USA Today on Freedom from Responsibility

6a00d83451b46269e2011570a731b4970c(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

USA Today has an editorial piece on Victor and Miguel Mendoza, two American servicemen in Iraq who become United States citizens on July 4th.

The Mendozas represent the best of what the nation is celebrating this Independence Day weekend — liberty, freedom and the sacrifice it takes to keep them strong. They symbolize what’s right with America, a nation of immigrants that was built by opening its doors. And they speak to what could be so much better. At a time when anti-immigrant sentiment has swept through great swaths of the nation, much of it focused on those from Mexico, it’s worth recalling that more than 65,000 immigrants serve in the armed forces, about one-third of them legal residents but not yet citizens. Military service can shorten the usual five-year wait.

We should all be joyful and proud to welcome the Mendozas to our nation. USA Today notes that this contrasts starkly with the performance of Arizona high school students:

Immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens have to pass a test, and the Mendoza brothers aced theirs this week in Baghdad. That’s more than you can say for a group of Arizona high school students who were surveyed recently on their knowledge of U.S. history and civics.

Just in time for Independence Day, the Goldwater Institute, a non-profit research organization in Phoenix, found that just 3.5% of surveyed students could answer enough questions correctly to pass the citizenship test. Just 25%, for example, correctly identified Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we drew the title of this study from an Edward Gibbon quote:

In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.

That quote certainly does not apply to the Mendoza brothers. Can we say the same for young Americans born here in the United States?  The United States was the first nation established not on the basis of ethnicity  or tribalism but upon a set of ideals.

If you don’t the basics of American history and government, what chance is there that you are committed to liberty and self-determination?  The pathetic level of ignorance displayed by this an other surveys are more than an indictment on our schooling system (and yes I’m looking at you too charter and private schools) but also an indictment of our entire society.

Consider the Gibbon quote and watch the above video. We have not been providing the type of education that the founders believed was essential to maintaining a system of ordered liberty.

It would be the height of folly to continue to do so.

5 Responses to USA Today on Freedom from Responsibility

  1. steven says:

    I’m committed to liberty and self-determination, and to the set of ideals that Jefferson articulated in the Declaration of Independence. But, unfortunately, our government is not based on those ideals, and it never was. If our government was based on those ideals, we would have a society made up of voluntary associations formed by the mutual consent of the members. Instead we have a society of state regulated education, state regulated commerce, compulsory taxation, compulsory associations and people such as Peggy Joseph who think that she is entitled to have other people work to provide for her needs and desires. True liberty is out of the picture.

  2. allen says:

    It’s still a representative form of government so if we want to back away from being a society of state regulated education, state regulated commerce, compulsory taxation, compulsory associations the means still exist.

    Unfortunately a significant segment of our society wants just that and they’ve done a good enough job of wooing those in the middle to move us toward their goals.

  3. steven says:

    The means exist as long as humans exist, but realizing true liberty requires rejecting the state entirely, in favor of a society whose affairs are managed by individuals or voluntary associations. In other words, associations (governments) which derive their power from the consent of the individuals that choose to be members.

    James Madison said that we must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself. That’s not possible to do. If you think it is, please say how. Written constitutions can’t accomplish this by themselves, because human beings have free will. Our own government is a splendid example of how relying on a written constitution to restrain the power of government fails.

    The founders’ concept of a limited government that would only protect individual rights was a failed idea, which tried to reconcile two irrencilable elements – statism and voluntarism. It’s never worked and never will. People that are committed to liberty need to realize that either the individual is sovereign or the state is sovereign, but both cannot be. One leads to liberty (individual sovereignty) and one leads to tryanny (state sovereignty).

  4. allen says:

    Failed? We’re into our third century. If we’ve strayed away from the concept of a sovereign citizenry it’s because that’s the direction some of us want to go and the direction enough of the balance of us are willing to be led.

    If it’s any consolation, and from what you’ve written so far I’m afraid it’s unlikely to be, there are at least some signs of hope.

    Sticking to the purpose of this blog, vouchers aren’t dead despite intense efforts by powerful political forces to kill them and charters are in forty states.

    While someone from nearer the founding of the nation wouldn’t be too impressed with those developments we’ve moved pretty far from the sensibilities of those times so relative to the current state of affairs both vouchers and charters put more power in the hands of parents and are a step away from the future envisioned by statists.

  5. steven says:

    The fact that some want state regulated education, state regulated commerce and so forth wouldn’t be the problem if they only wanted it for themselves. The problem is that they want to use the coercive power of the state to force those things on me and others who don’t want them. This is what happens when we are governed by an institution with the exclusive right to make and enforce the law – people whose actions are not causing harm to anyone else are subjected to aggression by the very institution that claims to protect their rights. So, yes, if you view proper government as one that is limited to protecting individual rights and that derives its powers from the consent of those individuals being governed, as I do, then our government is a monumental failure. It was a failure from the very beginning.

    Things like vouchers and charter schools might sound like they are moving us towards freedom in education, but they’re really not. As long as the state is involved in education, schools will be more like prisons than places of learning.

    If you would like to read a really good analysis regarding American education, I suggest Sheldon Richman’s book “Separating School & State” (121 pages – easy reading).

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