Why Civics and History Education Matters: The Mis-Education Cycle

Why Civics and History Education Matters: The Mis-Education Cycle

BY: James J. Parente, JD, COL, USAR (Ret)

We have all seen the recent disturbing events on many of our nation’s College and University campuses following the Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s determined response to defeat and eliminate this existential threat to the state of Israel. These demonstrations have been the perfect storm that clearly shows the critical importance to the future of the United States of the efforts of patriotic organizations like FIE, the Civics Alliance and Hillsdale College among others, along with an awakening of concern by most parents of children in U.S. schools.

Quotations from two former important U.S. leaders make clear the challenge we face, as a nation.

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right…and a desire to know.” -John Adams, 1765

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” -President Ronald Reagan

For you to understand where I am “coming from” on this issue. Let me tell you a little bit about me and my background…

I am lawyer who has been practicing for nearly 50 years. I was in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate for a total of 23 years, both on Active Duty and in the National Guard. Also, I worked in adult education for lawyers and later, CPAs, Insurance Executives and HR professionals and I founded a company that delivers education to Professionals using video and internet streaming technology. It is also important to know that I am addicted to U.S. History and Civics, from the Founding, the Revolution, the Civil War to the great wars and other events of the 20th century. My home bookcases rival many small-town libraries for books in these areas.

Having said this, in recent years I have become increasingly concerned about the future of the United States. When I hear college students in my country chanting “Death to America” and the obvious anti-semitic bent of recent demonstrations and riotous incidents I am very troubled. It is apparent that the spokespeople and participants either don’t know about or don’t believe in the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 and the reasons for it, or what “River to the Sea” really means. Nor do they seem to hold the horrible actions by Hamas on October 7 against this vicious group. At the same time, many of those in public life, our leaders, seem strangely quiet or equivocal.

But I believe that I understand the root of this problem. 

It seems to me that most Universities and Colleges simply don’t teach students about the U.S., its history and why it is, literally, the last best hope for government “By and For the People”, one not controlled by an oligarchy or a tyrant. In fact, my feeling and the statistics show, that many of these institutions are staffed, primarily by faculty who can only be described, tactfully, as very left of center, in their politics and world-view. This attitude gets passed on to the students. I suspect that people who are conservative tend to be industrious and independent. Success in the “Academy” does not reward these traits thus university teaching is not their first career choice. In addition, the leaders of many of these schools, as we have recently seen, lean toward the Left so the hiring decisions reflect this view.

Unfortunately, this means that at most schools, our children and future elementary and high school teachers are taught by liberals. A 2017 study by the National Communication Association found that, at 40 leading U.S. Universities, the ratio of left-leaning professors to more conservative ones in tenure-track teaching positions was an astonishing 11.5 to 1 and that 60% of History, Journalism/Communication departments in those schools reported no conservatives. This explains both the problem with school teachers and the obvious stance of the Main Stream Media after they graduate from these schools. 

Now, because of these recent dramatic university demonstrations, resulting in disruption and cancellation of classes and graduations at multiple schools, people are beginning to be concerned about what students are learning in the university! I agree that this is something to be concerned about but, in my opinion, the damage is done well before students get to college.

Why?  I believe that most of the younger, local school teachers, with a responsibility to educate students about U.S. history and Civics, and frankly, the wonder of the United States as a self-governing Republic, come through universities where the faculty and leadership are left-leaning. Every time I hear someone on television or worse, a politician, who ought to know better, spout off about “…saving our democracy!” my skin crawls because, either they don’t understand that ours is, intentionally, not a Democracy but a Republic. Or, and this is the real danger, they know this is not true and they are trying to mislead the public. The founders made that decision for a very good reason.

But there are organizations like the Civics Alliance, an organization sponsored by the National Association of Scholars, that are trying to help state legislatures nationwide create and implement history and civics curricula that accurately, reflect the real creation and history of the U.S. However, I believe that in addition, elementary, middle, and high school teachers should have remedial instruction in Civics and U.S. history, and citizens should organize to provide this support. 

Recent Events on Campus prove and show the impact of this failure to teach U.S. History and Civics to students who can be led easily by people bent on the destruction of the U.S. as we know it. I am certain that there are many parents, grandparents, veterans, and interested citizens who could be, with support and guidance, used to help provide instruction to local schools and students. A handful of parents and others could support the enhanced education of an elementary or middle school. I hope that the Freedom in Education’s civics initiative might be a vehicle to address this issue.

Remember John Adams:  “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right…and a desire to know.”

I believe that parents have delegated this important task to schools for far too long.

About our Civics Guest Contributor, Jim: 

James (Jim) Parente, JD, COL, USAR (Ret) is a lawyer who has been practicing for nearly 50 years. He was in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate for a total of 23 years, both on Active Duty and in the National Guard. He began his career in adult professional education for lawyers and later, CPAs, Insurance Executives and HR
professionals through a company he founded that delivers education to these professionals using video and internet streaming technology.

Jim is also addicted to U.S. History and Civics, from the Founding, the Revolution, the Civil War to the great wars and other events of the 20th century. His home bookcases rival many small-town libraries for books in these areas. Jim is the father of three and Grandfather of six children. Jim’s wife, Barbara, was a teacher for 30 years and both of his daughters taught school in the same district as his wife for a number of years. His wife and daughters would ask him to come to their elementary school classes and discuss civics topics and U.S. History, like the Civil War and the Revolution with their students. Last year, Jim began working with schools, generally, to support teachers by providing Civics and U. S. history lectures.

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