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Vice President Joe Biden went to Guatemala to talk to Central America leaders about what strategy they can use to help stem the U.S. illegal immigration crisis, as 60-80,000 children are expected to cross our borders this year. The number is expected to double next year, especially if we do not get this situation under control now. If history is any guide, and I firmly believe it is, the fall out from all this will be a dramatic increase in these non-American, non-English speaking children in our schools. We need to seriously consider what that impact will be and what an opportunity this is.

We already have laws on the books that say a child, whether here legally or not, has a right to an education in America. If these children, and the ones expected in the future, are allowed to stay they will be in our schools. The concern goes beyond the fact that schools will have increases in the number of ESL students who require services. That is a given and can be addressed.

But if we consider what the mission of public education has now become, job training, we will be missing a grand opportunity to do something really great for these kids and our country. Teach them what America was meant to be, an experiment in self government by the people where all are considered equal in the eyes of the law.

We haven’t taught those concepts well in recent decades. We have taught that equal meant having the same stuff (thank you Al Sharpton) and obtaining the same outcome (everyone goes to college and gets STEM jobs that make them lots of money – thank you Bill Gates.) We have taught that the government is some separate entity whose job it is to protect you from any dangers, real or perceived. We teach in Missouri that we are a Constitutional Democracy. That’s right. We don’t even teach that we are a Republic.  We have taught that your rights come from government and thus can be taken away by government. We have included rights that no one can naturally claim like the right not to be offended by anyone, ever.

It is time to return to the original purpose of education for the sake of the continuation in the experiment of American liberty.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages as the  surest foundation of the happiness both of private families and of commonwealths. Almost all governments have therefore made it a principal object of their attention, . . . such seminaries of learning as might supply the succeeding age with men qualified to serve the public with honor to themselves, and to their country.” (1749)

How different America would be today if we had continued to make the major goal of education to supply our country with wise men who knew the founding principals and served with honor?

The purpose of public education was laid out in several places and the language is similar enough to realize that this was a generally agreed upon principle.

“[R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle…Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.”  George Washington Address to the People of the United States, Preparatory to His Declination 

“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” The Northwest Ordinance 1785 Article 3.

“A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the legislature shall establish and maintain free public schools.” Missouri Constitution Article IX.

Public education was meant to teach people about the unique government that the founders established so that they would grow to protect and maybe even one day serve in it. That unique form of self rule was so desirable and successful that we had to set up guidelines for how many people we could take in to our country each year because so many people wanted to come here and be a part of it. Even if they didn’t know much about it, they knew it was better than what they were leaving. Our immigration policy recognized that we needed to be sure the newcomers understood how and why this country was different so that they could join with those already here who were working to keep this country freer than any other on the planet.

If the purpose of education is merely to prepare you for a job then how will we have any qualified people to serve in our government and protect our way of life? If the purpose of education is defined by the global corporations who set the mission for the Chamber of Commerce and have no specific loyalty to this country, how do we expect the unique and highly successful American experiment to continue?

Our social studies curriculum has been turned to benefit the corporations, not the country. It has overtaken history in terms of importance. It focuses on culture and human behavior, exactly what Madison Avenue has been exploiting for years, because that will improve the bottom line for the corporations but will do little to promote the concepts of self regulation necessary to maintain our liberty. Our kids will grow up believing they can, and maybe even should, be manipulated into proper or desirable behaviors by others.

If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to teach the immigrants coming to America why their parents wanted to be here, even if the parents didn’t exactly know the source of America’s greatness, we will lose the America they risked so much to get to. If the only thing they know about America is what we have devolved into, so far from our founders’ vision, they will only seek to protect whatever they see around them. The opportunity is ours to also correct what we have been teaching our own children at the same time, or else they will suffer the same fate of protecting the corruption that currently exists.

Read through the Missouri Grade Level Expectations for Social Studies. Find out how YOUR district interprets and teaches them. The time is now to push for changes if they are needed before the national social studies standards are pushed into our schools like Common Core was and we lose as a country the opportunity to teach our children how we could become great again.

 

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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