A popular Twitter thread circulated when a man asked a group of High School students what they have been reading and none of the kids said they were reading anything. This sent shock and aw through parts of Twittersphere as many adults did not expect it to be this bad.
Yes, I’ve got news for you…most High School kids aren’t reading books in their spare time. When I was in High School I didn’t read that much either although now it is probably my favorite hobby.
This is tragic. But there is something else going on in schools that cannot be ignored.
Ask High School students what is the meaning and significance of the Declaration of Independence and you will get the basics. But ask them what is the difference between the nature of tyranny and liberty and you get blank stares. Not really sure where to begin.
Our educational bureaucracy has failed to meet the needs of American freedom and the citizen-student in so many ways over the generations but perhaps none more than this.
Our history and civics education has been superficial and robotic memorization of names, dates, and events that unfortunately have gone in one ear and out the other for decades. Sure, students can circle “C” for the Stamp Act on a multiple-choice test and can tell you about the Boston Tea Party. But students can not articulate the moral and political foundational “Big Ideas” that transcend time and are fundamental principles in our Founding.
Because of this standard approach to teaching history and civics students cannot tell you the significance that the Laws of Nature should have in a society and a Government. They cannot tell you how tyranny destroys the spirit and the soul of man, that it distinguishes virtue, and it makes once great minds feeble and little. They cannot tell you that there is a natural and intrinsic relationship between our Rights and our Duties and that when you ignore the latter you violate the former. They cannot tell the purpose of a real education and how it is supposed to cultivate virtue and wisdom, not regurgitate answers for a multiple choice test. And they cannot tell you the difference between liberty and licentiousness.
The bottom line is that America cannot remain free if students and citizens do not understand the nature of freedom. Students cannot grow up to be virtuous, independent, wise, brave, resilient, and prudent without the appreciation of those principles in our Founding history and by seeing them through the history of our nation and people.
Students are not taught that an education steeped in virtuous Liberty is more than just “live and let live.” It is knowledge, wisdom, prudence, and an application of these principles in your life to a good end. It is about using our reason to think deeply on timeless principles that keep us free, ground us in wisdom, and inspire us to be great.
Instead for decades, we have focused our attention on graduating students who are “college and career” ready. But this goal is more about compliance with corporate order than cultivating a virtuous and brave mind. It makes us less human, not more. It focuses on the latest trends of the day and the manipulation of language to fit the corporate order. And this compliance is the new expectation in America.
I read a Twitter thread recently written by a student that describes what he noticed about his peers during his freshman year at a prestigious university. He explained that the vast majority are submissive, compliant, and robotic and all I could think is what an absolute shame that THAT is the final result of 12 years of K-12 historical education here in these United States. A Revolution that emerged due to a proper and true understanding of the limits of government, the Rights of Englishmen, and the expectations of liberty has turned into “whatever you say powers that be.”
Our education system has been so focused on being “neutral” (which it hasn’t) that it has forgotten how to be inspiring, grand, and profound. It has forgotten to teach the essence of the principles we should preserve and defend.
And what do we have to show for it?
Society and citizens without enough “manly virtue,” prudence, and wisdom capable of transcending the talking points of the day with a large and growing percentage of young adults depressed and uninspired.
Yes, the vast majority of students cannot pass a citizenship test. This is a problem. But a larger tragedy, and suicidal trajectory for a free people, is that they cannot articulate the beauty of liberty and the power that it has to create a good and virtuous life for yourself, others, and the millions yet unborn.
Our civics/historical educational results are unsustainable. A nation cannot be both ignorant and free, we will either become all one thing or all the other.