The Washington Times
January 27, 1998

Teaching Citizenship

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
January 27, 1998

One of the greatest failures of modern education is the omission of any recognizable instruction in the duties of citizenship. In 1951, the National Education Association published the American Citizen’s Handbook, which was a virtual treasure trove of excellent information on the topic.

Incidently, the NEA thought a part of good citizenship was memorizing Scripture—at least that’s what its membership thought in 1951.

Home schoolers need to teach the attributes of citizenshp; itís their duty to their children and their country. Let me suggest five principles that should be included in any such program.

1. We should teach our children to love our country. For too long, American education has fostered a spirit of negative reflection upon our nation’s past. Many history courses portray our nation as a military aggressor, racial oppressor and land of greedy opportunists. There is no question, of course, that we have had bad characters in our country, and our nation has made errors—some of them very serious. The toleration of the sin of slavery is undoubtedly our greatest national failure.

However, for every deplorable act in the past, there are dozens of good things—indeed, some great things—this country has accomplished. Without America, the Nazis probably would have won World War II. Without America, communism would still be flourishing.

America was the first great experiment in democracy. Our success began a process that has swept the world bringing freedom and self-government. We should hold our heads high. America is a great nation because we have so often done what is right and good.

2. We should teach our children to understand the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The foundation of our freedom is our adherence to the principle of higher law. We need to teach our children that the president of the United States is not a king who may impose whatever law he desires.

It is crucial to the proper raising of children that they believe that every person is governed by a higher law—ultimately by God’s law. A parent should want to instill this belief in a child so that the child will learn to obey God’s law even when his or her parent is not watching.

As parents we demonstrate our own obedience to this principle if we obey the law and God course of our daily lives. Our children watch and learn from our example.

Children who have been taught to obey a higher law will expect such obedience from others—including their elected officials. Politicians who live immoral lives will be distrusted automatically by people who were taught as children to revere the concept of higher law. If a politician feels no constraints to honor his marriage vows, for example, he cannot be trusted to honor his promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

3. We should teach our children to understand every level of government. One of the most persistent problems in America is that we have too much government. One of the reasons for this is that we have lost the distinction between the duties assigned to different levels of government. There is no need for national, state, county, and city departments of education. One should be quite enough.

Take your children on field trips to government offices so that they can see first hand what functions each level performs. Visit courts at different levels. Observe traffic court. Watch a felony trial. Go to a federal court and watch a civil rights trial. Go to a school board meeting. Watch your city council in operation. Visit your state legislature. If possible watch Congress in action.

The practical lessons your children will receive from such excursions will far outweigh any textbook instruction—especially if you follow up with thoughtful discussion.

4. We should teach our children to understand the electoral process. Use every election as an opportunity to teach your children about the electoral process and the issues that motivate the realm of politics.

Children should be led through discussions of which candidates you intend to support and why. They should be taught by example that we elect leaders based upon principles, not solely upon party affiliation, and certainly not upon good looks or flashy ads. Discussion of ballot issues is another vital way to impart a cohesive political philosophy to your children.

5. We should teach our children to believe that God blesses a nation that honors Him, speaks the truth, and advances justice and mercy. Read the book “The Light and The Glory”, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, to your children. It is a marvelous recitation of the many, many times God has blessed this nation.

The well-known musical line “America, America, God shed His grace on thee” expresses a little-known historical truth. Our continued national prosperity and freedom—which appears to be threatened—can be preserved only if we teach the next generation to honor the same set of truths for which our forefathers shed their blood. A nation which forgets God will lose its freedom.

Schools and parents once shared this critical duty, as the NEA’s citizenship handbook adequately demonstrated. I carry in my wallet the business card of the man hired by the NEA to destroy the last 10,000 copies of the American Citizenís Handbook. The elimination of these books, more than any other act I am aware of, exemplifies why parents have deserted the public schools.

Love and duty to our nation, together with a sense of morality and decency, have been driven out of the public schools by the forces of international liberalism.

Home-schooling parents can reinstate these truths in our curriculum. By so doing, we will be raising a generation of voters and leaders who will be capable of guiding this nation in the next century on a course of freedom and blessing.

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

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