The Nation’s Report Card revealed that in 2014, only 18 percent of American eighth-graders were at or above the level of proficiency in U.S. history—and only one in 100 such students are considered advanced. The takeaway is clear: Our schools are failing to teach our national heritage.
Naturally, the consequences stretch long into adulthood. A 2018 study from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation revealed that only one in three Americans would pass a citizenship test. Knowledge is declining steeply by generation, with a 74 percent pass rate in the 65-plus age group tumbling to a mere 19 percent in the under-45 demographic.
Though younger generations are better educated and endowed with far greater resources than their older counterparts, the neglect of history worsens nonetheless. As a consequence, Americans are being robbed of the intellectual autonomy required to make their own informed judgments regarding their nation and its history.
Ignorance creates a void for misinformation and manipulation to fill. Activists, propagandists, and politicians with ulterior motives have been empowered to co-opt opinion, degrading our nation’s history and holding it to an ever-receding utopian ideal. Consequently, patriotism is reaching record lows.
The only way to fight misinformation is with education, but our system is failing us miserably. Proficiency in history is our greatest tool for fostering contextualized self-awareness. It orients our understanding of our profound and precious position in the schema of history.
We must educate our students on the beauty and complexity of our national heritage. Doing so requires that we be realistic about our shortcomings and teach our historical mistakes in order to foster the continuation of our trajectory toward progress and our national ideals.
We must not strive to indoctrinate our young into a nationalistic fervor. The goal of historical instruction is merely to equip students with the knowledge to make their own decisions and draw their own conclusions. Pride or shame in one’s country must be predicated on nothing but knowledge.
Fortunately, a proper understanding of our national history organically fosters a patriotic appreciation. We must be careful not to take the sanctity of our freedoms for granted. And, as we pass the torch to the next generation, we must take great care—as educators, parents, grandparents, and even neighbors—to instill gratitude for our forebears’ sacrifices.
In the words of John Adams: “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost [my] generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I should repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”
Rikki Schlott is a writer and student based in New York. As a young free speech activist, her writing chronicles the rise of illiberalism from a Generation Z perspective. Schlott also works for The Megyn Kelly Show and has been published by The Daily Wire and The Conservative Review.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.