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We Must Teach Patriotism

Survival of American Culture at Stake in Textbook Fight

Should public schools teach children to hate America? According to some social studies textbooks proposed for use in our schools, and their apologists on the political left, the answer is yes.

As the battle over social studies textbooks continues later this month at Texas' State Board of Education hearings, the very survival of our way of life is at stake.

Of course, the blame-America groups conduct their "I Object" campaigns of anti-Americanism under the pretense of combating "censorship" and promoting "academic freedom." Make no mistake, though: left-wing groups want censorship. They unabashedly seek to censor the triumph of the American Experiment while discrediting opponents with assertions of hidden agendas colored with pejoratives.

In their view, America and free enterprise are to blame for everything bad. One textbook describes socialist systems as operating "for the good" of all people, while condemning our economy as greedy. Never mind that the quality of life, by any measure, in socialist countries is far below that of the United States.

One need only look at the standard of living in China, Cuba, Sweden, and elsewhere to see the utter failure of socialism. Why else do millions risk life and limb coming to the US from the "progressive" economies of the socialist world?

Those fanatics objecting to Texas' open textbook selection process contemptuously sneer at "flag-waving conservatives" seeking to imbue classrooms with patriotism.

What is so wrong with patriotism? The laws of Texas demand patriotism be taught "in regular subject matter… and (considered) in the adoption of textbooks." A deeply-held respect for our country, rooted in its ideals and history (failures and achievements alike), should be a source of honor, not scorn.

The Texas Education Code, Section 28.002, continues, "A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage."

Patriotism - not a flag on a pole - inspired men to live and die so the beacon of liberty could shine brightly in our world. Our children must be taught the immeasurable contribution our nation, people and system has made improving the human condition. If children do not learn the historical value of our system today, as adults they will accept any other.

Some textbooks ridiculously claim slavery was invented by Western European societies. But while African and Asian nations still tolerate - even encourage - slavery, the people of the United States work to eradicate the shameful institution from the face of the planet. Similarly, the United States has led the way in protecting the environment, while socialist countries like China recklessly pollute our world.

Our children should learn it was the free-market culture of the United States that liberated Jews from Hitler's socialist party-run death camps. The blood of thousands of Americans flowed at Omaha Beach so millions - indeed, billions - of people could live free of tyranny. It was the moral, economic and military might of the United States that crumbled the evil empire of the Soviet Union.

It wasn't the socialist economies of Europe praised in textbooks that eradicated so much disease and pestilence; it has been the United States. The same system that put a man on the moon also makes it possible for high school dropouts from the worst of neighborhoods to become millionaires. No other nation can make such claims.

In a long-ago conversation with my grandfather, a highly decorated soldier whose service spanned multiple wars and decades, I asked what he thought of the vitriolic, anti-American protests of the 1960s and '70s.

"It made me proud," he said to my surprise, before explaining: "More friends than I can count died, and I killed more people than I want to remember, to ensure stupid people could believe, say and do ridiculous things."

That is the essence of our freedom. The anti-American movement is alive and well only because our system protects their freedom. If they succeed, and our children are brainwashed with anti-American, socialistic vitriol, our freedoms will be weakened in ways we cannot imagine.

Let the stupid people make their case, but Texans must demand the law be followed and textbooks promote what is good and just: our values, our ideals, and our history.

Abraham Lincoln warned that the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. That insight should cause us to shudder with fear, and inspire us to action. Our way of life is at stake.

Michael Quinn Sullivan is director of media and government relations for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.