork questions the students would have to tell me if the posted hypothesis was logical and testable – with good arguments and evidence. So their attempt to push creationism into my classroom, actually led to more critical thinking and questioning by my students. Hopefully that helped them question anyone later on that tried to push creationism on them.

  2. TFN said:

    “Really, people, have we gotten to the point where it would be so terrible to admit you made a simple mistake and move on instead of trying to hit the reset button on history?”

    It would if they did not have a “special candidate” who is not running for President but really is running for President. Let’s face it folks, and I am not trying to be mean or unkind here. Sarah Palin is a nice person. She is probably a good mom. She and I could probably have a great time on a shopping trip to the mall, a movie date, or a basketball game. But let’s face it folks, this woman is appallingly ignorant and from all that I have been able to tell—not very bright.

    Where has she been for the past three years? If I were in her shoes and wanted to be President, I would have spent nearly every minute since the last election preparing for it. If I were weak in history and recognized that, I would have been hitting the history books hard and taking a few classes on the side. If I were weak on foreign affairs, I would have been brushing up there too. Best I can tell, Palin sees no relationship between knowledge, experience, and doing a job well.

    If being President only requires looking good, going to church, being affable, and throwing out a few salty quips to some hungry conservative alligators, my 9-year-old son would make a great President.

  3. Charles, it’s sad people like you didnt actually READ the history books , and Know whats in them, instead follow like sheep those wishing to enslave you with mounting Debt, Regulation and revising History so you dont know whats happening to you, or how to stop it,

    Fact #1, there were British Soldier’s in America at that time
    Fact #2, They stopped Paul Revere and he warned them they would NOT take their Guns, nor would they Stop the Revolution about to take place


    Paul Revere’s Ride

    The primary goal of the Brittish regulars was to apprehend the leaders of the opposition, Sam Adams and John Hancock. There secondary goal was, to disarm the populace along the way.

    Here’s the whole story of Paul Revere’s ride:

    Revere confronted 2 British regulars manning a road block as he headed north across Charlestown Neck. As he turned around, the regulars gave chase and he eluded them. He then continued on to Lexington, to the home of Jonas Clarke where Sam Adams and John Hancock were staying. There, his primary mission was fulfilled when he notified Adams and Hancock that “The Regulars are coming out!” (he never exclaimed, “The British are coming”. This would have made no sense at the time since they considered themselves British).

    Revere and Dawes then headed for Concord and came across Doctor Prescott who then joined them. They decided to alarm every house along the way.

    Just outside of the town of Lincoln, they were confronted by 4 Regulars at another road block. They tried unsuccessfully to run their horses through them. Prescott, who was familiar with the terrain, jumped a stone wall and escaped. Revere and Dawes tried to escape and shortly into the chase they were confronted by 6 more regulars on horseback. Revere was surrounded and taken prisoner. Dawes got away as they were taking Revere into custody.

    The British officers began to interrogate Revere, whereupon Revere astonished his captors by telling them more than they even knew about their own mission. (HA!) He also told them that he had been warning the countryside of the British plan and that their lives were at risk if they remained in the vicinity of Lexington because there would soon be 500 men there ready to fight. Revere, of course, was bluffing.

    The Regulars had Revere remount his horse and they headed toward Lexington Green, when suddenly, they heard a gunshot! Revere told the British officer that the shot was a signal “to alarm the country!”. Now the British troops were getting very nervous (hehe).

    A few minutes later, they were all startled to hear the heavy crash of an entire volley of musketry from the direction of Lexington’s meeting house and then the Lexington town bell began clanging rapidly! Jonathan Loring, a Lexington resident captured earlier, turned to his captors and shouted “The bell’s a’ ringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men!”

    The British officers then talked urgently among themselves and decided to release their captives so as they would not slow their retreat.


    A few notes:

    The purpose of the British road blocks was to prevent the colonists from communicating with each other outside of their towns. Their primary mission to capture Hancock and Adams, they thought, was top secret.

    The town bell was actually ringing to alert the Lexington Company of Militia to assemble on the town common because the British regulars were on the march. It was a general alarm, not an alarm of an imminent threat.

    The heavy crash of an entire volley of musketry was the result of a group of men discharging their guns prior to entering the tavern – many of the taverns at that time prohibited their patrons from entering with loaded weapons and the only way to unload a musket is to discharge it.

    -Dave Kleber

    BTW, as a side-note, I’ve come across several accounts of public school teachers, who for some reason, are determined to dismiss the importance of Revere’s ride. They all have the same comment which is simply, “Revere was captured by the British”.

    Imagine if you were a child in the public school and you bought that line. What a shame!

    I’d rather our children are not even be taught pre-civil war history (as is the case in my school district) if they are going to re-write it or brush over such important and interesting facts.

    One book I would highly recommend for all those out there interested in the beginning of the Revolution, would be “Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hackett-Fisher.


    The True Story of Paul Revere

    By Charles Gettemy

    In the Foreward to his book, “The True Story of Paul Revere” published in 1906, author Charles Gettemy states:

    “Paul Revere was not a statesman. Nor was he, in the usual acceptance of the term, even a great man. His immediate paternal ancestor had crossed the seas to carve out success in the new world, and had educated his son in the shop and the school.

    “The time was big with portentous events. The wonderful new ideas of the rights of man were causing Europe to throb with the pulse-beats of human liberty, and rude pioneers in America were unconsciously becoming the subjects of the same stirring emotions. Men like Otis, Hancock, Warren and the Adamses soon began to disturb the peace by agitating against the abstract tyrannies of the mother country, and wherever they blazed the way they found ready and willing followers.

    “Revere was one of the latter. He had the keen zest of the citizen whose patriotism is of the lusty type that causes him to wish to take an active part in all movements that make for civic progress, and civic progress from 1760 to the Revolution meant enlightened resistance to British parliamentary aggression.

    “Most men like Revere— somewhat above the average of the mass, but not possessing the usual elements of enduring fame– pass out of life eulogized by their fellow-citizens; remembered by a circle of admiring and respecting friends until they also pass away; and are ultimately forgotten, finding no place upon the pages of written history.

    “Paul Revere was rescued from this fate by an accident– the witchery of a poet’s Imagination. His famous ride on the night of the 18th of April, 1775, remained unsung, if not unhonored, for eighty-eight years, or until Longfellow in 1863 made it the text for his Landlord’s Tale in the Wayside Inn.

    “It is to Longfellow’s simple and tuneful ballad that most persons undoubtedly owe their knowledge of the fact that a man of the name of Revere really did something on the eve of the historic skirmish at Lexington which is worth remembering.”

    In his book Gettemy describes the details before, during and after Revere’s famous ride. Quoting from witnesses, participants and Revere himself, the author erases the many fictions surrounding the event, replacing them with the actual facts.

    This is the life story of one of the peripheral characters of the Revolution often overlooked, standing as he does in the shadow of the likes of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin. But it’s a life story worth knowing.


    Paul Revere

    By Christian M.

    Paul Revere was born on January 1, 1735 in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied at the North Grammar School in Boston. He served for a short time in the French and Indian War. After the war, he married Sarah Orne and entered his father’s silversmith business.

    Paul Revere soon became interested in the issue of American liberty. He received lots of attention from political cartoons he drew. Paul Revere was a member of the “Sons of Liberty.” On December 16, 1773, he took part in the Boston Tea Party.

    On April 18, 1775, Revere and William Dawes were sent to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of British plans to march from Boston to seize patriot military stores at Concord. A signal was established to warn if the British were coming by land or by sea. From the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston, two lanterns would mean the British were coming by sea, and one would mean by land. One lantern was lit. The British were coming by land.

    Revere left Boston around 10 PM. Along the road to Lexington, he warned residents that “the British are coming!” He arrived in Lexington around midnight riding a borrowed horse. At 1 AM, Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott left for Concord. Revere was captured. Only Prescott got through to Concord.

    Revere was released without his horse and returned to Lexington. At Lexington he joined Adams and Hancock and fled into safety in Burlington. Revere returned to rescue valuable papers in Hancock’s trunk. When the British arrived on April 19, the minutemen were waiting for them. In 1778 and 1779, Revere commanded a garrison at Castle Williams in Boston Harbor. Revere left the service in disrepute.

    During and after the war, Revere continued his silversmith trade in Boston. He died on May 10, 1818.

  4. why is the Left so Hell bent on making us a Paperless Society ?….easy, so they can rewrite history , and tell it like they wanted it to be, dont believe me ?, why not google “the missing 52 years of Democratic History”, if truth is what you seek, why do the democrats ommit so much of their past ?…….it isnt that pretty is why….no matter How many lies they tell about it, it just Wont go away.

    you people seeking the truth are missing it. it’s right under your noses, maybe this is why obama wants an “Internet Switch”

    1. It’s revealing that so many on the right, who correctly point to the Democratic Party’s horrific record on slavery and segregation before the 1960s, fail to acknowledge that African Americans have voted largely Democratic for many decades now and why that might be the case. David Barton is one of the worst in glossing over these facts. For Barton and others on the right, African-American and civil rights history seems to end in the mid-1960s. That’s when the flight of segregationist southern Democrats to the GOP accelerated rapidly amid the Johnson administration’s successful efforts to pass civil rights legislation (with a majority of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress) and other measures to protect voting rights. The Texas State Board of Education’s far-right faction worked very hard to hide these facts during the revision of social studies curriculum standards — a key reason why teachers and scholars, not politicians, should be deciding what students learn in their public schools.

  5. My comments about Palin stand.

    I was already familiar with much of what you had to say about Paul Revere. I especially knew that one of the primary purposes of General Gage’s men that night was to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock. One thing you could have touched on a little more is the fact that they were also hoping to find and confiscate weapons and powder stores in the course of their movements, captures, and interrogations. Adams and Hancock were wanted for their revolutionary activity to be sure, but they especially wanted Hancock because he was the richest man in Boston and was capable of heavily financing the rebel cause. In addition, a great deal of his wealth had been acquired illegally through smuggling, tax evasion, etc. Of course, that was true of many other sea merchants on the Boston waterfront, so I do not think that that should be held against him. He particularly enjoyed smuggling contraband wine into Boston.

    The trouble with American history and world history is that almost everyone gets a very light brushing of it in our schools, including in college where most people just take a quick survey course on their way to a degree in engineering, finance, or something else. Moreover, our grade school (1st through 3rd grade) memory of what our teachers told us about Paul Revere is usually what sticks most tightly in our minds. So, I do not think it would be unfair to say that most Americans have what you might call a “child’s memory” of American history.

    Paul Revere was honored with his own 25-cent postage stamp back in the 1950s.

  6. Yes, it’s a bit depressing that the DNC doesn’t bother to admit the years of support for racism. Contrariwise, the WSJ article by Jeffrey Lord that Chief_Cabioch links to also leaves out a bit of history – the internal struggle within the democratic party against KKK elements in the 1920s, the speech by Hubert Humphrey that split the 1948 convention, or most importantly than after the civil rights legislation was successfully passed many of the most racist elements abandoned the democratic party for the GOP.

    The real problem is that there is NO BOOK ANYWHERE which gives a comprehensive treatment of the co-evolution of the Democratic and Republican parties, and how the positions today are now practically a Do-si-do from the positions in 1859 on issues of both race and of labor policy.

  7. s/than after/that after/

    …sigh. A preview button would be a really nice addition to this site.