Have We Lost What it means to be an American?
Another Independence Day celebration is upon us, yet I have to wonder if the meaning of the day hasn’t been lost to the America we’ve become.
Holidays that once celebrated the history of our nation have seemingly become little more than retail sales events or long weekend relaxation trips rather than reflection on the significance of the day in history. But given the trend in certain segments of our culture to trivialize and/or demonize America and its accomplishments, the change in how many now approach these holidays is hardly a surprise.
As a case in point, when the College Board, the extremely powerful non-profit organization that is responsible for the Advanced Placement (AP) testing as well as the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT), published its new AP U.S. History Framework (APUSH) last year, another education controversy was launched and it will hopefully gain as much pushback as what is currently being seen with Common Core.
Much has been written in education circles since the APUSH framework was published, but the most concise explanation of what has been imposed can be found in an open letter of opposition to the framework released by fifty-five American scholars on June 2, 2015. Many of these scholars are sitting professors at prominent universities across our nation, and their concerns should be taken seriously if we want to educate our citizenry in what it truly means to be an American.
While AP U.S. History is an elective course for those seeking college credits, does anyone really believe that what starts as a framework for advanced placement will be limited to that level?
These scholars have examined the framework and believe that it sets the stage for a “misleading account of American history” that “deemphasizes content, and promotes a particular interpretation of American history,” one which “downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective.”*
Some will argue that these scholars only wish to whitewash our nation’s history, but, as noted in the letter, they instead prefer a “warts and all” accounting of our history – one that not only details where we have missed the mark in our past, but one that also teaches how we’ve learned from those ugly segments of our history, still determined to improve, and “remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.”
But rather than a “shared story,” the scholars indicate that the 134-page framework shifts views regarding American exceptionalism and singular identity into multiple identities, with more emphasis on conflicts between social groups than those incredible periods when we have unified as a nation. In my mind, it would appear that the hyphenation of America might very well escalate to the lamentable point where “American” may one day be dropped altogether.
Recently, talk radio host Mark Levin shared the contents of the letter with his audience and within the hour received an unsolicited call from one of the signatories of the letter, Professor Daniel Robinson, Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and the conversation that followed was particularly significant.
Robinson shared his opinion that much of what has happened in our recent history is “seamlessly connected” and can be categorized as “The Lost Sense of What it Means to be an American.” He continued by relating that the official date of the fall of the Roman Empire does not reflect a specific date in 476 A.D., but rather a conclusion of events in which the average Roman failed to understand just what it meant to be a Roman citizen.
In similar fashion, Robinson believes that our civic sense of being an American has been eroded for decades and we now have a citizenship lacking of understanding or feeling at the civic level, living instead in a personal bubble – a bubble that is filled by government giving us what pleases and exhilarates us, as it “helps” with everything. None of this is by accident and leads us to a failure in comprehending what it means to be an American citizen.
As you celebrate this Independence Day, I hope you will reclaim the ideals of what it means to be an American. Keep in mind that tyranny is not an antiquated term associated only with our original independence from British rule – it comes in many forms, and we are still in desperate need of brave patriots who are ready and able to defeat it.
*Letter Opposing the 2014 APUSH Framework, June 2, 2015. Posted for public access at http://www.nas.org/articles/open_letter_american_historians
Marcia Chambliss serves on the leadership team of Smart Girl Politics, http://www.smartgirlpolitics.com, an online community for conservative women. She can be reached at: Marcia@sgpaction.com. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart Girl Politics.