Over the many books he authored, President Nixon would occasionally refer to the philosophies of literary giants such as Fyodor Dostoevsky or Friedrich Nietzsche. Exposed to these great authors in college, President Nixon understood the value the humanities had in his educational development. As President, Nixon championed a well-rounded education for America’s youth; guided by the same philosophy he consistently applied to achieve a greater equality of opportunity, regardless of skin color, economic status and sex.
This mentality is demonstrated in an excerpt from Richard Nixon’s ninth book, Beyond Peace:
“It is essential that all people have the opportunity to study their own roots, which make our national tree so strong. But those who say that skin color alone entitles minority groups to an alternative set of national icons strike at the heart of what it means to be an American. In coming from other places to participate in our vast continuing experiment, our miraculous community of immigrants, Americans enter into a special kind of social contract. Being American is not about being white and Christian, or black and Muslim, or Asian and Buddhist. It is about being dedicated to a country that in principle offers virtually limitless opportunity to all, regardless of their background. That we have failed to turn this principle into reality in every respect does not mean we should abandon it, especially if in doing so we restore divisions between races and peoples that will undermine our potential to complete the task of building a truly pluralistic, strong, prosperous nation.”
President Nixon was well aware of the fundamental problem in the United States concerning education and race—the educational disparity between the multiracial, multiethnic minorities and the white majority. While not disregarding the prevalence of a predominantly white history in American textbooks, President Nixon’s efforts and successes towards peaceful desegregation exemplified his belief in equal opportunity for the masses—desegregation being the first step.
President Nixon understood the importance of studying the history of one’s heritage, but rejected the argument of educational repudiation, which promoted the idea that “studying the dominant culture is illegitimate.” Instead, he believed in a diverse, inclusive education, as he advocates in his book, In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat and Renewal:
“Each student should leave twelfth grade reading English at a twelfth-grade level or better. He should have read great English writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontës, and, in translation, great Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Spanish writers such as Cervantes, Latin American writers such as Borges. Black students should know something about Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and white students should know about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. In short every student should know a little bit about everything, so he can make an intelligent decision about what he wanted to study in greater depth in college…A student should know the rudiments of a foreign language, be able to recognize at least a few of the great works of Western music, and understand the tenets of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and the world’s other great religion, Marxism-Leninism. He should have spent some time playing a competitive sport. He should know the history of his country, and something about the history of the world. This should include contributions of women and minorities that were left out of the curriculum in earlier eras.”