More than Elections Shape a Nation
Elections are important and do shape the future of a nation when it is a democratic republic as our country is. However, we must remember that we are reflected in our elected government and that “We the People” have responsibilities as citizens of this democratic republic beyond voting.
Thomas Jefferson knew that it was the people of America who would be the guardians of their freedom. He hoped that these guardians of liberty would take their responsibilities seriously. In a letter to James Madison written in 1787, Jefferson wrote this about the role he felt education would play in preserving liberty.
“Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.”
America has succeeded in securing their freedom via their “good sense” as Thomas Jefferson had hoped they would for over two centuries. Hopefully Americans will remain vigilant and continue to secure their freedom by educating future generations who will bear the responsibility of holding on to liberty as time progresses.
When it comes to education Americans seem to have differing opinions on how and what should be taught. If education is left to The State and we do not as individuals pass on our values and knowledge to the next generation, much can be lost.
I fear much is being lost in terms of how we view our government. The balance of powers that our constitution put in place seems to be out of balance. The Executive branch and the Judicial branch is legislating. Creating law is something that congress is expressly responsible for. That is where the people’s responsibility comes in. If “We the People” no longer understand the way our government is meant to work than it will collapse or “progressively” turn into a form of government that it was never meant to be. Our individual liberties will slowly be eroded. If we wish to preserve our liberty, we must educate the next generation so as Thomas Jefferson hoped, “their good sense” will secure liberty for future Americans.
The tree of liberty must be nurtured or it will die. Please excuse what may seem to be a tired metaphor — “tree of liberty”, although I sometimes wonder if many metaphors or clichés that are at the roots of freedom are even understood by the current upcoming generation? It is up to us to pass on the values that are important to us. Sometimes the old metaphors we may consider tired from overuse are not understood by the young people. The meanings of many of these metaphors or clichés are not tired or old and can serve as a link in a long chain that is anchored to liberty established in the past that must continue to be pulled into the future.
Sure elections are important in shaping our nation, but what is more important is that we do not allow individual liberty and the ideals our constitution secures to be forgotten. It is our responsibility to educate the next generation so liberty will be preserved. We cannot leave the education of our children solely in the hands of the public education system.
Taking an active role in educating the next generation is not as daunting as it may seem. Simply reading aloud to children and grandchildren is a way to connect and pass on important values and maybe a bit of history too. I recently saw this clip online in which Meghan Cox Gurdon, who writes about children’s books for the Wall Street Weekend Journal, speaks about the importance of reading aloud with youngsters. She says to read aloud not just with pre-school children but with older children and teens too. It might seem unlikely that kids will sit for this, but I did read aloud with my daughter from her toddler days through her teens. It was not only rewarding because it was a shared activity, but because it also allowed for conversations about topics that may never have come up if not for reading aloud together.
Meghan Cox Gurdon at about minute 25 of the talk speaks about how reading aloud together with your children is an opportunity to introduce youngsters to books that may be left out if the school system alone is relied on. She even spoke briefly of how dictators in the past century, like Mao, Lenin and Stalin eliminated certain books and tried to “rip people away from the past, to purge it from the art, music, poetry, old cultural traditions, religious consolations, ways of dress and even practices of cooking and eating.” Here is the link to her talk. It may inspire you to link via books with some youngsters in your life and be a part of shaping our nation.