The Washington Times
December 8, 1998

New Book explores America’s freedom

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
December 8, 1998

It would give me great encouragement if every parent in America would read aloud to his or her children the book “Why America is Free,” published by the Mount Vernon Ladies Asscociation. Many today have confused ideas about our freedom, and how we became a free people. This book could help straighten out the political confusion of our times.

“Why America is Free” is a history book aimed at children from fourth through eighth grades that focuses on the critical founding years of 1750 through 1800. Most adults also would discover new pieces of information about the principles of freedom in this book.

While first and foremost a comprehensive history, the book employs occasional vignettes of a fictional character who grows from a farm boy in 1750 to a soldier in the Revolutionary War and finally becomes a delegate to the Virginia convention for ratification of the Constitution. His experiences give texture to history by describing the details of ordinary life as well as the effects of national movements upon average families.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which oversees the operation of George Washington’s historic home, has produced a text that is patriotic and traditional in its approach to history, but has a balanced and appropriate view of the shortcomings of the Founding Fathers’ generation. The book properly views slavery as morally unacceptable and clearly identifies it as an error of the past, but it does so in a balanced way, and avoids the politically correct tone of most modern texts. The mistakes of the past are given less attention than the numerous positive achievements of the founders, which is important.

Although “Why America is Free” clearly approaches history from a secular perspective, its treatment of our nation’s religious heritage is refreshing. In an opening section, that explains the foundations for the study of American history, the text notes of our rights: “Americans believe these are God-given rights, not privileges which can be revoked by a government.” To me, this is perhaps the most critical factor, which explains exactly why America is free.

In the fictional sections of the book, the central character attends church and prays. These incidents are treated without either fanfare or derision. Religion is seen as a normal part of the lives of normal people.

George Washington and other historical persons are shown having religious faith that played a significant role in shaping their public characters and private morality. The Founding Fathers’ reliance on God’s protection as recited in the Declaration of Independence is noted with appropriate emphasis.

While religion is treated as an important part of both normal life and our nation’s history, it is not presented with an advocate’s voice. However, this book clearly and unashamedly promotes good character. George Washington is the principal, but far from sole example, of good character showcased in the text.

One story of Washington’s integrity—his resignation as commander-in-chief at the end of the War for Independence—is presented so compellingly that one could be moved to tears. Readers will be inspired by the profound impact of Washington’s deliberate humility.

Even one who has studied this period of American history in considerable depth, can find fresh material here. Although most will find Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty” speech familiar, the book includes little-known dramatic details of Henry’s physical presentation that not only bring the scene into a colorful, easy-to-visualize picture, but also help explain why the public responded so strongly.

Although children reading on their own will find this book entertaining, with its interesting writing, beautiful full-color pictures and illustrations, I plan on reading this entire book aloud to my children.

While it will be a valuable addition to home-school libraries, I sincerely hope that home-schoolers will not be the only ones to discover this book. We all need to know the truth about why we are free. All children need knowledge of our history, and the character of our Founding Fathers, if America is to remain free.

Why American is Free may be ordered through the Home School Legal Defense Association or from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association (www.mountvernon.org.)

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.