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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Jefferson, Adams, Citizenship, Friendship

Alexander Khan at National Review:
Citizenship in America is in a troubling state. In 2015, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni conducted a survey of college graduates which found that only 28.4 percent could name James Madison as the father of the Constitution. Thirty-nine percent did not know that Congress had the war power, and roughly 45 percent did not know the length of congressional terms. In 2017, the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 37 percent of Americans could not name any of the rights in the First Amendment, and that only 26 percent could name all three branches of government. Gallup poll results from 2018 reveal that young Americans’ views of capitalism and socialism have switched since 2010, with only 45 percent of respondents now professing a positive view of the capitalist system. A November 2018 YouGov poll revealed that Americans’ patriotism and knowledge of civics was troublingly low. More recently, in January 2019, Gallup released survey results which showed that 30 percent of younger Americans, a record high, would like to permanently leave the U.S. Unfortunately, these results are not shocking. Each new poll extends the long line of depressing findings.
 While liberal education will never be a cure-all for the disgraceful state of civic life and historical knowledge in America, its renewal in a spirit of friendship is essential if we seek to tackle our citizenship deficit. Students educated in such an environment will not only deeply understand the ideas and principles of the Founders and of Americans throughout history, but they will also come to understand their own connection to those ideas. They will feel invested in the future of their country and in the principles that form its foundation. This educational environment will also affect the concern and interest students have in what government does, how it acts, and the way in which they see their rights and duties. Robust engagement in the classroom naturally translates to the open marketplace of ideas and the active world of citizenship. These students will serve as examples to their fellow citizens, expanding the education of the classroom to the entire country. In the fight to restore civic life and knowledge in America, the rebuilding of liberal education in the spirit of Jefferson and Adams’s friendship is an essential component.