It is not often that Grove City College will be praised for their skeptical take on the world. It is a noted conservative, Christian college just north of Pittsburgh that withdrew from all Federal funding in 1988 so that it did not have to comply with Title IX requirements with regard to gender equality.
In light of those events, I am very pleased to hear about Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter’s refutation of David Barton’s take on Jefferson in their new book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. The authors are on the faculty at Grove City College in Psychology and Political Science respectively. Their e-book, just published last month is scathing take-down of the pseudo-historian David Barton recent book, The Jefferson Lies.
In a recent post The Quixotic Task of Debunking David Barton in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Paul Harvey sums the up the multi-level problem with Barton:
[Throckmorton and Coulter] find without fail that the claims fall into one of the following categories:
1) complete falsehoods (there are plenty of those);
2) misleading falsehoods (such as the story about wanting Christian imagery on the national seal—true, but on the other side of the seal, had Jefferson gotten his wish, would have been a pagan story);
3) true, but entirely irrelevant and ultimately misleading statements (such as signing documents with “the Year of our Lord,” which he did because pre-packaged treaty forms had that language, and had about as much meaning as signing “Dear” in our salutations in letters to complete strangers);
4) statements with a “kernel” of truth but blown so far out of proportion as to end up being false (such as Jefferson wanting federal funding for Indian missions, when in fact the titles of the bills simply took on the name of already existing religious societies);
5) baffling assertions that are so far out of the realm of reality as to be neither “true” nor “false,” but simply bizarre (such as Barton’s defense of Jefferson’s views on race, which were disturbingly ugly even by the standards of his era).
Will it matter? Probably not. Barton is the new darling of right, whose views even Jon Stewart failed to challenge in his recent appearance on the Daily Show.
Still, it is nice to read that Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter at Grove City College, like John Fea at Messiah College, are willing to provide thoughtful critiques of off-the-wall writers, who make up historical lies for their own purposes.