Announcing the Claremont Institute’s “Becoming Americans” Essay Series
E-mail I got today from the Claremont Institute:
Announcing the Claremont Institute's "Becoming Americans" Essay Series
Posted March 30, 2006
California and the nation are now fiercely debating immigration, American culture and principles, and the nature of citizenship-matters about which the Claremont Institute has much to say. As part of its contribution to this crucial discussion, we're reprinting three classic essays by Claremont scholars: Christopher Flannery on multiculturalism and educating Americans, Edward J. Erler on immigration, and Thomas L. Krannawitter on the rights and conditions of citizenship.
Today we've begun our "Becoming American" essay series with Christopher Flannery's remarkable "Educating Citizens," in which he explains, with characteristic wit and clarity, the tragedy of prevailing multiculturalism-and which principles should, in fact, constitute the education of an American citizen.
We invite you to read the essay here.
Having read the essay "Becoming Americans" I hardily recommend it. Excerpts:
First in the "Becoming Americans" Essay Series
By Christopher Flannery
Posted March 30, 2006
Editor's note: California and the nation are now fiercely debating immigration, American culture and principles, and the nature of citizenship. As part of its contribution to this important discussion, the Claremont Institute is reprinting three classic essays by Claremont scholars: Christopher Flannery on multiculturalism and educating Americans, Edward J. Erler on immigration, and Thomas L. Krannawitter on the rights and conditions of citizenship.
Democracy requires more of its citizens than any other form of government. It depends on the capacity of the citizens to govern themselves. But the habits and dispositions of self government are difficult to acquire and to sustain. They are rooted in moral and political principles in which each new generation must be educated. It is no accident that history provides so few examples of successful and enduring democracies. In the American democracy today, we have largely lost sight of those moral and political principles which provide the common ground of American political community and inform the civic character required of American citizens. There is widespread recognition of the necessity to restore that private morality which is the source of the public good and to strengthen the common bonds of civility among the diverse citizens of America. Educating citizens in the principles, rights, duties, and capacities of citizenship is the primary purpose of public education in America, and our institutions of higher learning play a critical part in making our public schools capable or incapable of fulfilling their purpose. That America is failing miserably in accomplishing this purpose is apparent to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
There are, of course, other failings in American education about which we may read almost daily, such as declines in SAT scores and in the basic skills needed for a competitive workforce. These failings are connected with but subordinate to the failure to educate good citizens. The causes of these failures are many and various. Even when we can agree on the cause, it is not always possible to agree upon or even to envision a solution. To the extent that a single cause may be identified as the primary source of our failure at the task of educating citizens, it can be summed up simply: bad ideas.
Education in America today, at every level, is dominated by doctrines that openly repudiate the principles on which America is founded; indeed, they deny the very capacity of men to distinguish freedom from tyranny, justice from injustice, right from wrong. These doctrines have wholly discredited the perspective of the democratic citizen: they have made self government itself unintelligible as a political phenomenon. So pervasive has been the influence of these doctrines that the teaching of American citizens from the earliest elementary levels to the graduate schools takes place almost wholly within their horizons. The consequence has been a corruption of the political language through which the nation conducts its public deliberations, a citizenry increasingly confused or uncertain about the ground and substance of its rights and duties, and political and educational leaders capable for the most part only of deepening the crisis. These bad ideas are rooted in a profound assault upon human reason and human nature as grounds of human morality, an assault waged over the past two centuries culminating in explicit and assertive nihilism. The popular expressions of these ideas in our time take a wide variety of forms. But as they are professed and practiced in the world of American education today, they converge most faddishly under the banners of "Multiculturalism" and "Diversity."
The multicultural movement and the diversity movement are distinct political and intellectual movements which frequently overlap and reinforce one another. Their stronghold is in the academies of higher learning, whence they have sallied forth into practically every nook and cranny of American life. Anyone who reads a daily paper or a national news magazine has read about them over the past several years. These movements are "multi"-dimensional or "diverse" as one might expect, but it is possible to identify their most common ideas and predilections. For convenience' sake, I will refer to the diverse phenomena as multiculturalism.
The foremost idea of multiculturalism is the equal value of all cultures, or cultural relativism. This is an idea that has made it impossible for a generation of American students to make the perfectly rational moral distinction between a "culture" that puts Jews in the ovens and one that grants them freedom of worship and all rights of citizenship. (Under the heading of "diversity," this is also why public schools must not teach that monogamous heterosexual marriage is morally preferable to homosexual promiscuity. All "lifestyles," like all cultures, are created equal.) …
We Hold These Truths
Intelligent liberal critics of such multiculturalism see the problem more or less clearly. As the respected historian of education Diane Ravitch says, American schools should say to students from other cultures "that wherever they have come from, wherever their parents have come from, they are now preparing to be American citizens… They must learn about American history, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, because this is now part of their precious heritage as American citizens."17 So far so good. But in inviting students from other cultures to become American, Ravitch would have them understand that "the unique feature of the United States is that its common culture has been formed by the interaction of its subsidiary cultures… Paradoxical as it may seem, the United States has a common culture that is multicultural." "Our story is one of diverse peoples meeting, mingling, and changing each other."18 It is hardly unique for a "common culture" to be formed from "subsidiary cultures." Nor is America's uniqueness to be found in diverse people mingling with and changing one another. Lawrence Auster, a respectful critic of Ravitch's position, points out that her view "turns out to be virtually identical in key respects" with the multiculturalism she criticizes.19 But, typical of the conservative response to multiculturalism, Auster offers as a remedy the affirmation of America's "Anglo-Saxon" roots.20 Alex Haley for the WASPs?
I do because my first qualifier of intelligence is the ability to tell right from wrong, to be able to reason the difference between good and evil.
Multiculturalism from the authors point of view is all about cultural relativism, which is a threat to rational reasoning needed to be able to know the difference between right v. wrong, good v. evil.
The foremost idea of multiculturalism is the equal value of all cultures, or cultural relativism. This is an idea that has made it impossible for a generation of American students to make the perfectly rational moral distinction between a "culture" that puts Jews in the ovens and one that grants them freedom of worship and all rights of citizenship. (Under the heading of "diversity," this is also why public schools must not teach that monogamous heterosexual marriage is morally preferable to homosexual promiscuity. All "lifestyles," like all cultures, are created equal.)