Saturday, May 12, 2012

Our Kids, Our Future, Civics & Education

Growing up in a Chicago Suburb in Illinois, back in the early 1980s, there was a state law. In order to get into High School, a student had to pass tests on both the Illinois and US Constitutions. Three years later, in junior year of High School, that same law applied with a more comprehensive test on each that a student was required to pass in order to graduate from High School. If those tests still exist, it appears they have been greatly diminished in their requirements.

I encounter college students these days who cannot even name the three men who wrote under the pseudonym "Publius" (Madison, Hamilton and Jay). I have encountered college graduates who believe the Declaration of Independence starts with "We The People, in order to form...". They further quote the Preamble of the US Constitution as "Four score and seven years ago...".

My junior high civics class involved cursory knowledge on the history and meaning of each article of each constitution. Most recent college graduates I encounter would fail the US Constitution portion of the test, today. It was a test at the Seventh Grade level. I even had one 30-something with a graduates degree confess that she has never read the US Constitution. It is only 26 standard-book pages long. The high school test went a little deeper into the foundations and meanings, discussing excerpts from the various Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

In too many schools these days, kids learn from textbooks written or heavily influenced by Howard Zinn, a dedicated socialist. He wrote books that challenged what was conventional historical perspectives. In doing so, however, he failed to remove historical bias, as he claimed he was doing. Instead, he omitted many key historical facts and altered history towards a pro-Marxist and Frankfurt School propaganda device. His books are now commonplace in government school classrooms.Unfortunately, this is the current "box" of which we need to teach our kids to think outside. Government educators will try to tell you otherwise.They will also attempt to tell you that it isn't a parental responsibility to educate their own kids, especially if it involves ideas contrary to their indoctrination curricula.

These days, in High School, our kids do not get a foundation in US Civics. Instead they have teachers such as the one in San Antonio, TX that I discussed in an earlier article. This comprachico went so far to confuse the definitions of political ideologies to compare a conservative TEA party group to the ideological left-wing oligarchic philosophy of the National Socialist Party. If he did his proper job in educating the students, they would know that the two are polar opposites.

Personal political philosophy evolves over one's life. It should grow as one receives further education and thinks critically on the subjects. Experience is the greatest of all teachers, and usually the harshest. Practical development is necessary. If your kids claim to be rebellious and "rage against the conventional machine", challenge them to do so by seeking facts and thinking for themselves.

In my own growth towards conservatism, I went through many stages. I was a rebellious punker as a teen and through college. However, I was lucky. I was taught to seek facts and definitions before moving into critical thought. If you don't have a common definition of terms, you cannot think critically. Words have meanings just like arithmetic phrases do. I have had people give me different answers for simple mathematical phrases such as 3+2 x 8 / 4 -1 . They try to debate their answers as "subject to interpretation". However, the rules state there is an order of precedence for the operands. Yes, there is exactly one correct answer. In philosophy, there may or may not be such a clear answer. That makes it even more important to stick to the standard/accepted definitions of terms. These days, our kids are graded, as early as 1st grade, in their critical thinking abilities before they are even taught the basic foundations and rules. You cannot learn to "think outside the box" until you are capable of understanding what the box is.

My own tale illustrates how self-education, experience, and direct parental influence helped me to think independently and critically. True liberty comes first from self-realization and independent thought. Our kids need to know it is "cool" to make up their own mind and not to just parrot somebody else for praise and acceptance. They will find those who agree instead of being peer-pressured to accept collectivist "party line".

In that rebellious youth of mine, experience taught me some hard lessons. I was lucky that the greatest teachers I had for those were my father and grandfather. I would adjust the belt on my big-boy pants and try to debate with them. My father was a bit more benign. He'd usually say "I'm not sure. You may want to go back and research that some more. Go read it again. Have you read somebody who disagrees?". My grandfather, however, loved to play the game with me. His favorite phrase was "You may be right. Until you can prove it, you are wrong. Get some proof and we'll come back and talk about it more." Even if I had some proof, he'd counter with some reference I never heard of, then utter the same phrase. He would do this even when I was agreeing with him! He challenged me to seek data, facts, and reputable analysis. I loved that man.

However, even though I liked a lot of Reagan's policies and detested many of Carter's, I refused to consider myself a "conservative". I mean, I was young, rebellious, and a free-thinker. I wore my father's old jungle boots, held together by duct tape. I was a young punker, out to prove the world wrong. I was a Democrat, by Jove. I was more liberal than even they were. I was an "Anarchist"!

It's humorous to look back upon those days. In striving to rebel so hard against the system, I was more of a conforming cliche of the times than the hippies from the early 70s. I even rebelled against my "young punker" label by becoming a "goth"! But why did I grab so hold to that label of "Anarchist"? Well, I wanted the government out of my life. Of course, I did the worst thing imaginable with that sort of attitude, I joined the Illinois Army National Guard to help pay for my college. (4 years or so later, I went a step further and went into the active Army). I was a "true patriot". I recalled waving my little flag around as an almost-8-year-old on our Nation's Bi-Centennial. I was sure the government had it wrong.

Those ideas actually changed a little bit while I was in college. Most of my closer fraternity brothers were in ROTC. They were also "punkers". I remember my "black-ball trial" during "hell week". I was asked why I was an "anarchist". I responded with what remains the core of my political philosophy. The brother who asked the question responded with another. "Do you believe there needs to be some law?". I answered "Of course!". Then I went into a rant about the US Constitution and its intended design to limit the federal government to only those few laws "necessary and proper". I went into Natural Rights and the importance of individual rights over collectivism. Sound familiar? No, I wasn't an "anarchist" at all. It just sounded cool. But Brother Bill D. did inspire a desire for further research, introspection, and critical thought.

In High School, I discovered the realm of science fiction. One of those authors I found fascinating was Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein wrote about socio-political ideals I liked. I discovered "libertarianism". That was it. I was not a "conservative". I must be a "libertarian". I became a huge advocate of "volunteerism" and "meritocracy". These were ideals that got me through the earlier years of military service. I knew the harder I worked and the less credit I begged for would lead to personal success. To this day, my record stands for itself.

I have given insight into my own personal journey. I do so just to illustrate an example of what parents (and teachers worth their paychecks) need to do in order to rescue our children. We need to challenge them to go outside the curricula. We need to engage them with debate. We need to inspire them to research, define, and get facts then come back and discuss. When they have their facts wrong, we need to show them where they are wrong. We need to let them explore things for themselves. Let them read things from RA Heinlein to The Hunger Games. we need to inspire them towards their own individual pursuits of the truth. the sources of information, these days, are so vast it is also imperative we help them develop filters: "yes, no, maybe-- need to look more into that".

The "great bridge" across that "generation gap" parents encounter while trying to educate or deprogram our children is built with facts, the truth. The foundations they build stand eons of time. While some truths are not evident until later generations, they remain true from before they are discovered until well after they are dismissed and ignored. Gravity has always existed. Natural Law and Natural Rights have always existed. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... endowed with their Creator with certain inalienable rights:  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". The indoctrination machine of today tries to twist the meanings of those words, giving them "modern" definitions. When examined by the vernacular of the day they were scribed, the truth and facts remain constant. Many of today's "educators" don't want our kids to understand this premise

I discussed my grandfather's love of debate. He would play devil's advocate, as would my father. Do this with your kids. Yes, they will find you frustrating. That is part of what will break those barriers. Of course, that means you need to know the other side in order to debate it. Make them read writings from both sides. Do that reading yourself. You cannot defeat an enemy you don't know. Indoctrination of our children in socialist ideology is the enemy. (Our kids are not! They are what we fight for!)

Our kids do get inundated with what seems like too much collectivist philosophy these days. Kant's theories are regaled in school while Rand and Locke may get cursory mention, if at all. I have read Locke, Montesquieu, Hegel, Marx, Engels, and Marcuse. I have read Rand, Heinlein (yes, he wrote non-fiction as well), Friedman, Laffer, and Moore (both Steven and Sir Thomas). To make up one's mind, to seek the truth, you need to know all sides. Encourage kids to read all of the above and discuss the practicality of them. Do not be afraid to play devil's advocate. Do not be afraid to challenge them to think. However, challenge them to actually learn, get the facts (as many as possible), and know the definitions of terms. No, kids, definitions are NOT a matter of perspective. 10 + 8 / 4 - 3 x 2 = 6 .