Fourth of July, 2008.

Happy 232nd Birthday to the United States of America!

Earlier this week, one of the Baldwin brothers said that he’ll leave the United States if Obama wins the election. Considering he had his fingers crossed, he probablysaid it in jest. Nonetheless, it brings to mind the people who, four and eight years ago, swore they’d leave America if a particular candidate got elected. Too many of them didn’t keep their word, which is a pity.

It is my fervent hope that those who make such promises keep them, and that those who keep such promises never come back. Actually, I hope they leave regardless of who wins. If their willingness to participate in a democratic republic is limited to when their side wins, screw them.

A teacher called into a radio talk show to argue that part of the problem with America is the deficiency of civic education. In order words, we aren’t doing a good enough job of teaching our kids about the founding ideas and principles of this great nation, and so they’re poor citizens as adults. His proposed solution was increased spending on education, which triggered an argument with the host.

Perhaps we should spend more money on our education; perhaps not. As the caller blathered on and on about the subject, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are the founding documents of this country classified? Is it only possible to learn about them from schoolteachers?”

Well, no and no. The failings of the educational system might excuse the civic ignorance of children, but certainly not adults. For less than five bucks, you can buy a book with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution (and usually some commentary on both) in just about any bookstore. For less than that, you can find them on-line—some of the better versions have HTML annotations. If you’re an American, you have a responsibility to find them and read them and think about what they mean. There’s no good excuse for not doing so. Sez me.

3 comments

Ruiz Says:

We might as well have left when Bush got elected.

July 9th, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Asim Abbasi Says:

Some interesting thoughts in that last post, Mr. Viscariello. In response to the teacher that called into the radio show regarding civic education: out of curiosity, when I was naturalized about seven years ago in Chicago, part of the process was appearing en mass in front of a judge, holding up my right hand and reading the naturalization oath. In the official text of the oath of allegiance, there is no mention of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, not even the “good parts”.

Now, the idea of studying civic education in order to appreciate the efforts of the founding father (and hopefully, straighten out ‘those young ruffians with their iPods and text-messaging’ – my quote) is part of a wider-held opinion that in studying history and the people who create it, we can prevent the repetition of the problems of the past and learn from them: we only need to look at the people in power in the developed and developing countries of this world and know that this is not true. Studying the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are necessary but not sufficient.

July 11th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Vincent Viscariello Says:

I agree that studying those documents is insufficient in terms of “prevent[ing] the repetition of the problems of the past,” largely (in my humble but probably correct opinion) because some of those problems are tragic and inevitable; they’ll recur due either to human nature or the physical nature of the universe. What frustrates me as a teacher is how often people (particularly the ones in my class) don’t treat studying those documents as necessary–never mind for civic education, how about for a higher grade in government or history class, and all that entails (scholarships, college options, career options, not getting the car taken away)?

By the way… I did a quick search, and the oath I found does mention supporting and defending the Constitution. Link here. Are you sure it was a citizenship ceremony and not initiation into a mafia family? Because they’ll pull that on you sometimes if their numbers are low.

July 11th, 2008 at 5:35 pm