Revisionist History



          Changing history to suit ones personal bias or to give credibility to one’s position is in the opinion of this writer one of the most academically dishonest things that can be done.  It is also one of the most common practices by the academic community.  Some professors at colleges and universities believe it is their right, even their duty, to rewrite history to strengthen their philosophical or political point of view.    Unfortunately, this practice has slipped into the chiropractic profession.  Granted, it is not widely practiced, but that is primarily because there is so little interest in chiropractic history.  The lack of interest in our profession’s history is directly related to revisionism.  Chiropractic history gives us some principles which should guide our practice and some very many clear objectives which should determine our future.  Many chiropractors are forced to either ignore our history (which most choose to do) or rewrite it (which a handful have also chosen to do).  I suppose choosing ignorance over dishonesty is the better choice although I feel both leave a lot to be desired.

          There are numerous examples of revisionist history within our profession.  The emphasis upon ancient Greek and Egyptian manipulation appears to be an effort to give credibility to the chiropractic procedure as having been done since antiquity.  However, the emphasis by some is to negate the unique discovery of the Palmers and therefore to detract from the historical and philosophical underpinnings of their discovery.  Ancient manipulation was strictly of a musculoskeletal nature and probably more resembled physical therapy than chiropractic. There is no indication that it was done to affect the function of the nervous system, as was the Harvey Lillard adjustment. Another example relates to the ever-controversial B.J. Palmer.  While there is no doubt that B.J.’s influence waned after the 1924 NCM incident at Lyceum, the attempt to make it seem that B.J. was not the most influential chiropractor in the profession, more than all the rest put together, for the next 35 years, is simply not accurate history.  There is also a concerted effort to belittle and ignore the scientific and research contributions made by B.J. during his lifetime.  We may think them lacking in light of present-day research methodology (although in many ways they are as scientific, if not more scientific),  but the fact remains that in the period in which they were done, they met or exceeded the standards of the day.

          Many in the chiropractic profession totally ignore the vitalistic foundations of chiropractic.  Others accept that vitalistic mindset but ignore the fact that it was theistic vitalism.  They pretend that our historical basis is scientific vitalism, sort of a nebulous force that is a product of itself,  rather than a characteristic of a Being.  The Palmers constantly spoke of God in their writings.  While we have clarified the uniqueness of the term “innate intelligence” and explained that it is not a theological term, there is no doubt that they meant it to be a manifestation of God.  This example of revisionist history, sadly, is being promoted by some within the straight chiropractic community.  But the more widespread revisionist history among the straight chiropractic community relates to the evolution of straight chiropractic itself.  There are those who would maintain that there is no difference between the straight chiropractic of B.J.’s time, the straight chiropractic of 1973 and the straight chiropractic of today.  Those of us who realize that difference have chosen to use the term “objective  straight chiropractic” and “traditional straight chiropractic” to describe that difference.  Let me illustrate this reality with my own personal experience in straight chiropractic. 

          The term “straight” has been used to describe chiropractic since the writing of the first Green Book.  When I graduated from chiropractic college in 1967, my school was a straight school.  It was an ICA-approved school.  Granted, it was changing and would eventually align itself more with the ACA, but at the time of my attendance it was straight.  I considered myself a straight chiropractor and by anyone’s definition I was (except for maybe an HIO practitioner, for I adjusted below axis).  I did not use modalities.  I adjusted by hand only.  I accepted the idea of innate intelligence.  I had my spine checked regularly by another chiropractor.  I opposed vaccination.  I disliked the ACA.  However, I also talked about chiropractic correcting the cause of the patient’s medical problem.  I pointed to a vertebra on an x-ray and said “this is the cause of your problem.”  I used the Chart of Effects of Spinal Misalignment. which demonstrates the lateral view of the spine with lines from the different vertebra to three columns.  The first column lists the vertebral segment.  The second lists all the areas supplied by the spinal nerves emitting from that segment and the last column lists every disease known to man that might be associated with interference in that area.  I talked about chiropractic getting sick people well.  I also took blood pressures and did a few orthopedic tests. That was straight chiropractic when I graduated from chiropractic college.  I could name a number of today’s leaders in the straight chiropractic community who were doing the very same thing.  They too were straight chiropractors at that time.  It was basically whether you used modalities or just adjusted that determined whether you were straight.  Unfortunately some of these leaders have either forgotten what they use to do or they are trying to deceive present day chiropractors as to the procedures that they practiced that were not consistent with today’s objective. 

          Here is the point.  Either there was no such thing as straight chiropractic before 1973 in which case we were all mixers, including D.D. and B.J. ..  or straight chiropractic has evolved.  I choose to accept the latter option. Consequently, we need other terms for clarification and to identify the difference between those chiropractors who still practice like I did  in 1973 and those who practice, not by tradition, but by the single objective of correcting vertebral subluxations so the innate intelligence can be better expressed and by only performing procedures consistent with that objective as I do today.  I chose to use “traditional” and “objective”.  Some have suggested that that gives credibility to things that are not straight by today’s standards.  Perhaps it does.  But they are things that we all did and were legitimately considered to be straight 25 years ago.

          Practically speaking, the issue will resolve itself in the years to come.  Those who practice, teach, and adhere to the traditional approach to chiropractic are and will continue to be more and more forced to adopt the medical model.  The objective straights, by their actions and by their contrast, will be further divorced from that group.  Meanwhile, we must acknowledge that all approaches to chiropractic are legitimate.  We have said that we respect a mixer’s right to practice his form of chiropractic.  If that is so then we must also respect the traditional straight’s right to practice his model of chiropractic and call it what it was prior to 1973, straight chiropractic.  However, we must also clarify that it is not the straight chiropractic of 1997.  The history of chiropractic that future generations will study demands no less. v14n1

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