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July 4th Thread: Is the Idea of "America" in trouble

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by pgabriel, Jul 3, 2008.

  1. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    opinion piece


    Is this fragile idea called America headed for trouble?


    By DAVID S. BRODER


    Just in time for Independence Day, a conservative think tank has delivered a controversial report questioning whether America's national identity is eroding under the pressure of population diversity and educational slackness.

    The threat outlined by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in its report, "E Pluribus Unum" strikes me as a bit exaggerated. But at a time when Barack Obama and John McCain find themselves debating the "patriotism issue," having a coherent discussion of this matter — and this short pamphlet is admirably written and well-researched — is a useful contribution.

    The takeoff point for the argument is an observation about the uniqueness of America that was made by Thomas Jefferson — and by myriad other worthies in the centuries since then. They all have drawn attention to the fact that, unlike other countries, America's national identity rests "not on a common ethnicity, but on a set of ideas."

    And so, the Bradley scholars say, "knowing what America stands for is not a genetic inheritance. It must be learned, both by the next generation and by those who come to this country. In this way, a nation founded on an idea is inherently fragile."

    The ideas that define this country are found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as amplified by Supreme Court decisions and statutes in subsequent years. Those ideas have been tested in crisis and in war, and the leaders who steered the nation through those testing times are the heroes whose legacy we celebrate — Washington, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts.

    What disturbs the Bradley scholars is the evidence that our generation is failing to educate the next one on the essentials of the American experiment. "On the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Civics Test," the report notes, "the majority of eighth graders could not explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Only 5 percent of seniors could accurately describe the way presidential power can be checked by Congress and the Supreme Court." The authors also decry the fact that most colleges and universities allow students to graduate without ever taking a comprehensive course in American history and government.

    On this point, I think they have plenty of company — all across the political spectrum. But they have many other criticisms and a variety of suggestions. Some are trivial, such as scrapping Presidents' Day and bringing back Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday holidays. Others are sweeping and controversial, such as telling all colleges and universities to open their campuses to the ROTC.

    When it comes to the treatment of immigrants, the Bradley team sees a real threat in such things as multilingual ballots and bilingual classes. Such accommodations to the growing diversity of the population could lead to "many Americas, or even no America at all," they maintain. "Historical ignorance, civic neglect and social fragmentation might achieve what a foreign invader could not."

    That degree of pessimism seems unwarranted. The authorities quoted in this report, most of them drawn from conservative academia, manage to overlook the evidence that there is still plenty of vitality in the American system.

    Young people may not know the Constitution as well as we would like, but they found their way to the polling places in record numbers this year and joined enthusiastically in many campaigns. And they volunteer for all kinds of good works in their communities.

    I have not worried about the fundamental commitment of the American people since 1974. In that year, they were confronted with the stunning evidence that their president had conducted a criminal conspiracy out of the Oval Office. In response, the people reminded Richard Nixon, the man they had overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term, that in this country, no one, not even the president, is above the law. And they required him to yield his office.

    That is not the sign of a nation that has lost its sense of values or forgotten the principles on which this system rests. And that is worth celebrating on more than the Fourth of July.

    Broder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning political reporter, writes a nationally syndicated column from Washington, D.C.
     
  2. weslinder

    weslinder Contributing Member

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    "Mission Accomplished" - Department of Education
     
  3. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine

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    Pat Buchanan's idea of America is the only one that's in real trouble. Education for education's sake must become a priority again in this country however.
     
  4. weslinder

    weslinder Contributing Member

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    I've skimmed the report, and I want to read the whole thing. This section though really caught my eye, and I couldn't agree more.

    Full Report
     
  5. solid

    solid Contributing Member

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    Societies and cultures appear to be cyclical, they rise and fall. Historically, their golden years are characterized by a high level of moral reasoning and restraint
    (once known as civility); whereas their collapse is characterized by moral decline. It is slow and incremental but debilitating. Think of a list of things immoral fifty years ago and compare to current times.

    Interestingly, think of the historical periods that moderns make fun of the most: the Victorian Age of England and the Fifties in the U.S., likely the high points of both societies.
     
    #5 solid, Jul 3, 2008
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2008
  6. SuperS32

    SuperS32 Member

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    If we're going to assume that America has already peaked in terms of world dominance, than I would say the 90's was the high point, not the 50's.
     
  7. solid

    solid Contributing Member

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    The 90's was a period of unprecedented economic growth, but precipitous moral decline. Greed kills.
     
  8. gifford1967

    gifford1967 Contributing Member
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    The 50's may have been the high point in the US if you were a white male, but not for anyone else.
     
  9. cwebbster

    cwebbster Contributing Member

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    AMERICA **** YEAH!!!! COMING AGAIN TO SAVE THE MUTH****ING DAY YEAH!!!
     
  10. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member
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    This is not some new idea. I've been reading conservative pleas for 'the good old days' as long as I've been alive. It about dissatisfaction with the present world (independent of history), and results in a fetishization of a romantic past that never was.

    Undoubtedly some of it is true, but most of it is just nostalgia for something that never really existed. If you went back to 1850 and asked the average school child the reason for the Declaration of Independence most of them would have trouble stringing together a coherent idea. In the 19th and early 20th century in the USA people were rude, they were violent, they were mean, they were racist, they were misogynists, they suffered from poor nutrition and poor heatlth, and they were generally easily mislead. Crime was high, and rarely solved. 'Forgotten people' of society were mistreated, and people embraced corrupt structures like Tammany Hall which would never exist today. Visit Without Sanctuary for a view of those ‘good old days’ when the 'American Dream' used to involve finding a black man every Saturday night and hanging him for some imagined crime. Read a few Sinclair Lewis books, or read a little bit about the Pinkertons breaking up strikes. That will cover about .0001% of why this article is misguided.

    You can read the same school of thought from Oswald Spengler which people used as proof positive for the superiority of Nazi Germany.

    This idellic past of enlightened beings and widespread civic virtue never existed. Period. The past was dirty, mean, and cruel.
     
  11. Jugdish

    Jugdish Member

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    You poodle skirt-hating mutant
     
  12. Bandwagoner

    Bandwagoner Contributing Member

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    duh!

    [​IMG]

    are you saying you hate america or just white males?
     
  13. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    you missed the point as usual. when you combine world wide dominance, and being a white male, the fifties was the place to be I would argue 1945-55. of course white males were further along to food chain when this country was founded, but you also have to factor in what being an american meant.
     
  14. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    The state of our education system is disturbing. Dont we score very poorly when it comes to high school education?

    Our college system is the best, but not everyone goes to college, and colleges are having to focus more on remedial training.
     
  15. Bandwagoner

    Bandwagoner Contributing Member

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    dude you quoted me before i got rid of the huge picture.

    Also you might want to go ahead and edit out 1945. Thousands were drafted and killed in 1945.
     
  16. JuanValdez

    JuanValdez Contributing Member

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    Can we just say the '50s through the '90s? The English got an entire age; I think we can claim more than a decade.
     
  17. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    I'm not trying to be a jerk . .but what does that mean?
    Can you expound on this?

    Rocket River
     
  18. rhester

    rhester Contributing Member

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    The premise here is valid; the ideas that forged the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not understood much anymore.

    People might recognize Hamilton or Madison's names but never read the Federalist Papers, much less recognize the important work of William Blackstone, or a John Jay.

    We have lost these ideas, but mostly in education and government and thus the populace is clueless.

    I personally believe people in Europe or Asia know as much about the ideas behind our Constitution as Americans.

    As far as the good old days unless they had air conditioning they can't be all that 'good' :)
     
  19. gifford1967

    gifford1967 Contributing Member
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    I have no idea what you are blathering about.
     
  20. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    I dont think it's that simple. Sure, by most measures we are better off today. That doesn't mean we have improved in EVERY area.

    Agreed, there was never an idealic past of enlightened beings, but it's quite possible that we have gotten worse in that area over the past century.

    I mean, liberals love pointing out that "empires always fall, so America eventually will." So shouldn't we be vigilant in looking out for warning signs?
     

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