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Progressives and Civic Education

October 19, 2018

Now the Progressive Left is concerned that public schools have neglected civic education!

In The Atlantic, which like The New Yorker, Harpers, New York and other politically correct journals that attract Progressive subscribers, we can now find expression of concern about the lack of civic education.

“Public schools are failing at what the nation’s founders saw as education’s most basic purpose: preparing young people to be reflective citizens who would value liberty and democracy and resist the appeals of demagogues.”

That’s the opinion of Richard D. Kahlenberg and Clifford Janey in the November 10, 2016 issue of The Atlantic. Their essay is titled “Is Trump’s Victory the Jump-Start Civics Education Needed?”

The World War II generation were taught something called “Americanism,” but that became too patriotic for the 1960s generation who rioted against the war in Vietnam. By 1973 when the U.S. expanded military operations into Cambodia, university administrators were compelled by rioting students to removed required courses in the History of Western Civilization, Economics and American government from college curricula.

If you count four years–the time it takes to earn an undergraduate degree as a “generation”–since 1973 eleven generations of college students have not been given a civic education that prepares them for their responsibilities as citizens in a self-governing nation.

Now, even Progressives are worried that the lack of civic education has badly injured democracy in America and that the United States, according to Kahlenberg and Janey, is poised to reject “love of liberal democracy: a respect for the separation of powers, for a free press and free religious exercise, and for the rights of political minorities.”

Eighteen years ago, in response to “reforms” brought about by rioting students in the 1960s and early 1970s that had badly injured American higher education, I founded the first Internet university dedicated to teaching the history of Western civilization, American government and freedom of enterprise. You can read about it in The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education.

Unlike the family of Leland Stanford who founded Stanford University in 1885, wealthy American conservatives have done little to foster the growth of liberal education by founding “Templeton” University, “Scaife” University, “Koch” University, or “Mercer” University.  Most are more interested in political power, not improving higher education. Two Protestant Christian leaders are the exception and have attempted to found new universities on a scale equivalent to Stanford: Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell.  A host of other religious leaders have founded smaller religious colleges with a “Great Books” focus. Included among their numbers are Patrick Henry College, Wyoming Catholic and Thomas Aquinas college. But, this is a nation of more than 3,000 colleges and almost all do not offer required courses that educate our future leaders about their political obligations.

One of the reasons why wealthy political and social conservatives do not found their own colleges and universities may be due to their lack of knowledge about higher education. Most earned their wealth in business and business skills are very different from academic administration skills. A smart businessman will fear that the university he founded will be co-opted by the Left.  Some, like “Trump University” are mere scams, but even if you’re not a scam-artist, the higher education “business” is fraught with peril.

But, both political conservatives and Progressives realize that the absence of any required program of civic education in our colleges and universities has engendered a citizenry with no commitment to the obligations of citizenship. In my next book that I have titled American Democracy in the Era of Celebrity, I predict that the decline in American political and social culture will require that U.S. military step in to stop street violence, looting and food shortages that will occur as the decline of American civic order accelerates.

I wish this were not so but, if even Progressives are worried, we have a problem!


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