Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive. In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.The importance of an informed public is obviously not new. I have heard it mentioned many times in reference to the founding of our country. And it's truth is readily apparent. But this time it struck me in a different way.
As a home educator I am feeling the weight of raising my own "informed public"...my kids: What do I teach them next term? The next year? What do I want them to learn? What do they need to know?
The subject of America comes especially into focus for this family because we have spent the past 4 years living in the UK. When we arrived here our children were 4, 2 and 9 months, so they have grown and changed and learned a lot in their time here. Being an American is something special to them. On one of our first visits back to the U.S. our then 4 year old son told everyone he met....the check out lady at the grocery store, the waiter at the restaurant, the woman getting out of her car next to us in the parking lot..."We are Americans!" These kids love to celebrate American holidays and couldn't wait to don their American flag t-shirts this weekend. That being said, most of the reality of their young lives is not American. To them, being American is more an idea than a reality.
In the past four years my own patriotism and appreciation of America has grown. Most specifically, I have come to appreciate and understand the implications of economic freedom. Even here in the UK there are restrictions on economic freedom that effect our daily lives and give us a greater appreciation for being American.
My renewed interest in American exceptionalism doesn't stop there, however. With the current political situation in the U.S. we sometimes feel that our great country is disappearing before our eyes (and ears). We can become easily discouraged and at times outright depressed when we watch the news in the U.S. I have begun to turn to the founding documents, and to attempt to fill in the blanks of my own meager understanding of our history.
The convergence of our family situation (re-patriating) and the situation in the U.S. that Thomas Sowell outlined has brought to the forefront of my mind my article on the different family types. More specifically, it recalls the concept of the Trust that is passed on from generation to generation. As American's we have a unique place in history and in the world. And as American parents we have an important Trust to hand on to our children: the particular concept of freedom and liberty as the founders framed it in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Our American Family depends on the guarding and handing on of this Trust. Now, more than ever.
This task is huge when we look at it politically. The voters must be educated before the next election! The politicians must be urged to preserve the integrity of the constitution! What is a mother of three, home educator, and housewife to do about that? Of course there are many things one person can do politically in her own community, in her own state. But....back to my previous posts on families.
If, in fact, the family, both in structure and strength, affects the government, then I am perfectly situated to help influence. As I said before, I have some of those future voters right here in my house, waiting to be informed. And there is a Trust to pass on to them, to help them hold, and know, and cherish. It came to us through our parents, and their parents, back to our founders. Even though many of us come from immigrant families (Jim's parents came from Scotland and my paternal grandparents from Italy) that Trust was given us by our ancestors who made the courageous decision to come to America. They may not have known exactly what they were getting into, or been able to articulate the vision of the founders, but they saw opportunity, they saw freedom and they came.
In my previous posts I referred, with tongue in cheek sometimes, to the Kennedy Compound. Well, in the fall of 2009 we had the opportunity to visit the Kennedy Homestead in Ireland. It is the home where John F Kennedy's grandfather, Patrick, was raised. And it was from there that he traveled to America, leaving behind siblings and parents. Unlike many Irish immigrants, Patrick was not leaving Ireland to escape famine and poverty. In fact, he was quite comfortable working the family farm. But, he heard of an opportunity to put his barrel making skills to work in the U.S. He had a job, and he took it. After his move to America, Patrick married Bridget, the sister of one of the friends who helped get him the job and he opened a business of his own. It seems his wife had an entrepreneurial spirit as well since most of the family's wealth was acquired after Patrick died, through his Bridget's ingenuity.
The point is, they came. And they used this new liberty to better themselves and their children. They looked to future generations. My own Italian grandfather was a sign painter. He painted signs. Simple. His son, my father, was an electrical engineer (though without a college degree). And his son, my brother, is an electrical engineer (with a degree), and his daughter (me) has a master's degree in Theology. And his other children are equally successful in their chosen fields.
It is our hope, that our children, born in the land of the free, will use their freedom to better themselves and their children. We think ahead to the generations to come and hope that this country, this land of opportunity will survive for them as well.
But the burden of passing on this Trust, is not just for the sake of our own great-great grandchildren. We have a responsibility to the world. The American Experiment has made this country a beacon to all who want to be free. Not just those who may choose to immigrate, but to those who want to pursue a deeper liberty in their own country.
This responsibility to the rest of the world was articulated by President Reagan in his famous "Shining City on a Hill" speech, in which he quoted Pope Pius XII:
We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”
We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.The last, best hope of man on earth! Wow! Talk about burdens!
How can we make sure America remains the best hope of man on earth! How can we continue, now and in the future, be the economic strength and power that stands between the world and the dark ages.
I think that handing on the Trust is the key. And that can be done best by the family (home educators or not). Schools have failed. But they were destined to. Only strong families can help keep government at the proper size (because we want a government that is a world power, but citizens that are truly free), only informed families can keep the American Dream alive, only families devoted to the founding documents in their original meaning can continue to make America exceptional.
Things seem very bad out there now. And that Shining City on a Hill doesn't seem so shiny. But I don't think Americans have any intention of letting the world return to the Dark Ages (the real Dark Ages, or the Dark Ages everyone means when they use the phrase). So, let's put out our flags on Independence Day and begin by talking about why it has 13 stripes and 50 stars. Let's pass on the Trust as we know it today, and get a better handle on it for tomorrow.
As for me and my family, we are devoting the coming school year to studying the founding of our country. We want to immerse ourselves in the stories of the pioneers, the words of the founders, the principles that make this country work. That means this home educator must read and study the Trust....my goal this summer is to read the Constitution.