13 July 2011

Ignorance Is Bliss (But Not For Very Long)


The ignorance about our country is staggering. According to one survey, only 28 percent of students could identify the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Only 26 percent of students knew that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. Fewer than one-quarter of students knew that George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Discouraging young Americans from identifying with their country and celebrating our traditional American quest for liberty and equal rights removes the most powerful motivation to learn civics and U.S. history. After all, Damon asks, "why would a student exert any effort to master the rules of a system that the student has no respect for and no interest in being part of? To acquire civic knowledge as well as civic virtue, students need to care about their country." Ignorance and possibly contempt for American values, civics and history might help explain how someone like Barack Obama could become president of the United States. At no other time in our history could a person with longtime associations with people who hate our country become president. Obama spent 20 years attending the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's hate-filled sermons, which preached that "white folks' greed runs a world in need," called our country the "US of KKK-A" and asked God to "damn America." Obama's other America-hating associates include Weather Underground Pentagon bomber William Ayers and Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn.

Obviously, this does not bode well for the future of America.  The absence of knowledge about one’s country and civic institutions is problematic for two reasons.

First, it is hard, if not downright impossible, for people to love their country if they know nothing about it.  Cultivating civic pride requires people to know about the things that make their country unique and to know about the heroes of their country.  How many Americans know who Paul Revere is?  How many know who Alvin York is?  General Patton?  These men were heroes, and now their names are historical footnotes.  And how many people have read the constitution and the Declaration of Independence?  How many have read Blackstone’s commentary or the federalist papers?  People cannot feel proud of their country if they are ignorant of it.

Second, if people have no familiarity with their country’s civic institutions, they will find it difficult to mount a coherent defense of said institutions.  If one never reads the constitution, then one will be hard-pressed to determine when it is under assault and how it is being assailed.  If one has no familiarity with the underlying philosophy of America’s governmental and legal structure, then one can hardly be expected to argue coherently in its defense.

As an aside, Vox Day posted on a test that attempts to measure one’s civic literacy.  Frighteningly, college educators, on the average, had a failing score. Again this does not bode well.  (For what it’s worth, I aced the test.)