The Desperate Need for ‘Citizen Training’ in Our RepublicPosted: December 11, 2014
The Constitution cannot protect us and our freedoms as a self-governing people unless we protect the Constitution. – Thomas Sowell
democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health. – Richard Beeman
I guess I was a weird kid.
Because, you see, when I was a kid I used to watch episodes of ‘Firing Line’ with William F. Buckley. Is that weird? Guilty as charged.
For reasons lost to me now, the episodes featuring liberal doyenne Harriet Pilpel left the most lasting impression in my memory, but I enjoyed all the episodes. Maybe it was Pilpel’s magnificent hair and unique sartorial taste.
Why on earth, you ask, was I not playing baseball, climbing trees, or burning ants with a magnifying glass?
Oh, I was doing all of those other activities too, it’s just that I tuned in to ‘Firing Line’ as well.
Here were terribly important people (or at least, people who sounded terribly important) debating terribly important things, in a terribly intellectual and oftentimes pretentious and arrogant manner (for an example of the kind of pretentiousness I’m talking about, watch this clip from the 1973 movie ‘The Paper Chase’, featuring John Houseman as Professor Kingsfield):
Back to ‘Firing Line’: Insults were administered to one/another by way of carefully constructed verbal jabs, accompanied by minimal body language including the slightly raised eyebrow and the wry smile.
“What the hell is this?” I thought to myself.
But then something happened: With each episode, I grew to appreciate the language and the logic they used, the words and the arguments they employed, and I actually learned something about politics and government.
A few years later in high school, I was compelled to select an elective class for the new school year, and for some reason I checked the box for the ‘Civics’ class whose teacher was a crusty Korean War veteran named Wylie Smith (civics classes should be required, and required to be taught in a historically accurate way in all high schools, in my opinion).
Mr. Smith’s class was something like a combination of ‘Firing Line’ and Professor Kingsfield’s Harvard contract law class. We delved into Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes and Locke, Western Civilization, the Magna Carta, the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the United States, and the difference between a democracy and a republic.
I enjoyed the civics class like I enjoyed watching ‘Firing Line’. It was highly engaging and interesting stuff. Thank you,
Professor Kingsfield Mr. Smith, wherever you are. You helped me see the genius of the Founding Fathers and set me on a course that would become a lifelong interest in government, civics, politics, and asking/attempting to answer the question from classical Greek times: How should we live?
* * * * * *
Speaking of republics, set the Flux Capacitor Time Travel Thingamabob from the 1970’s to 2015 and ask yourself this question: What kind of shape is this old republic of ours in?
On the plus side, we haven’t become a dictatorship like that of the Orwellian-named ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ (North Korea) or devolved into a state of anarchy or become a banana republic. Yay, us.
On the negative side, the delicate balance between concentrated power and self-governance that the Framers intended has recently suffered an imbalance towards more concentrated power and centralized government.
How, you ask?
Barack Obama, a man of the far left, a.k.a., a Progressive, took office as President of the United States on January 20th 2009. Being the Progressive ideologue that he is, he and his fellow travelers in the Democratic Party have worked to concentrate power so they can fundamentally transform the United States of America into their image:
Like the anecdote that says you can boil a frog alive if you turn up the heat slowly enough, the two terms of George W. Bush were a time of some discomfort with the growth of the national debt and mistakes made in executing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other things, but with most in the middle class chugging along.
But the advent of a presidency presided by a leftist ideologue like Obama bent on “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” was like cranking the burner knob 100% full-blast open, quickly changing the slow simmer into a raging boil, which had, at least in the eyes of Progressives, the unintended effect of ‘frogs’ jumping out of the water and asking, ‘how the hell did this happen?’
True to his radical, far-left upbringing and ideology that focuses on concentrating power (for the good of the people, of course), Obama has usurped the powers of the legislative branch of government by unilaterally making or changing laws he doesn’t agree with, in clear violation of the oath he took to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Obama has demonstrated, time and again, that he has no respect for the Constitution’s limitations on his power.
Despite his oath of office, to see that the laws are faithfully executed, Obama has unilaterally changed welfare-reform laws, by eliminating the work requirement passed by Congress during the Clinton administration.
He has repeatedly and unilaterally changed or waived provisions of the ObamaCare law passed by Congress during his own administration.
He has ordered Border Patrol agents not to carry out provisions of the immigration laws he doesn’t like.
Etc. Sowell makes the point that Obama would be a ‘lame duck’ president, if he respected the Constitution. The problem is he doesn’t.
About that imbalance towards concentrated power and centralized government: think of our republic as a teeter-totter, with concentrated power on one side and self-governance on the other.
The fulcrum of this teeter-totter is the engagement of active and informed citizens. A republic, as the Framers intended it, is supposed to be a delicate balance of power between concentrated, centralized government and self-government, with the engagement of active, informed citizens being the critical fulcrum that keeps the powers balanced and in check.
In the parlance of the Star Wars movies, Barack Obama and his Merry Band of Progressive Mischief Makers in the Democratic Party represent an imbalance, a disturbance in the ‘force’, towards concentrated power and centralized government. I don’t think Obama & Co. are the dark side, they’re just profoundly wrong.
But there’s a huge problem in any effort towards restoring balance: Our country’s educational system has not only largely failed in teaching the 3 R’s, they have failed to teach about the history of our republic and how it is largely responsible for the freedom, prosperity and human flourishing we as a people enjoy.
Hence the need for civic education – ‘Citizen Training’, if you will – in our society, and pronto.
But where to get it if the schools are no longer or inadequately teaching it?
The good news is there are activist citizens who see the imbalance of power Progressives have caused that threaten our republic who are working to restore freedom and liberty by informing, educating and training their fellow citizens.
An outstanding organization is the Society of Free Range Americans, a.k.a., the Citizen Ninjas.
Another is the Center for Self-Governance More and more organizations like this are popping up, and I encourage you to take advantage of these resources, to arm yourself with knowledge and get in the fight to preserve the republic that guarantees our freedoms and our way of life.
If you want to learn more about the Constitution, the presidency or economics, check out Hillsdale College’s excellent on-line courses.
Don’t have a class in your area? Educate yourself and start one of your own. The republic and your freedom and liberty are worth it!