I am not an apologist for the Biden Administration’s handling of the end of the American military presence in Afghanistan. However, if David Barton makes a claim, my experience is that it should be checked out. Here are at least two reasons why.
Almost 5 years ago now, David Barton released the following video on his Facebook and Youtube accounts:
In this video, Barton very clearly claims to have an earned doctorate while, at the same time, he covers it up and fails to say where he got it. THe day after I saw the video, I discovered the “degree” came from church based LIfe Christian University. The school doesn’t offer history or education degrees and isn’t accredited by any recognized agency. It is registered with the IRS as a church and has no campus. Furthermore, Barton never attended any classes nor did he do any specific work for the so-called “earned” degree.” The president of the school just gave him a degree, perhaps for a fee, although that much was not revealed.
When I posted this information, Barton removed the video from his websites and stopped referring to himself as “doctor.” He never mentioned it again and has refused to ever explain or apologize for the deception. To their discredit, no Christian news outlet has ever pursued him and demanded answers about why he castigated progressives for making up stories, when he spun the yarn.
There are so many more reasons to be skeptical but here is just one more.
David Barton’s Division One Airball
IN 2015, David Barton told a seminar audience that he played basketball with the Oral Robert University Division One basketball squad when he attended the school as a student:
The main claim was:
I remember when I was playing basketball, the college stuff that we did. We started every day with a five mile run, then we lifted weights, then we had an hour of racquetball, then we had two hours of full-court basketball, then we came back for another run. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but in those years, our college team set the NCAA record for two years in a row for most points scored. We averaged 105, 104, 103 points a game, I forget what it was. But you had to run a lot, it wasn’t a lot of fun, but you get the results.
As it turns out, Barton did not play for the D-1 team at Oral Roberts.
Last week, I wrote about Mercury One’s place in a scandal involving the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois. In 2018, Glenn Beck and David Barton borrowed a copy of the Gettysburg Address from the Lincoln Museum for a Mercury One exhibit in Dallas. A anonymous complaint triggered an investigation by the IL Inspector General into allegations that the Gettysburg Address was improperly loaned out to Beck and Barton. The IG report confirmed those allegations. The report asserted that the former museum executive director should not have loaned the document given the slipshod logistical arrangements for the transfer and exhibit and the poor reputation of David Barton as a historian. The executive director was fired and the chief operating officer was allowed to resign.
After writing about the IG report, I noticed that Mercury One still lists the Lincoln Museum as a partner on a website devoted to one of the organization’s exhibits — 12 Score and 3 Years Ago. On that page, Mercury One claims: “For the first time, the exhibit is partnering with five world-class organizations including: The African American Museum of Dallas, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Frontiers of Flight Museum, and Dallas Historical Society.”
I asked Dave Kelm, general counsel for the museum, if the Lincoln museum had any kind of partnership. After some research, he responded as follows:
So there was no partnership. Mercury One bought some pictures of the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation. Mercury One tried to borrow the Emancipation Proclamation from the Lincoln Museum and the museum staff turned them down because of David Barton’s reputation and the faulty processes used in the transfer of the Gettysburg address.
I think this is called spin or reputation management. Certainly the truth is different than the hype. In fact, the Lincoln museum declined to lend Mercury One an article because “under no circumstances” should the museum “be associated with him [David Barton].” Here is the expanded quote from Dr. Samuel Wheeler, Illinois state historian and Carla Smith, museum registrar:
Dr. Wheeler said that based on what he later learned about Mr. Barton, he believed that “under no circumstances” should the ALPLM be associated with him. Ms. Smith said that if she had known what she later learned about Mr. Barton’s reputation, the 2018 loan would have been an “instant no.”
In June 2018, Glenn Beck borrowed the Gettysburg Address from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One of only five handwritten copies of the address from the time period, the document is valued at $20-million. In hindsight, the transaction, for which Beck paid $50,000, has become a political scandal in Illinois and triggered the firing of the executive director of the Lincoln museum. The Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum was allowed to resign and eventually ended up working for Beck’s charity Mercury One. The IG report also contains an unflattering assessment of David Barton as a historian.
The incident, which Beck celebrated live in 2018, was investigated by the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General due to a tip from an anonymous consumer. The report found that allegations of wrongdoing were sound and based in fact. The report states that the museum should never have let Mercury One have the Gettysburg Address given the slipshod arrangements and David Barton’s reputation as a historian.
In the quotes below, the players are Alan Lowe, former executive director of the Lincoln museum, Carla Smith, registrar of the Lincoln museum, Samuel Wheeler, historian with the state of Illinois, Nadine O’Leary, museum chief of staff, and Michael Little, Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum (and now Mercury One). Other than Beck and David Barton, Courtney Mayden is also mentioned. She is an employee of Mercury One with some unspecified training in handling historical documents.
The Hasty Gettysburg Address Loan
On June 8, Beck’s charity Mercury One and the Executive Director of the Lincoln museum Alan Lowe initiated negotiations to bring the Gettysburg Address to Beck’s Right and Responsibilities exhibit in Dallas. After only 8 days, the document was shipped to Texas. Beck displayed the document to just over 2300 people who attended the exhibit.
The complaint alleged that Lowe mismanaged the loan process. According to the IG report, that allegation was accurate. From the IG report:
Mr. Lowe made the decision to loan the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One in violation of the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, contrary to HPA loan policies, and without following standard museum practices, much less providing the heightened level of care that would seem prudent for the rare and extremely valuable artifact Mr. Lowe described as a linchpin of the ALPLM’s collection. The allegation that Mr. Lowe mismanaged the ALPLM by loaning the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One, without following the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, HPA policies, or standard museum loan practices, is FOUNDED.
Earlier this year, Lowe was fired from his position by Governor J.B. Pritzker, although he did not say why. Two other players in the drama continue to have a connection to Mercury One.
The first one I will mention is Michael Little. The IG report documents over 50 contacts with Mercury One he had prior to being permitted to resign over this snafu. As a part of leaving state employment, employees are required to divulge contacts with new employers. Little said he didn’t have any with Mercury One other than his interview. However, the IG found over 50 emails between Little and staff at Mercury One. Little was subsequently hired as the Chief Operating Officer at Mercury One. So the current COO at Mercury One misled the state of Illinois just prior to taking his job.
An Instant No
That brings me to David Barton. For fun, I will quote what the IG report has to say about Barton.
According to an online Texas arts calendar, visitors to Mercury One’s Rights & Responsibilities exhibition in June 2018 could expect to see items Mercury One was sharing from its own collection, including an exploding rat from World War II, whose designer inspired the James Bond character Q; as well as a facsimile engraving of a draft Declaration of Independence; Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress; and Lincoln’s collar. The calendar indicated that Mercury One charged $20 for adult general admission, $750 for private VIP tours with Mr. Beck, $350 for private tours with David Barton, and $250 for private tours with other Mercury One staff. According to the calendar, during the private tours Mr. Beck, Mr. Barton, and the other staff were to provide their “own unique perspective on our rights and responsibilities.”
The Lincoln museum staff didn’t know anything about Barton until after the fact. However, as the passage below shows, they did a little late homework.
Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler told investigators that at the time of the loan, they did not know what else was going to be displayed at Mercury One’s exhibition. Ms. Smith said that information is relevant to the consideration of whether it is appropriate for the ALPLM’s artifacts to be displayed or interpreted alongside the other items in the exhibit. Dr. Wheeler said that it is a “betrayal of public trust” to not have known what the Mercury One exhibit was about, what other pieces would be displayed alongside the ALPLM and Foundation artifacts, or how the exhibit would be presented.
The museum registrar (Smith) and Illinois state historian (Wheeler) were bothered after the fact that Executive Director Lowe had let the Gettysburg Address be displayed along with artifacts of questionable reputation. But then they got to Barton’s reputation and they were really troubled.
In addition, Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler said they later learned concerning information about David Barton’s reputation. In 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson recalled all copies and ceased publication of Mr. Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, after it learned that “there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” The book was voted the “least credible history book in print” in a 2012 reader poll by the History News Network, a George Washington University online publication “created to give historians the opportunity to reach a national audience on issues of public concern.” Dr. Wheeler said that based on what he later learned about Mr. Barton, he believed that “under no circumstances” should the ALPLM be associated with him. Ms. Smith said that if she had known what she later learned about Mr. Barton’s reputation, the 2018 loan would have been an “instant no.”
No to the Emancipation Proclamation
Earlier this year, Beck wanted to borrow the Emancipation Proclamation with Barton listed as Curator of the exhibit. The museum, partly for that reason, turned Mercury One down.
Ms. Smith told investigators that after she received the letter of request and facility report, she convened the ALPLM collections staff, and the staff unanimously recommended to deny the loan request. She stated that she sent Mr. Lowe and Ms. O’Leary a detailed list of reasons why staff recommended not doing the loan. The listed reasons included that some of the information provided in the Standard Facility Report was incomplete or required clarification; concerns about Mr. Barton being listed as a Curator who would be interpreting ALPLM artifacts, given his reputation as a historian; and concerns about Mr. Little being listed as the Registrar or Collections Manager, given his lack of qualifications for handling artifacts. Ms. Smith said that Mr. Little’s history of mishandling artifacts at the ALPLM was also of concern.
In the end, the museum did not loan the Emancipation Proclamation to Beck’s project, 12 Score and 3 Years Ago. That didn’t stop Barton and Beck from promoting the event as if the Emancipation Proclamation was going to be there. Here is Barton claiming those in attendance would see it.
On Beck’s Mercury One website, the nonprofit still lists the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as a partner. However, this does not appear to be accurate. Not only was Lowe fired, current Mercury One COO Michael Little is not allowed to ever work for the state of Illinois. Given the results of this report, it is hard to see the two organizations ever working together again. It is deceptive for Barton and Mercury One to tout a relationship that not only isn’t true but is the subject of a scathing report by the Illinois Inspector General.
The comments from students provide a window into the problems with the internship. It appears that these students have a lot to unlearn. Worse, they don’t seem to know it.
For instance at 1:24 into the segment, the second student who spoke, Sonja, said
Mr. Barton showed us the Quran that was actually printed in 1803, I believe, by Jefferson after the Barbary wars, and the thought, the idea that the leaders of the country would not only say, hey, this would be a good idea to learn but they encouraged promoted that to learn about people who were different, to learn, not that they were terrible people, not slandering them, but saying this is who they are, this is what they are about. That is a completely different approach to knowledge and truth than we have today.
My point is not to fault Sonja for her fact problems but to fault her teachers for providing a completely misleading narrative (which Barton has used before). Sonja has been misled on two important points.
Jefferson did not print a Quran in 1803 or any other year.
The first version of the Quran printed in America was published in 1806. You can peruse a copy here; there is no mention of Jefferson or the government. The translation from a 1647 French version was originally conducted in 1649 and then reprinted by Henry Brewer for Springfield, MA publisher Isaiah Thomas in 1806 (source). Brewer and Thomas may have capitalized on the interest in Islam during Jefferson’s terms as president since we were at war with several Islamic nations. However, Jefferson had nothing to do with the printing. (Source, source)
The leaders of the U.S. didn’t print a Quran, so they couldn’t have encouraged the public in the manner described.
There was no concerted effort by the government to educate the public in the manner described. While the publisher may have hoped to discourage Islam, I can find no evidence that the publisher and the government acted on such a motive. (Source, source)
Beck Doubles Down on the False Narrative
After Sonja spoke, Glenn Beck compounded the error by suggesting Congress printed the Quran without comment for a purpose. Beck said:
There’s something specific about that struck me that was unusual. It wasn’t Congress or anybody around Jefferson that said, ‘hey, we are going to print these excerpts.’ They printed the entire thing, without comment in it. They just said, ‘you need to read this whole thing.’ That is not what we do now.
First, the government didn’t print the Quran. Second, the printers of the 1806 Quran did include comment which was quite judgmental of Islam, calling the contents of the book “absurdities.”
I challenge Barton or Beck to provide a primary source supporting the claim that Congress or Jefferson had anything to do with the 1806 edition of the Quran. I will apologize and remove this post if they can do that.
Beck titled his segment, Mercury One Arms New Generation of Leaders With Truth-Detecting Tools. Unfortunately, if today’s broadcast is any indication, these students have been disarmed. They won’t be able to be effective because they are now confidently misinformed. Because of the video, we know who is responsible.
I also invite any of the students to contact me about their experience.
Prior to the 1920s, students completed school through eighth grade and each year had to pass a written exam that involved understanding the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, George Washington’s Farewell Address and their state constitution, Barton explained. The older system of education was called “spiraling” because students would revisit the same topics while expanding on them each year.
Today, students learn history in discrete chunks with the “tri-division” method, studying Christopher Columbus in one grade, the Civil War in the next, and so on, Barton asserted. Because students are learning their history piece by piece, they never go back to the same period again and don’t retain the information in a real way.
Surely a grade of 33 in 100 on the simplest and most obvious facts of American history is not a record in which any high school can take pride.
This quote comes from a 1917 article in the Journal of Educational Psychology by J. Carleton Bell and D.F. McCollum. Bell and McCollum surveyed Texas schools and learned that history education wasn’t doing well. The 33% figure is an average of history knowledge scores at a sampling of high schools in Texas. Please note that I said high schools. Contrary to Barton’s claims, students went to high school before progressives took over, whenever that happened.*
The context for the quote is telling. According to Bell and McCollum, some Texas school districts didn’t start teaching history until later in elementary school if at all. Barton’s golden age wasn’t as golden as he described it. Bell and McCollum write:
The final average per cents, of the five high schools are Austin 30, Brenham 33, Houston 33, Huntsville 24, and San Marcos 31. With the exception of Huntsville the schools present about the same general picture—wide variations in the responses to particular questions, but these variations balancing each other. In the elementary schools the final average per cents, are Austin 10, Brenham 18, Houston 12, Huntsville 17, and San Marcos 23. It must be noted that for San Marcos we have only the sixth and seventh grades. Comparison of the results grade by grade shows that Austin and Houston are in the same class and that the other three schools are distinctly in advance, making at least fifty per cent, better showing. Column one, however, shows the reason. In the Austin and Houston schools no work in history is given before the seventh grade, while in the other schools the pupils begin history in the fourth or fifth grade. In view of the fact that pupils who have begun history later make as good a showing in the high school as those who began it earlier (compare Houston with Brenham or San Marcos) it might be argued that the study of history by elementary school pupils is a waste of time. The case, however, is by no means so simple. The high schools of Houston and Austin have the reputation of being very well administered and of having an exceptionally high grade of teachers. If the other cities had as well organized and equipped high schools perhaps their pupils would have made a better showing. Surely a grade of 33 in 100 on the simplest and most obvious facts of American history is not a record in which any high school can take great pride. (pp. 267-269)
Reading the Bell and McCollum article provoked my interest in education before 1920 and so I looked up several reports on education during that time period. None of what I have read so far provides support for Barton simplistic analysis. For instance, Barton makes it seem like education was done one way – students all learned history the same way and all went to college after eighth grade. However, the reports from that era make it clear that there was little uniformity of teaching methodology. For instance, a report on history education dated 1898 says:
In all of our work we have endeavored not only to discover any agreement or common understanding that may exist among American teachers, but to keep in mind the fact that local conditions and environments vary exceedingly; that what may be expected of a large and well-equipped school need not be expected of a small one, and that large preparatory schools and academies, some of them intentionally fitting boys for one or two universities, are in a situation quite unlike that in which the great majority of high schools are compelled to work. We have sought chiefly to discuss, in an argumentative way, the general subject submitted for consideration, to offer suggestions as to methods of historical teaching and as to the place of history on the school programme, being fully aware that, when all is said and done, only so much will be adopted as appeals to the sense and judgment of the secondary teachers and superintendents, and that any rigid list of requirements, or any body of peremptory demands, however judiciously framed, not only would, but should, be disregarded in schools whose local conditions make it unwise to accept them.
The traditional age for beginning Latin is about fifteen and the average for entering college is nineteen.
Nineteen would be old for an eighth grader. The 1892 Committee of Ten (convened by the National Education Association) recommended that all school districts provide instruction through the 12th grade.
Graduating high school students wanting knowledge of history could consult this list of books or attend a college with a good history program (write and ask, I can name several).
*Early in American education, many students only went through 8th grade in anticipation of entering the work force. Barton’s contention that students went to school through 8th grade has some truth to it. However, college was not the end result for most of them (on Beck’s audio, Barton claimed students just went on to college after the 8th grade).