By: David S. Petolicchio
On a perpetual basis, concerned citizens in the United States find themselves lamenting that “the education system has failed” in response to some new erroneous statement spouted by a self-proclaimed socialist or some other totalitarian politician. Educational failings are nothing new, and have root causes dating back decades. To truly address the failure of the modern American education system, it is imperative that society is retaught the fundamental principles of individual liberty and responsibility. The United States has had a public education system for the better part of a century, and while this “free” education system has been promoted as a benefit to our society, its existence has allowed for the complete collapse of historically accurate education and has created a void of basic philosophical literacy.
The importance of education was a common thread among the founders of the United States. The “father of the Constitution”, James Madison, once wrote that, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” In this quote, Madison was making the common sense argument that education would be essential for the maintenance and advancement of any free society. John Adams similarly noted his passion for knowledge in a letter to Abigail Adams which said, “I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough…the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.” While it certainly isn’t controversial to embrace and promote education, the discussion changes dramatically when the specific subjects to be taught is discussed. In other words, “education” in a general sense, is a popular notion that everyone supports, but what that education actually consists of, leads to a myriad of conflicts and passionate arguments. To be clear, to promote general education is an easy task, but to promote education that inspires people to be free…that is a monumental challenge.
In the United States, one of the most fundamental realms of education should be to inform and foster a dedication to the principles of individual liberty and the natural rights of humanity. The fundamental philosophies behind the founding of the United States should be the greatest of priorities within the education system. The core tenets of individual liberty and individual responsibility should be a common presupposition that bonds every citizen to their neighbor regardless of race or gender. Of these principles, natural rights are undeniably paramount. Alexander Hamilton has an excellent quote regarding this point which reads, “I consider civil liberty, in a genuine unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am convinced, that the whole human race is entitled to it; and, that it can be wrested from no part of them, without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.” Alexander Hamilton is asserting that natural rights are inherent to being human and to remove natural rights is an immoral act. Hamilton is in no way alone in this principle as it is echoed in the various writings of other founding fathers and can also be observed rather clearly in the Declaration of Independence which reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Ultimately, the education system in the United States has failed in two fundamental areas: First, the failure to teach and train citizens on the founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution, as well as other supplementary writings such as the Federalist Papers. Second, the United States failure to cultivate and train its citizens on their natural rights (which far supersede any temporal government institution), has lead to a moral and philosophical quagmire that is culminating in erosion and the overt extirpation of freedom. The principle of “inalienable” rights or natural rights, cannot be overstated in any society that claims to be free.
Unfortunately, few modern citizens recognize that their rights do not come from government and government is merely instituted for the protection of their liberty and to promote civil society without the abridgment of individual liberty and responsibility. The United States education system has not only neglected to teach these core principles of individual liberty, but have gone so far as to actively teach the OPPOSITE of these fundamental principles. Too often students are taught that government should be the first entity that should be looked to in order to solve society’s problems. Government has become a never ending gift giver that students are taught to look to in order to manage all of society’s ills. Such notions directly contradict the premise of individual responsibility and, with the expansion of government through the management of more and more social problems, individual liberty inevitably shrinks. When society’s first response to life’s problems is to look to the government, it is obvious that the education system has not only failed, but is actively subverting the core philosophies that built the United States in the first place.