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Lose Our History And We Lose Our Future

John Nelson graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York in 1965 and enjoyed a long career at sea on commercial and military support ships. After retiring from his seagoing career, he continued working in various capacities in the maritime industry until a final retirement in 2012. Since then he has been active in researching local history and restoring and operating steam engines and antique mills.
He lives in neighboring Panola County and is a long-time member of the Yalobusha Historical Society. He is also the uncle of Herald editor David Howell.

I was 14 years old in 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik, the world’s first successful satellite, and I well remember the fervor that event generated in this country.  There was sudden fear that we were lagging behind our most menacing adversary.
At the time, the fear certainly seemed justified since it was just the year before that First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev had made his threatening “we will bury you” statement.  It was a chilling declaration that not only would the Soviet Union prevail but that history was on the side of socialism.
The fear of falling behind in the space race, which is really just an extension of the arms race, prompted a revamping of the country’s educational system that put emphasis on math and science.  That focus has existed to some degree to this day.
While there will continue to be challenges to America from abroad, we should be aware that the greatest threat will come from a citizenry no longer knowledgeable about their history or appreciative of the unique form of government that they are blessed to have.
It is quite likely that no assembly of men ever worked more diligently than those gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia during the hot summer of 1787.  Drawing on such experiences as the tyranny they had witnessed when Britain ruled the colonies and the inadequacies of the former Articles of Confederation, they drafted a constitution that would allow for a strong nation while protecting the rights of the individual.
Many onlookers here and abroad thought the idea of rule from the bottom up was a naive concept that couldn’t long endure, and even the framers of the constitution knew that it would require care and nurturing to survive.
When Benjamin Franklin was questioned by a Philadelphia lady about what kind of government the delegates had crafted, he responded, “A republic  madam if you can keep it.”
And that has always been the question, can we keep it?
What is happening in the streets of some of our towns and cities today is a bigger threat to the United States as we know it than the Soviet Union ever was.  Mobs are tearing down statues of past Americans that they know so little about while some are clearly advocating a move toward socialism.
Just as the launch of Sputnik prompted a reevaluation of our educational system, the uninformed chaos we see today should make us take a serious look at how well we are teaching young people about their own history and government.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an evaluation of 8th graders over a 20-year period found that only 17 percent of them were able to score “proficient” in American history, and statistics remain dismal for high school students.
Those graduating from high school with little knowledge of our country’s history are not likely to have this deficiency corrected in college.  A recent study found that only 18 percent of the 1,100 liberal arts colleges and universities surveyed now require students to take even one basic course in American history or government before graduation.
This disregard for our own history has made its way into our top schools. Of the 75 colleges and universities ranked by US News and World Report as the nation’s best, only 23 of them require that history majors – yes, history majors – take at least one American history course to graduate.
Just as dangerous to the future of our nation as this lack of instruction is the political persuasion of many of the instructors.  Over the past decades, there has been such a steady move to the left that it is not uncommon to find Marxism being advocated in our institutions of higher learning.
Though our country has never been, nor will it ever be, perfect, our system of government provides the mechanism to correct inequities as we continue to strive for a more perfect union.
And no matter where and how it has been implemented in the past, Marxism, under its various guises, has never been successful in providing prosperity, personal freedom, or equal opportunity.
If young Americans are graduating from high school or college without having learned these two important facts, our educational system is certainly failing them.

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