“More than 200 years later, we’re still trying to nail down who exactly these men were and what exactly they believed."
Upon reading this line from Micah Mertes' article "Whose Side are the Founders On?" in the July 4th edition of the Lincoln Journal Star, I wanted to ask a few questions of my own. Is his premise true? He seems to be making a familiar distinction. When I was growing up, my brother, nine years my senior and vastly more knowledgeable than I, often talked to me about the value of recognizing what we do know, what we don't know, and what we can't know. We have to be aware of the first in order to identify the second. The real rub comes in distinguishing between the second and the third. With some time and effort, we can learn those things we don't know, but chasing after what is ultimately unknowable is a fool's quest.
Mertes' implicit message is that we "can't know" the positions of the Founders on the relevant issues of their day or of our own. I disagree. It's more accurate to say that we "don't know" precisely because we're lazy and uninformed. Twenty-six percent of the persons responding to a recent poll did not know that the United States achieved its independence from Great Britain. Six percent named a different country, including France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain. The remaining twenty percent said they were not sure.
If we cannot agree to anything else, can we at least agree that the results of this and other similar polls are inexcusable? How has ignorance about our country's origins and history become so widespread? (This problem goes beyond polls, an Oklahoma group commissioned a study in 2009, read more HERE.)
Is it simply, as Mertes suggests, that the passage of 200 years has blurred our vision? That's just a convenient excuse, a subterfuge of sorts. Most of us have never truly studied our nation's history as it should be studied -- by reading the original writings of those involved in the founding of our country.
Thanks to the same progressive educational reforms that brought us the new math and the new, new math, most public schools do not even teach history anymore, substituting "social studies" in its place. What history is taught consists of regurgitations of dates, facts, names, and places, written by academic "historians" who were similarly trained. Even the teachers and the professors have no experience with the original writings of our founders. I liken it to a giant game of telephone where the message gets progressively more garbled as it's passed from one generation to the next.
We can no longer be content to be passively taught. Rather, we must actively study our nation's past. To know the Founders and what they believed, we must let them speak for themselves. We need only take the time to listen.
Suggestion for some original source reading: Teaching American History
Our education is not only failing to teach history, as John Stossel demonstrated in his special "Stupid in America":