Another beautiful fall day here in northern Illinois, and I love being surrounded by the splendid colors and the fields that have gone from lush green to various shades of brown and gold as they await harvest. And as I do on a daily basis, I remind myself just what a wonderful land I live in, and I ask myself: How can this not be the greatest place on earth?
And yet I hear on the news almost daily that young people from various parts of the United States are intent on joining the evil world that is Isis, Isil, or whatever else the group goes by, to fight against the United States and its allies.
It’s almost as though these young folks think that it’s just another one of the games in their world of games, and nothing to really be taken seriously. Perhaps they feel that when they grow bored with things, they’ll quit and scurry back home to wherever home is here in the U.S., and all will be cool again. For their sakes, before it’s too late, I hope that they realize the inherent danger into which they’re immersing themselves. If nothing else is obvious, it’s pretty certain that this enemy is evil incarnate and the terror is anything but a game.
How has it come to this? I ask myself this question over and over. I think back to my years of teaching and picture the faces of students who were usually curious and eager to grow and do their best. Many were kids from different parts of the world whose parents had come to America and become citizens who proudly basked in the glow of being part of this country.
Our school stressed teaching the principles of democracy, and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were vital parts of the social studies curriculum. And fortunately for our students and the rest of us teachers, our school had a terrific teacher who brought all of that to life and did a remarkable job year after year. Thus, students left 8th grade with a respect and understanding of America’s founding and an appreciation of its framework and heritage.
Sadly, when she retired, all of that changed. Not only did the focus shift away from that key concept of American history, but an emphasis on multi-cultural education began to appear across the curriculum. Newer and younger teachers who replaced her were more comfortable in this new curriculum shift, and at the same time, the state’s educational goals changed, and traditional education as we had known it was forever changed. No longer would there be a strict requirement to teach the Constitution!
It was a shame that students now would move along to high school without the strong background of knowing about our nation’s founding fathers and the precious documents on which our country has stood since the beginning.
One of the joys of my teaching career was accompanying our 8th graders on the three-day trip to Washington, D.C., each February. It was a terrific opportunity to spend time with kids and to point out the landmarks of our nation’s history and culture. To say the least, it was a wonderful “classroom”—those buildings that comprise the Smithsonian and the memorials and precious monuments on which so much American history is etched.
I often wonder what happened to those students I had the chance opportunity to teach and know for but a brief time. And years removed from them and their ups and downs, their joys and sorrow, I wonder if being so distraught or lost in some way, they ever entertained thoughts of joining up with our enemy, as so many of today’s young people are doing. I’d like to think that there still burns in each of them a sense of pride and patriotism that we taught and stressed in our lessons long ago. We can only hope…CortlandWriter