Have “We the People” lost our ability to think clearly, behave morally, and govern ourselves? We seem to be falling apart at the seams, the general public divided into disparate camps: so gullible that we can be persuaded to believe anything or so cynical that we can’t believe anything.
|The pastor/pope said so, so it must be true.||God cannot exist because priests abuse children and believers are hypocrites.|
|I heard it/read it on the news so, so it must be true.||All journalists are liars because they are biased and don’t check facts.|
|The guy with letters after his name said it, so it must be true.||We don’t believe in science because scientists are paid to find certain results and keep changing their minds.|
|The leader said so, so it must be true.||We don’t believe in government because leaders are corrupt and dishonest.|
|He was wearing a uniform and a badge, so he must be in the right.||We reject all law enforcement because police officers take justice into their own hands.|
|My teacher/history book said it, so it must be true.||History books are biased and full of mistakes, so it’s pointless to study the past.|
I know there is a middle ground, but I’m not seeing it very often on social media! Why is that? Have we lost our ability to think logically and critically? And to argue respectfully instead of fighting when we disagree? I have been mulling over the various conflicts and wondering what about American culture and education has resulted in this polarization of opinions, lack of discernment, and general antipathy. As a homeschool mom/teacher I think I’m onto something.
Thomas Jefferson said that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and will never be.” If we are concerned that our country is descending into chaos and anarchy, we might ask ourselves how we have failed think and behave reasonably, and whether we have fostered in our children a sense of common morality, decency, and respect for life, or whether our idea of freedom has shifted to mean, “to do whatever I want.” I think that we are on thin ice, and that the way back to solid ground involves a return to the teaching of morals and logic.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are the thoughts of two famous Adams:
“If we continue to be a happy people, that happiness must be assured by the enacting and executing of reasonable and wise laws, expressed in the plainest language, and by establishing such modes of education as tend to inculcate in the minds of youth, the feelings and habits of ‘piety, religion and morality,’ and to lead them to the knowledge and love of those truly Republican principles upon which our civil institutions are founded.” –Samuel Adams, in an address to the Legislature of Massachusetts, January 16, 1795.
“…We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” –John Adams, in an address to the Massachusetts Militia, 1798.
Social breakdown results when people fail to govern themselves, to live by a set of agreed-upon rules, either because they were not taught to do so, or because they do not see the benefits and consequences of following or failing to follow these rules. Our culture has communicated to a generation of people (or two or three) that life has no discernible meaning or value beyond pleasure-seeking, and we are facing the unpleasant consequences of people acting according to that belief. We may want to blame religious institutions and schools for failing to uphold morals and instill logical thinking, but the most important influence on a human being, and the most basic unit of any society, is the family. It is “we the people” who have failed to raise our own children, to teach them right from wrong, and to think logically instead of reacting emotionally.
COVID19 and its aftermath have exposed our weaknesses as a people and as a country. But we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It may be time to rethink what we want for the future of our country, what it means to pursue “life, liberty and happiness.” But the structure of our government, the wisdom and forethought of the Constitution’s framers, which took into account fallible human nature, should not be abandoned. Their ideals of a God-given ability to reason and to choose right over wrong should be reaffirmed.
The opportunity to do so is knocking now. We can reinvest in the future by modeling good character for our children, by developing healthy coping mechanisms for our families during this difficult time, and by filling educational gaps. We don’t know what the upcoming school year will hold. Some children will go back to brick-and-mortar schools, but in a very different way. Others will be schooling virtually. Many will be homeschooled (at least temporarily) for the first time. I have even heard of small communities hiring a teacher to start a co-op school. None of these options will be easy.
As a homeschool parent, I can attest to the challenges of providing for all of a child’s needs from home. But “no school” does not mean “no education.” Home education means the family has the freedom to choose curriculum, structure learning time organically, integrate religious or ethical principles into academic material, and foster learning in accordance with brain development and learning style.
However children go back to school in the fall, with love and logic, we can shepherd our families through this difficult time, find peace in the middle of chaos, fill our days with purpose and meaning, and raise a new generation of responsible and caring citizens.
Some materials I recommend:
- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer
- The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper (children’s book)
- The Fallacy Detective and The Thinking Toolbox by Hans and Nathanael Bluedorn
- Educating the Whole-Hearted Child and Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson
- The 5000 Year Leap (28 Principles of Freedom) by Cleon Skousen
- Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline