Thursday, January 25, 2007

3404 What I didn't and did find at the library

Your kid got a paper due next week? It isn't just the journals and books that lack balance, perspective and diversity. You might want to browse the digitized sources, especially if you are homeschooling. The titles may not be what you remember from your school days. Publishing firms are bought and sold; editorial boards change direction; standards of reliability must meet market demands. Someone had to compile and write them, too--someone with a point of view, someone your children will be citing as an authoritative source. Recently I took a quick spin through "Annals of American History which is produced by Encyclopedia Britannica."

I can log on at home, but I was at the library. By clicking to Religion, I found the first paragraph set the tone:

"America was first colonized by religious exiles, who found in the New World their first opportunity for religious liberty. The United States, as a result, became the first country in the Western world to make an effective separation between church and state, as well as the first to write into its basic law the principle of religious toleration. This enormous diversity of religion is one of the hallmarks of the country."

So that's the framework. What will be the focus? Essays, articles and documents that don't meet the standard of tolerance and separation of church and state. How Indians were mistreated by missionaries. Brief (skimpy) one page articles on major Protestant denominations like the Presbyterians and Methodists bringing their history all the way up to--about 1800 in this source--and huge coverage of very minor organizations and movements of the 20th century I've never heard of (toleration and diversity, right?)

Original documents? That's what Annals does. It's just extremely selective. And if a kid is writing a paper, it's much easier to use this source than pull paper sources. (Although if there are recent compilations in paper, they too will be sifted and filtered to be politically acceptable to the left.) There's an eight page article in Annals by Clarence Darrow about what to expect from different religious groups if you seat their members on a jury; some court cases that reflect poorly on Christians; and a selection of "scholarly" articles, mostly negative about people of faith.

By using the timeline, I was able to pull up the 2003 gay Bishop document of the Anglican Church. I'm not well informed about the Anglicans, but I'm guessing there have been a few other achievements in the last decade. The timeline stops with 2003, although the copyright of the database is 2007. Has nothing much has happened in the last three years? I was a bit surprised to find that the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings paternity debate was deemed worthy of inclusion (actually not surprised at all), and that "Fast Food Nation" was a historical treasure--and not even exerpts from the book, but pieces of an on-line interview. The USS Cole story didn't make the cut that I could find.

So I turned to the reference shelves and looked through some of the handsome, hard bound multiple volume sources. The three volume, 50's in America by Salem Press (2005), had no entry for Christianity at all, but Stan Freeberg got in. No denomination, not even Roman Catholics, had an entry. I took a peek at Modern America 1914-1945 by Facts on File (c1995, but purchased by the library in 2005). In the Table of Contents I found a section on Religion. The first topic of 4 subdivisions? Women and the Church.

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