Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Why Should American Exceptionalism Be Taught in America’s Classrooms?

             Families, communities, and the nation are stronger when the rising generation is taught the exceptionalism of America, and they are weaker when they are taught the nation is systemically racist. Therefore, the education system needs to be overhauled.

            President Donald Trump is calling for school choice for every child in America and a return to teaching American exceptionalism. School choice provides the right and means to make the decisions about the schools where their children will best learn and thrive. Teaching American exceptionalism is perhaps the only way of avoiding more summers watching our cities burn and our statues and monuments defaced and destroyed.

            Mike Gonzalez and Jonathan Butcher published an article about a return to teaching American exceptionalism in the classroom. They explained that older Americans are the strongest supporters for “the idea that America is an exceptional country” with “75.2% of Americans 60 and over [in agreement].” They also said that young Americans ages 18 to 29 have the weakest support for the idea that America is exceptional.

            The authors indicated that academic studies and performance are behind the above noted differences. “Our best indicators of K-12 student performance in U.S history, geography, and civics indicate that our students cannot explain the ideas behind representative government that set the U.S. apart.” They said that “test scores in those subjects had declined in recent years” to the point that “fewer than 1 in 4 students posted scores at what is reasonably considered appropriate for their grade level.”

            It seems that our schools are not successfully teaching U.S. history, geography, and civics, while “progressive media outlets are pushing the narrative that American history should be reframed around the idea that slavery be made central to U.S. history instruction.” Young Americans are obviously listening to the progressive voices as shown by the summer of riots, looting, burning, and killing.

            Parents are often told, “If you do not teach your children to have faith in God, other people will teach them that there is no God.” The same is true about patriotism. If the rising generation is not taught American history, civics, and geography and does not learn about American exceptionalism, progressives will teach them false ideas.

            Gonzalez and Butcher wrote that it is not enough to teach American exceptionalism. We must also teach the rising generation why America is exceptional. It is true that citizens of every nation love their country and think that it is wonderful. However, “American exceptionalism is rooted elsewhere, a mixture of the liberal traditions of the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment and the Colonial experience.”

The social scientist Louis Hartz, whose groundbreaking 1955 book “The Liberal Tradition in America” has influenced generations of future thinkers, posited the idea that because America lacked a feudal past it made unfertile soil for either socialism or the European conservatism that unites church with big government.

“It is not accidental that America, which has uniquely lacked a feudal tradition, has uniquely lacked also a socialist tradition. The hidden origin of socialist thought everywhere in the West is to be found in the feudal ethos,” wrote Hartz, for whom America possessed a “fixed, dogmatic liberalism of a liberal way of life.” In his book, Hartz observed repeatedly that America was “unique.”

            Gonzalez and Butcher used the word “exceptional” to describe America, while Hartz used the word “unique.” An internet definition for exceptional is “unusual; not typical; unusually good; outstanding.” Synonyms include unusual, uncommon, extraordinary, out of the ordinary, rare, singular, unprecedented, unexpected, remarkable, excellent, unequaled, unparalleled, unrivaled, and surprising. An internet definition for unique is “one of a kind, unlike anything else.” Synonyms include distinctive, individual, and special. I believe that both exceptional and unique are good descriptive words for America. Gonzalez and Butcher continued their discussion with the following.

America thus is exceptional because it is the only country in the world that derives its legitimacy from its start not from a common ethnicity or monarch, but from natural rights – the idea that rights, such as the right to free speech, property, and self-preservation can be observed in nature and precede politics or government.

This liberal tradition was mixed with a Colonial experience that also made America unique in terms of the people who were attracted here.

            To prove their point, the authors included a quote from a speech given by Edmund Burke in the House of Commons in 1775. The statement was a warning by Burke to the other members of the House about the type of people living in America.

Protestants, and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion…. All Protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our northern colonies [Burke meant New England] is a refinement of the principle of resistance: it is the dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion…. The colonists left England when this spirit was high, and in the emigrants highest of all.

Even that stream of foreigners which has been constantly flowing into these colonies has, for the greatest part, been composed of dissenters form the establishments of their several countries, and have brought with them a temper and character far from alien to that of the people with whom they mixed.

            America is exceptional because it was founded on an idea that all men are created equal. The founding fathers and mothers, as well as those men who framed the Constitution, were mere mortals. However, they were “raised up” by God, prepared for their task, and inspired in their decisions. They created an entirely new type of government. They included the things that they liked about other governments and excluded the things that they did not like.

            Because the Framers were mere mortals, they had faults and weaknesses as well as gifts and strengths. For example, most of the Framers wanted to do away with slavery in their new country. However, they needed the southern colonies to be part of their new United States, and the southern colonists were not ready to give up slavery. The Framers knew that slavery would rear its ugly head in the future, but they acted to form the Union with what they had available and trusted that future Americans could deal with the horrors of slavery.

            The Constitution and the government formed under it are exceptional. Every American child deserves to be taught that their country is exceptional – a shining city on a hill that is a light to the world. At the same time, every American man and woman should stand forth to help our nation become stronger and better in the future. Adults in America owe it to the rising generation to teach the exceptionalism of America. By doing so, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nation.

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