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What it Means to Be an American

February 7, 2022

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 understanding that as citizens they carry obligations of citizenship.

I write about the consequences of that in a new book (soon to be published by En Route Books) that predicts that if the decline in American political and social culture continues we will see further street violence, looting, inflation and even food shortages as the decline of American civic order accelerates.

What can be done?

One answer is to start new colleges that strive to replace Progressive ideology that dominates the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Two startups have emerged: University of Austin and Thales College, both feature a “Classical” curriculum. Thales tuition, estimated to be at $8,000 a year, is low relative to tuition at other colleges that offer a classical education.

If you have graduated with a college degree, but now seek to become educated, the opportunity to educate yourself is wide open.  Educate yourself was the approach of Socrates who had a phrase for it, Know thyself”: gnothi seanauto (γνῶθι σεαυτόν).

In light of common ignorance of college educated Americans about our country, a good way to know our “Americanhood” is by reading Madison’s “Notes” of the Federal Convention.

The Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787 was called to amend the Articles of Confederation. Out of that convention came a Constitution that has well served these United States for 233 years.

Before the 1960s and 1970s, a college education required some study of Constitutional Law and study of “Con Law” at our law schools gave Attorneys a smattering of understanding of the ideas discussed in Philadelphia so many years ago and the Conventions that “Ratified” the American Constitution in 1789.

Unfortunately that is no longer true and the best educated generation of American citizens in American history knows nothing about the Framers of the Constitution nor which President was the first to call them our “Founding Fathers.”  Credit President Warren Harding for that.

We know instinctively that something ominous occurred on January 6, 2020 when a mob entered the U.S. Capitol and sought to overturn results in the Electoral College on a misguided assumption that Vice President Pence has that power.

That assumption involved an interpretation of the Constitutional role of the Electoral College. We should fear the ignorance visible in that led to mob violence and commence anew the study of the Constitution lest in a few short years we witness an abrupt reorganization of the Federal government.

Start you studies by purchasing Madison’s Notes  of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 as Reported by James Madison edited by James McClellan and M.E. Bradford. (Richmond, VA: James River Press, 1989).

Or purchase the Adrienne Koch edition of Madison’s Notes published by Ohio University Press, (2nd edition, 1985). Also see James Madison’s Notes Of Debates In The Federal Convention Of 1787 And Their Relation To A More Perfect Society Of Nations, ed. James Brown Scott (Andesite Press, 2017).

Study “Con Law” by taking William Miller’s online course on the foundations of American nationalism and do read about the work of Gordon Lloyd at the Ashbrook Center in Ohio.

Professor Lloyd’s presentation on the Antifederalists at the 2007 meeting of the Philadelphia Society is a good way to start learning about the Constitution of the United States before it’s too late.

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