Our education system is failing to adequately educate American students in a number of important subject areas. Currently, the United States ranks 38th in math and 24th in science worldwide; but the most significant failure is in American civics because this type of ignorance is suicidal for a free people.
As President Ronald Reagan popularly once said, "we did not pass freedom through our bloodstream, it must be protected." But we cannot protect what we do not know. If we want to ensure that liberty survives and thrives in America, our children must understand how to defend the principles of freedom and our Founding.
Why have our public schools failed to live up to the duty of teaching the principles that preserve our freedom and how can we fix this problem?
Value Neutral Education
This ideology holds that schools should not teach students what to think, but rather how to think. While this may sound good in theory, the reality is that it has led to a situation in which many students are not taught the basics of American history and civics and why those basics are inherently *good.*
Liberty, equality, justice, the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, unalienable Rights with corresponding Duties, and consent of the Governed, are all principles and ideas that have meaning and value that must be better understood in principle, not "reimagined" to mean whatever the feelings of the day are.
Students cannot "think critically" about topics that they do not know much about or are being taught to dismiss as evil, outdated, or irrelevant. A homeschooling mom summed up the problem nicely when she said, "If you don't teach children what something is, how can they be expected to value it and work to preserve it?" To that end, the goal should be to better understand the true, good, and beautiful of our Founding Principles and Constitution, so that we can pass those principles to the next generation.
Thomas Jefferson said that education must be chiefly historical so that it can guard against encroachment in the future. By knowing the ambitions of men we can defeat ambition under every disguise. This wisdom has been ignored based on the false premise that we aren't teaching kids what to think.
As a result, teaching students how much the government has grown and morphed since its formation, how our Principles have been manipulated, and where our Constitution has been breached is non-existent because that would be considered "teaching kids what to think." All the while allowing anti-truth curriculums like the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and Howard Zinn into schools across the country.
When students are not taught about the great men and women of our Founding and the wisdom they left behind they are extremely vulnerable to the false narratives promoted by mainstream and powerful influences.
That is why you see so many students who don't understand the difference between liberty and tyranny, and who think that the Founding Fathers were just a bunch of "slave-holding old rich white guys" who didn't care about anyone else. These young people have not been taught the principles of liberty, or how to think deeply about them.
The Progressive Movement
Progressives believe that society has become too technical so we must move beyond the Founders' principles and have the government involved in nearly every aspect of our lives. They have been successful in pushing this agenda in many areas, including education.
When teaching the Progressive era in public and private schools the curriculum does not include the movement away from our enumerated Constitution into a “living and breathing” Constitution. But that’s exactly what it was under the premise that a society can be managed by experts rather than governed by free citizens. 100 years later and the living and breathing Constitution has entangled itself into every facet of American society and government.
Another one of the goals of the progressive movement is to promote "social justice." This is a nebulous term that can mean different things to different people, but it is often used to justify government policies that redistribute wealth and power while at the same time ignoring equal justice under the law.
Instead, why can't justice be enough? Because I would bet all the money in the world that if you asked millions of everyday Americans all would be on board with equal justice for all. We should start with the politicians.
An American education steeped in the Principles of our Founding would want a system of justice that flows from the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are therefore equal under the law. No more, no less. Show me exact instances of injustice, regardless of race or gender, and free American citizens will stand with you.
But tell me that all of the American institutions are "racist" while we had a two-term black President and millions of wealthy black Americans while at the same time the exact government policies and talking points that were supposed to help bring black citizens out of poverty have only hurt and crippled progress and it reveals to me that you are not looking to help, you are looking for more power.
Further, in the process of promoting "social justice," many progressives have sought to silence those who disagree with them. They have done this by claiming that anyone who opposes their policies is motivated by hate, bigotry, or some other form of prejudice. This has had a chilling effect on free speech and the “atmosphere” in America, and it has made it difficult/impossible for people to have honest conversations about controversial topics. It has also made it difficult for people to learn about the history and principles of our country because they are often portrayed in a negative light and as the “root cause” of problems.
The progressive movement has also contributed to the decline of civics education by pushing for a more "global" perspective. This is the belief that we should all view ourselves as citizens of the world, rather than citizens of our individual countries. This perspective is promoted in many ways, including through the Common Core State Standards, which are a set of educational standards that have been adopted by most of the states in the United States.
The Common Core standards downplay the importance of history and civics and instead promotes a more "global" perspective. This is not surprising, given that one of the architects of the Common Core standards, Bill Gates, has said that he wants to see a more "global" perspective in education.
This "global citizen" is a shameful representation of what it means to receive a quality education in America. Do other Nations share our history? Do they understand the unalienable Rights and Duties that come with citizenship? Do they appreciate our laws, customs, and traditions? If called into battle would they fight for our homeland?
This is also where you get the ridiculous slogan that “America is an idea.” This slogan was shamefully and disgracefully put on display by our wars in the Middle East - namely Afghanistan and Iraq where for decades thousands of self-less Americans were killed and wounded being forced by bureaucrats in D.C. to attempt to plant an “idea” into the ground thinking its as easy as planting a flag.
You cannot close your eyes, point to a place on a map, go there, plant a flag and say “this is America because we say so.”
America is a place and in that place, we have ideas that built and shape our unique history, traditions, customs, and culture. This is a good thing.
The idea that we have moved passed our Founding Principles and into a new age of science and technology and so, therefore, have also moved past Nationhood, 50 sovereign States, and citizenship is a disgrace to the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms. Our school system should proudly and justly reflect that truth.
College and Career Readiness
Progressive education reformers such as John Dewey believed that schools should focus on preparing students for the "real world” and on preparing students for their future careers, rather than academic basics.
First, how does spending 12 years in public education get you career-ready? Is that a worthy goal of a human being? Are we not more than pieces on an assembly line?
Perhaps a better, more human goal should be to form better people, citizens, and thinkers so that each student is better able to find careers, pathways, and passions that inspire them to be the best version of themselves.
This trajectory of “college and career ready” is such a shame because true education is one that forms the soul, develops character, and empowers students to think deeply about first principles. And as a result of teaching virtue and developing good citizens and character, you are naturally going to create a student and person who is college and career ready.
The good end of education should be a student who loves learning, believes in good things, and articulates the values and virtues of liberty with passion and poise. Not one that "prepares" you for a life working in a cubicle or factory for some mega-corporation that would replace you in a second if they needed to.
Students should learn to love the environment because the environment is a good and beautiful thing, not so that they can become petty tyrants for corporate and government power.
What Can We Do About This?
First, we can stop conflating school with education. School is a set time, place, and duration; education is a lifelong endeavor.
Second, we can model what we hope for our children to become. While your children live at home with you from K-12 they must see you reading books that stretch your mind and inspire your spirit. They must see you doing things that are wholesome and good like gardening, working out, cooking, and being a loving spouse.
Third, you must talk about the difference between liberty and tyranny, liberty and licentiousness, justice and vengeance, and education and manipulation. You must know these things first so that you can speak wisdom into the home and kitchen table. You should do so with passion, and excitement, and invite other family members into the story.
Fourth, we need to return to the type of education that our Founders envisioned. One that teaches students the challenges, trials, and tribulations of man and what has been overcome to achieve the freedoms we enjoy today. One that inspires students to think deeply about subjects that transcend time and place.