By – Tim Goeglein
In the past several years, looking out at the violence, hate, and disunity dominating our public discourse, many of us find ourselves asking, “What’s happened to America?”
I hear this question often from friends and family members who remember an America where we were civil to each other regardless our differences—whether spiritual, political, or economic. An America where Democrats worshipped at the same churches with Republicans, where friends and neighbors stopped in the aisle of the local grocery store to catch up and talk about family instead of politics, where schoolchildren were taught about the greatness of their country and about their responsibility to make their country the best it could be.
Unfortunately, because of the current teaching of American history and civics, or lack of, in our educational system, we have become a society focused more on our grievances against each other, rather than what unifies us as a people.
From the rioting, looting, and destruction in our inner cities to the attacks upon our national and state governing institutions; from lesson plans excoriating America’s founding principles to political leaders who denounce our nation’s core values—the days when we were a nation with a shared sense of the common good are an increasingly distant memory.
For example, a 2020 Pew Research study found a month before the presidential election, roughly eight in ten registered voters in both camps said their political disagreements with others were about core American values, with roughly nine in ten—liberals and conservatives—worried about a victory by the other would lead to “lasting harm” to the United States.
More studies prove this out. In 2018, a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found 47 percent of Americans believed our nation has changed so much they felt “like a stranger in their own country.” Nearly six in ten Republicans now felt alienated because of all the changes that have occurred, compared to four in ten Democrats. The PRRI commented on the findings, “The survey finds that partisans see two entirely different American futures.”
The current issues pitting neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and family member against family member are the result of the war on our values, history, and heritage. The front lines of that war are the classrooms of America and the current educational mandate that all children be subjected to learning about how their country is an oppressor rather than liberator.
This mandate has come down from practically every educational power-broker, whether it be the current administration or the powerful National Education Association, which has vowed to fight back against parents who object to this teaching and which only seeks to divide us even more as a nation.
The divisions we see today are strikingly similar to those preceding the American Civil War. The 1776 Commission wrote about these similarities in its report, stating, “[T]he damage done by the denial of core American principles [leading up to the Civil War] and by the attempted substitution of a theory of group rights in their place proved widespread and long-lasting. These, indeed, are the direct ancestors of some of the destructive theories that today divide our people and tear at the fabric of our country.”
When generations are taught a history based on grievances rather than unity, a once united nation splinters into warring factions of Left vs. Right, poor vs. rich, blacks vs. whites, women vs. men. Thus, we have become what Abraham Lincoln warned about in 1858, “a house divided against itself that cannot stand.”
That is why I wrote my book, Toward a More Perfect Union: The Moral and Cultural Case for Teaching the Great American Story, so we can once again learn about the principles upon our great nation was founded – principles which bring us together rather than tear us apart. It is my desire that we can once again be a country that models our national motto – E pluribus unum – “out of many one” through coming together for the common good rather than seeking personal demands. That’s what I hope happens for America in the days ahead.
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