“Kids get abysmal grade in history,” read the headline. “Most U.S. high school seniors have a poor grasp of the nation’s history,” read the story’s first line.
Diane Ravitch, historian, NYU professor, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education said, “Our ability to defend – intelligently and thoughtfully – what we as a nation hold dear depends on our knowledge and understanding of what we hold dear.…Clearly, far too many high school seniors have not learned even a modest part of it.”
Not just high school seniors, though. The same applies to many citizens of all ages.
In his first inaugural address Thomas Jefferson listed the principles Americans should hold dear, then said:
“These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”
Who recalls Jefferson’s admonition? Or the principles he cited?
“Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political. Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. The support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies. The preservation of the General government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home, and safety abroad. A jealous care of the right of election by the people, a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided. Absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of the despotism. A well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them. The supremacy of the civil over the military authority. Economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened. The honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith. Encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid. The diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason. Freedom of religion; freedom of the press; and freedom of person, under the protection of the Habeas Corpus. Trial by juries impartially selected.”
Are our schools teaching these core American principles? Putting our children on the “road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety?” Are we committed to that road?
Read the headlines.