A Patriotic Education? I Wholeheartedly Agree!
Dear Mr. Trump, I recently learned of your idea to redesign Americans’ education to be a patriotic endeavor. I wholeheartedly agree, and I am very interested in heading up your task force. I hold two decades of experience in educating America’s youth under my belt, and my degrees are in the field of history. I thought I would share with you the basics of what should be included in the curriculum.
Over the course of two hundred years, the history of our country offers significant material to cover. Surely, we will begin with the most basic tenets of our Constitution including, the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion. We have so many examples of these in our current events to include as part of the discussions. Students could learn about recent expressions of the right to assembly by researching recent protests, such as March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March. Perhaps we could encourage students to find a cause to protest themselves, such as climate change? Such a project would be an extraordinary learning opportunity. Understanding is cemented when students apply their knowledge in a real-world situation.
Our democracy’s foundation is built upon resistance and rebellion. To that end, we must include a variety of examples of the reasons to resist authority. The organization of the American colonies against the British Empire offers the perfect example. As I am sure you know, the Empire taxed the colonies without representation and placed a great deal of control over their economies. As such, the colonists determined that they wanted independence and freedom from such a controlling authority. Colonists organized untrained farmers to fight against the largest of the world’s military. Due to their determination and grit, the farmers won the rebellion, and the United States of America became a reality.
We must also incorporate the concept of equality. This concept is also a foundation of our nation’s great success. Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence, “We find these truths to be self-evident. All men are created equal”. This concept has expanded to include all peoples through several Supreme Court decisions, including Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s classic Constitutional argument, “on the basis of sex”. Because of her defense before the Court, women and men are afforded equal protection under the law. I would certainly introduce her argument as a primary source to deepen students’ understanding of our belief system.
To that end, we must also include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the conflicts that ensued from discrimination. I think studying John Lewis, SNCC, and Bloody Sunday would be a brilliant way to include the tenet of equality as well as freedom of assembly. Certainly John Lewis’ mantra encouraging Americans to get into “good trouble” would motivate our youth to promote America’s most profound convictions.
As well, we certainly must include the importance of the Statue of Liberty and her relevance in welcoming immigrants from other lands throughout the years. From its very inception, our country has been a second home for immigrants. Students can do family histories and examine their roots. Perhaps you could share your own family’s history in coming to America, Mr. Trump? Certainly, you would inspire many with the story of your family’s immigration to the States.
Freedom of press will also be key to our teachings. Written in our Bill of Rights, this freedom helped to shape American society throughout the ages. The curriculum could include daily readings from local and national newspapers, such as the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Miami-Herald, Baltimore Sun, and the L.A. Times. These fact-checked articles and informative essays demonstrate America’s ability to live together with differing views and opinions. Key to a thriving democracy, as we all know.
Our country’s efforts to “establish justice” as a main principle would be an interesting facet of exploration. Holding elected officials accountable not only through our democratic process, but also, via established laws, such as the Hatch Act. As well, examining the role of free press would be important. We may want to include some of Bob Woodward’s works in this element of the course such as, All the President’s Men.
As for Americans, I believe Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Dorothy Pittman Hughes would make excellent individuals of study. As well as James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Barack Obama, as the first black American president, will be a crucial pick. And, John McCain is a particularly interesting figure who would enthrall students due to his grit and commitment to his brethren while captured as a P.O.W. in Vietnam.
As for readings, in addition to obvious writings from our nation’s Founders, here are a few of my recommendations: How to be an Antiracist, The Feminine Mystique, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, “Ain’t I A Woman?”, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and perhaps, Black Klansman. While I encourage the use of primary sources, I also believe many additional resources could be valuable assets in the course development. We can build on the foundation of classic curricula such as the 1970s video series, Schoolhouse Rock. In particular, I suggest “No More King” and “Great American Melting Pot”.
Of course, we have so much to consider when designing a curriculum of this nature. At its heart, however, the education of our youth must center around the most fundamental principles of our American democracy-”establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.
Mr. Trump, don’t you agree?