(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.