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Producing good citizens trumps ideological short-sightedness

By Nancy Salvato
web posted January 9, 2006

Written in the text of "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" is something I believe with my heart and soul, "Freedom requires us to live as self-reliant individuals, to think for ourselves, to solve our own problems, to cope with uncertainty and change, and to assist and respect others." Only if those living under the protection of our Constitution understand this, can we maintain our way of life. This requires an educated citizenry that understands the responsibilities inherent in a "Democratic Republic." The WTP authors make it clear that the Founders believed that good "Citizens are made, not born."

Unfortunately, our public school system is not nearly as concerned with creating good citizens as with making sure that our students don't hold any prejudice for classmates with different values or lifestyles. Governor Jeb Bush wrote about this in "Virtuous Reality: Character-Building in the Information Age" when he said,

Virtues, grounded in universal moral absolutes, represent standards of behavior that are fixed and firm in any civilized society. Values, on the other hand, refer to a system of individualized beliefs and preferences. Everyone has values -- even Nazis and street gangs. Overemphasizing values accentuates our differences, so that the values of self-expression and individualism now trump the virtues of deferred gratification, responsibility, and commitment to family.

While public policy over the last three decades focused more on recognizing the differences between groups of people and their competing value systems, it did little in the way of reinforcing the common bonds between all peoples -- the moral absolutes that transcend politics, race, and gender. Virtues, and the moral imperatives implied by them, were either lost in the debate or they were mischaracterized as values -- subjective and relative, personal, and specific to a particular person or group.

The fact is the public school system is not turning out good citizens. According to William Lind, who writes about this in "What is Political Correctness" one reason for this is the agenda of "Political Correctness" or "Cultural Marxism" which seeks to achieve "a society not merely of equal opportunity, but equal condition." This vision contradicts human nature, "because people are different, they end up unequal, regardless of the starting point – society will not accord with it unless forced. Political Correctness takes over freedom of speech, press, and thought."

Political Correctness" has been helped along by the nation's courts, which have gone too far in taking religion out of public life. Recently Brit Hume hosted a show on FOX, "Religion in America: Church and State." in which he exposes the myth of the wall of separation. Rather than Supreme Court Justices citing as precedent the two clauses in the First Amendment which protect freedom of religion (The "establishment" clause prohibits the federal government from establishing one or more official religions or churches for the nation. The "free exercise" clause prevents the government from putting unreasonable restrictions on particular religious practices.), our justices cite the wall of separation coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801.

According to a Melinda, a blogger on "The Stand To Reason",

It was a Supreme Court case in 1947 that introduced this phrase from a letter by Thomas Jefferson - "church and state" - into the modern debate.  And, in fact, it has framed the debate in a way that many Constitutional lawyers describe as a complete reversal of what the First Amendment means.  Instead of making no law, giving no favors, it has come to be used to discriminate against religion, they argue.  The Supreme Court decision extended the amendment to apply not only to the Federal government but state governments, and claimed that the "wall" should be high and impenetrable.  This has become the precedent for the last 60 years.

The attack on Judeo/Christian influence been demonstrated time and again in attacks on public displays of religious symbols, the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, and by taking public prayer out of school, etc.

It used to be that we began learning to be citizens in early childhood. We learned to think for ourselves in our homes and in the classroom. In "We the People" students learn that the founders acknowledged the value of organized religion in promoting virtue. They believed that,

Virtuous behavior, which enabled people to control their passions, would produce upright, responsible citizens. The founders recognized the importance of education to good citizenship. For the American experiment in republican self government to succeed, each of its citizens had to be schooled in ideals and principles upon which that experiment was based. Formal schooling together with a free press became a priority in the early years of the new republic.

The federal government is charged with protecting our way of life. Producing the text "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" is one way for the federal government to help ensure that the public schools help create civically minded citizens, not "Politically Correct" socialists who depend on others to decide what they think, how they will take care of themselves, and what laws we live by. While I don't believe that the federal government should be in the education business (nor the teacher's unions for that matter), the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that we maintain our way of life and if this textbook is what my federal tax dollars are going to support, then I am in full accordance with this legitimate use of public money.

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2006

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • We the People - A terrible federally-funded textbook by Allen Quist (January 2, 2006)
    Recently ESR published a column defending a popular series of civics textbooks, a column that Allen Quist argues avoids mentioning certain facts about the books and the author of the column herself
  • Who is accusing whom of having an agenda? by Nancy Salvato (December 12, 2005)
    Nancy Salvato says that a recent attack on the popular We The People: The Citizen And The Constitution series of textbooks on civics is misguided

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