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Everything New Under the Sun

Surfing the web, I came across a clever name for an Ohio secondhand resale shop: Its New to Me. Makes sense. After all, if a person was unaware of something, upon discovery, it would be new to them. Because schools have failed to provide adequate instruction, “It’s new to me” is what a growing number of tomorrow’s American adults will say when encountering history and civics.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) quadrennial release of the “Nation’s Report Card” shows a precipitous decline in eighth graders’ proficiency in history and civics; and, consequently, a prospective boon for further leftist indoctrination.

With a hat tip to American Greatness’ writer Eric Lendrum, the state-subsidized NPR bears the bad news to America’s parents and citizens: 

[The 2022] history scores are the lowest recorded since the assessment began in 1994, and the new data mark the first-ever drop in civics . . . continuing a downward trend that began in 2014. Only 14% of students reached at or above ‘proficient’ mark in history, and in civics only 22% of students met the same benchmark.

These declines followed previous declines in fourth- and eighth-graders’ reading and math proficiency. This constitutes a significant problem, as Kerry Sautner, the chief learning officer at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, noted: “How are we going to mitigate this when we have significant drops in everything?”

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant reason for the students’ declining proficiency. Of course, he eschewed allotting any blame to those who ignored the science and demanded the prolonged closure of schools. 

Instead, he pounced upon conservatives who propose solutions, such as school choice, to the problem of students’ declining proficiency in not only history and civics but in reading and math as well. Opined Cardona: “Now is not the time for politicians to try to extract double-digit cuts to education funding. Nor is it the time to limit what students learn in U.S. history and civics classes.”

Or, as a friend wryly translated to me: “Now is not the time to stop subsidizing failure!”

The secretary’s obtuse pandering to the teachers’ unions will only perpetuate the problem and is, ergo, illogical and injurious. But that is if and only if one views students’ plummeting proficiency in history and civics as a problem—indeed, an existential problem for a constitutional republic. 

But despite their crocodile tears, the Left could not be happier. What could please them more than dispensing with the rights, protections, checks and balances of our constitutional republic, boiling them down into a crude equation of “might makes right” whenever over 50 percent of ballots concur in Our Democracy™ (with the little-noticed caveat that it only applies if the Left wins)?

Consider how, throughout the (mostly peaceful) leftist riots, one of the abiding goals was the erasure of history, denigrating and delegitimizing America and the entirety of Western Civilization as one form of “-ism” or another. But it takes a lot of time to deface and erase history, and the Left is in a hurry to transform America. It takes far less effort to indoctrinate a prospective recruit if he has no historical knowledge to erase.

Similarly, if a prospective recruit has no understanding of the God-given, constitutionally recognized and protected rights and duties one possesses as an American citizen, that person is far more likely to self-immolate his liberty and prosperity in the service of imposing the Left’s ideological fantasy. As Bob Dylan wrote, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” 

Except you do. At stake is the power to promote and defend one’s pursuit of happiness and sovereignty over the governmental servants, and, in sum, one’s innate dignity and agency as a child of God. As we learn from Ecclesiastes:

What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun!
Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.

There is no novel knowledge that empowers flawed humanity to perfect itself and create a new Eden. There are verities and virtues eternally contesting with falsehoods and follies, lies, and vices. This wisdom is foundational to our constitutional republic, instructing all the rights and duties inherent within it. 

But what happens without a rudimentary knowledge of history and civics, let alone this guiding wisdom? When everything is new under the sun, there is only the disordering ignorance of the radical, who is hellbent on creating an illusory “new” utopia by destroying the permanent pillars of American life: faith, family, community, and country. The result is not liberation, but subjugation. 

No, there is nothing new under the sun. The question is whether the sun is rising or setting on our constitutional republic.

Oh, that Ohio resale shop? It closed this year. 

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

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Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Notable Replies

  1. Even though we act surprised in the decline of American education, we shouldn’t be. The signs have been all around us even prior to the Covid lockdowns and school closures. For one, conservatives have been ignoring education for years. Oh, there would be the obligatory weeping and wailing every time national scores came out. The bemoaners would dutifully blame the liberals and then go back to sleep.

    My epiphany occurred back in 1989 when National Geographic published its findings of student knowledge in History, Geography, and Civics. When the 1990 scores were published, they were just as bad. My answer was to go back to college and obtain my teaching certifications. I spent the next 20 years in the classroom and as an administrator. But it was while at college that I began to see the reasons for the decline.

    First, few conservatives chose teaching as a career. They seemed to adhere to the bon mot that those that can—do, and those that can’t----teach. Whoever coined that phrase should have been taken out and shot (by the way, it was George Bernard Shaw who coined the phrase) as it set what was a low bar even lower. For myself, I had already “done”. I spent my first twenty years in business and industry owning and operating my own businesses for over half of that time. I spent my second 20 in the trenches of education.

    When looking at most of my fellow future educators I found a few that were truly called and who would later become the type of teacher students recall with admiration. Sadly, the greater part were there for a paycheck, time off in the summer, and extended holidays in the winter. They also, for the most part, embraced each and every educational “innovation”. You see, by embracing each “new” innovation, true responsibility for student outcomes could be blamed on failures of the system and not on the individual teacher’s sub par performance. We see the results of that way of thinking more and more with each passing year.

    Second, another pitfall was the dumbing down of courses at the collegiate level and the also pernicious practice of grade inflation. And as the beneficiaries of such a system, they, as teachers, were more than happy to practice the same in the classroom. Most Administrations didn’t help either. Teachers with a higher than “acceptable” failure rate would be called in for the TALK, “Listen son, you are failing too many students. If you don’t get them to passing—and damned quick–don’t expect your contract to be renewed.” Never mind the students were failing because they failed to do any work. I’ll never forget the time when the word came down that teachers were forbidden from giving ANY grade less than a 50 per cent. No more zeros allowed. Subsidized bad behavior and bad habits only lead to an increase in bad behavior and bad habits.

    I could go on, but why bore you further? You’ve seen the signs and reasons as much as I. The only thing I have found heartening is the number of states embracing school choice and having the money follow the student rather than the school system. Covid lockdowns also awakened many parents to the nonsense educators were peddling to their children. It will take time but Boards of Education can be retaken. But the work will be hard. I pray the parents are up to the task.

  2. Avatar for task task says:

    1979 was an American Year of Infamy. The Department of Indoctrination was created. Yesterday, while undergoing therapy for a shoulder replacement, I conversed with one of the therapists regarding her knowledge of history. It was scant. She was astounded over my rendition of much of the Declaration of Independence. When I was in HS you either put it to memory or failed American History. It was required. I still remember that teacher. She was probably a Democrat but she was also a patriot. Today they are all anti-American socialists. Why? Because they were taught to become who they are and the American tax payers are forced to pay. Education requires the 10th Amendment. Indoctrination requires its elimination.

  3. So true. I will forever be grateful for the quality of the education I received.

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