Op-ed: Ignorant nation

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Tuesday, September 19, 2017 11:39am
  • Opinion

At a National Archives ceremony last Friday in Washington, D.C., 30 immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens. In a video, President Trump encouraged them to embrace the “full rights, and the sacred duties, that come with American citizenship.”

It was a noble sentiment that once resonated with Americans who believed passing along their history to a new generation of citizens was something that ought to be done. Not anymore.

One of the new citizens, Juliet Sanchez, a teacher born in Colombia, told the Washington Post: “We can and should respect, celebrate and embrace our new culture, but you shouldn’t tell us to assimilate.” This attitude may be one factor contributing to an increasingly divided America. The other is equally disturbing.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center discovered that Americans are ignorant about the Constitution and the rights it protects.

The poll found that 37 percent of those interviewed could not name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment. Forty-eight percent got freedom of speech right. Thirty-three percent could not name one of the three branches of government and only 26 percent correctly named all three.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, responded to the poll: “Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

One can’t have a country if citizens are ignorant of its origins and purpose. When I was in public school, civics was a required subject. That it is rarely taught today likely explains the disturbing Annenberg poll results. Adds Jamieson: “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional principles.”

Good luck with that. In an era emphasizing diversity and multiculturalism and the fear that anyone teaching the superiority of the Constitution might be named a xenophobe, or bigot, even the Pledge of Allegiance is being challenged in some schools in an effort not to offend immigrants.

Another study by the Newseum Institute discovered just 19 percent of those polled know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.

Ignorance about the documents that founded and have sustained America through many challenges ensures the country we have known will not be recognized by future generations. That is fine with some on the far left who appear embarrassed and ashamed of America and think it the cause of many of the world’s problems.

Hillsdale College in Michigan is trying to make up for this ignorance about the Constitution by offering a free online course.

The problem begins in the public schools and extends into overpriced universities. Writing in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Few of the liberal arts and sciences faculty at these schools offer courses that explore the origins, structure, substance and aims of the education that they supposedly deliver. Instead they provide a smattering of classes on hot-button topics in higher education such as multiculturalism, inequality, gender and immigration. This is no trivial oversight, as the quality of American freedom depends on the quality of Americans’ education about freedom.”

Higher education’s failure to educate produces graduates who find it difficult to find jobs and must return home to live with parents. Unfortunately, when they return they’re burdened with crushing student loan debt, which according to the Department of Education, is at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion. So desperate are graduates to wipe out their debt that the personal finance website, Credible, surveyed millennials (ages 18 to 34) and found that 50 percent of them would give up their right to vote during the next two presidential election cycles in order to never make another loan payment.

What does this say about our next generation of Americans?

These polls demonstrate the failed products of a once-great American education system. It is why those who can afford it are turning to private schools or to home-schooling. Many consider public education to be America’s last monopoly, but these polls indicate that it isn’t working for individual Americans and it isn’t working for the nation.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

t
Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

The logo of the Homer Trails Alliance.
Point of View: Connecting our community through trails

Homer is booming with housing development and the viability of long-standing trails is threatened