This week we celebrate Independence Day. I know that in our day and time it has become more of a holiday about grilling and fireworks, but that wasn’t always the case.
As I reflect back on the founding fathers and this nation’s Independence Day, I try to envision what were they really celebrating. Of course, the easy answer is that they were celebrating our young nation’s independence from England. We had endured a long and hard fought battle for the right to govern ourselves. The framers of the Constitution set out to create a new nation that would acknowledge the rights of every individual. They were obsessed with freedom, and education was viewed as a means to obtain and maintain that freedom.
Taxation without representation, violation of rights and the oppression of England were still fresh on our founders’ minds. They wanted a nation where we would have a God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The founding fathers knew that in order for a republic to prevail, they would need to educate its citizens. The founding fathers and early advocates of education thought so strongly of education that they set aside property in each township for schools.
John Adams wrote, “Nothing is more effective in countering political oppression than the general diffusion of knowledge. Wherever a general knowledge and sensibility have prevailed among the people, arbitrary government and every kind of oppression have lessened and disappeared in proportion.”
Jefferson wrote, “That a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Horace Mann believed education was an absolute right. He stated, “We can cite no attributes or purpose of the divine nature, for giving birth to any human being, and then inflicting upon that human being the curse of ignorance, of poverty and of vice, with all their attendant calamities.”
Our founding fathers viewed knowledge as wealth and as property, preexistence property to be claimed at birth. I don’t believe that our young people share this view today. Having been born free, they are ignorant of the blood, sweat and tears shed for that freedom. To many, education is a burden, not wealth.
I recently took a group of students on a college campus tour. While touring Tuskegee University, the tour guide explained the statue that depicted Booker T. Washington removing the veil of ignorance from a figure. It struck me that far too many of our young people are holding tightly to that veil. They don’t see education as a duty they owe to their fellow man. They don’t realize that it is generally true that people are happiest whose laws are best, and best administered and that law will be wisely formed and honestly administered in proportion to the ones who formed them.
They don’t seem to realize that the older people that know the way are dying out, and the young who are strong will be called on at some point to take the reins. It is as the officer stated in the movie Glory: “If this man shall fall, who will carry the flag?”
Well, no one if no one is prepared. How can we not say we aren’t under a veil of ignorance when we walk around with our pants pulled down and our underwear showing?
How can we not say we aren’t under the veil of ignorance when we blast racially insensitive music from our car’s speakers? How can we claim to be people who love knowledge when women are degraded with lyrics and in everyday language?
Our moral compass is broken. Right has become wrong and wrong has become right. Our nation is celebrating same-sex marriages and calling individuals heroes for coming out of the closet.
Someone once said of this nation that we would fall without a single shot being fired. When I consider what it takes to maintain a republic, (a government for the people and by the people), the predecessors have an obligation to the successors, but we cannot fulfill that obligation if our successors are unwilling or unable to carry it.
So Independence Day is much more than grilling and fireworks, and if we aren’t careful, it may one day be gone. Freedom isn’t free; it must be preserved, protected and maintained.