Reason, Liberty, & Culture

Lewis Loflin view Norton Va.
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The Cause of Civic Ignorance in America

Compiled by Lewis Loflin

A recent news editorial lamented the sorry state of civics education in America, but failed to mention the reason for it. I'm here to tell the reason why - it's the political agenda of our leftwing education industry. From the Kingsport Times-News,

The history we celebrate today is a testament to the ideals of freedom and liberty for which a small band of patriots risked their lives more than two centuries ago. But those who fought to frame a new kind of government on a new continent instinctively knew this nation's bold experiment would work only if its citizens were knowledgeable decision-makers.

Sadly, more than two centuries later, an accumulating host of studies makes all too clear that our increasing lack of civic literacy and civic engagement threatens the very basis of democracy itself.

A lack of knowledge about this nation's history, the workings of its government, including its processes and institutions, cuts across all age, gender and social strata, but the problem seems particularly acute among the nation's young.

Last year, a report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) described the daunting dimensions of the problem in a paper it ominously titled "The Coming Crisis In Citizenship."

From According to them:

  • College Seniors Failed a Basic Test on America's History and Institutions.
  • Colleges Stall Student Learning about America.
  • America's Most Prestigious Universities Performed the Worst.
  • Inadequate College Curriculum Contributes to Failure.
  • Greater Learning about America Goes Hand-in-Hand with More Active Citizenship.

According to the Kingsport Times-News:

That survey of 14,000 students at 50 of the nation's colleges and universities showed that a majority of undergraduates barely managed to answer more than half of 60 questions on U.S. history and government correctly. Among college seniors, more than half could not identify the correct century when the first American colony was established at Jamestown.

Similarly, more than half could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end. Incredibly, 28 percent of college seniors identified the battle at Gettysburg, which occurred during the Civil War, as the correct answer.

I went and took the test on their website and scored 81.67% or 49 out 60 correct. What I missed I never had in school, and what I passed 90% of that I never had in school either. In college I took western civilization, not US history. I far out scored every ivy-league college with Harvard at 69.56%. I'm no genius and have a couple AS degrees (about three years total on a four year degree) and have been out of college for 15 years, high school for 31 years.

When I graduated high school in a coal town in 1977, the system had begun to break down a few years before. John I. Burton in Norton, Virginia was a very good school, but dropped its emphasis on college and its college-prep classes around 1974. If I hadn't taken senior chemistry in the 10th grade, I would never have gotten it at all.

They dropped that along with physics, Latin, etc. by my senior year, but expanded their sports program. I paid for this in college which no guidance councilor ever mentioned, to me in high school.

Worst, Intercollegiate Studies Institute data shows that for many ivy-league graduates from freshman to senior regressed in many cases or had little or no improvement. What is really scary is most of our nation's leaders in politics, academia, and law come from these very colleges. These colleges also produce most of our teachers and those that write textbooks.

In most cases it's the fact they attended these very colleges that gets them their jobs. Academia is dominated by "60s" Marxist' radicals determined to tear the country apart. Their disdain and hatred of America and Western Civilization in general is well known. Not only do they fail to teach American civics, but what they do teach is often distorted. But that might be changing.

To quote, The 60s Begin to Fade as Liberal Professors Retire New York Times July 3, 2008:

Baby boomers, hired in large numbers during a huge expansion in higher education that continued into the '70s, are being replaced by younger professors who many of the nearly 50 academics interviewed by The New York Times believe are different from their predecessors - less ideologically polarized and more politically moderate...More than 54 percent of full-time faculty members in the United States were older than 50 in 2005, compared with 22.5 percent in 1969...

Yet already there are signs that the intense passions and polemics that roiled campuses during the past couple of decades have begun to fade. At Stanford a divided anthropology department reunited last year after a bitter split in 1998 broke it into two entities, one focusing on culture, the other on biology.

At Amherst, where military recruiters were kicked out in 1987, students crammed into a lecture hall this year to listen as alumni who served in Iraq urged them to join the military.

...a new study of the social and political views of American professors...found that the notion of a generational divide is more than a glancing impression. "Self-described liberals are most common within the ranks of those professors aged 50-64, who were teenagers or young adults in the 1960s...making up just under 50 percent.

At the same time, the youngest group, ages 26 to 35, contains the highest percentage of moderates, some 60 percent, and the lowest percentage of liberals, just under a third. When it comes to those who consider themselves "liberal activists," 17.2 percent of the 50-64 age group take up the banner compared with only 1.3 percent of professors 35 and younger...Democrats continue to overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans among faculty, young and old...

Changes in institutions of higher education themselves are reinforcing the generational shuffle. Health sciences, computer science, engineering and business - fields that have tended to attract a somewhat greater proportion of moderates and conservatives - have grown in importance and size compared with the more liberal social sciences and humanities, where many of the bitterest fights over curriculum and theory occurred...

To quote Lenin, "A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution."

Typical for the "60s" is Michael Olneck, whose father was a socialist. He bristles at books by conservative philosopher Allan Bloom and "his influential best seller The Closing of the American Mind in 1987." Bloom "detailed fights over the scarcity of women and people of color in the curriculum, the proliferation of pop-culture courses, doubts about the existence of any eternal truths and new theories that declared moral values to be merely an expression of power."

For Olneck, "traditional views of American education were also being upended. Radical revisionists ridiculed the view of public education as a beneficent democratic project. They raised questions about equal access, how schools reinforced class differences, and whether social science should, or even could be free of ideology...20 years ago he jettisoned number-centric studies for historical narrative, exploring how schools throughout the 20th century responded to immigrants and diversity.

In his work one can detect some of the era's preoccupations when he argues, for instance, that fights over bilingualism and standard English were about power...In 1989 he worked to kick the R.O.T.C. off campus because of the Defense Department's ban on homosexuals...Last fall, he taught Race, Ethnicity and Inequality in American Education, which he introduces in the syllabus: "Schools in the United States promise equal opportunity. They have not kept that promise. In this course, we will try to find out why."

In other words they teach political propaganda. For these radicals and thousands of others "equal opportunity" doesn't mean equal spending per student or all students have to take the same classes, but equal economic result regardless of merit. It's "equality" in socialist' terms and all thoughts are in terms of "struggle" between "victim class" versus society in general.

It's about egalitarianism. Perhaps if we look at why we have these problems and who is behind it, we might solve the problem. I won't hold my breath on this, but to continue with the Times-News,

Another survey released earlier this year by a group known as Common Core reveals that a significant percentage of teenagers live in "stunning ignorance" of their own history. Overall, the 1,200 17-year-olds surveyed earned a "D." Nearly a quarter of those surveyed could not identify Adolf Hitler; 10 percent thought he was a munitions manufacturer. Fewer than half could place the Civil War in the correct half-century, and a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

Unfortunately, the findings of the ISI and Common Core surveys are not aberrations. Study after study shows that a majority of high school and college students are both apathetic toward, and ignorant of, Americans' civic birthright. Such findings aren't just embarrassing, they're pathetic. Left unchanged, such ignorance and intellectual lassitude challenge our very future as a democratic and free people.

Ultimately, our ability to intelligently defend and preserve what we as a nation hold dear depends on our knowledge and understanding of the ideas and values that bind us together in a common civic culture. It is only through an intimate acquaintance with that shared history that we can hope to understand our past and make intelligent choices about our country's collective future.

In his farewell address, Ronald Reagan warned, "We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion, but what's important...If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication...of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."

Kingsport Times-News July 3, 2008

Ref. for Lenin quotes: