Locke was a 17th century physician and philosopher and is also known as the father of empiricism—the theory that knowledge is gained through evidence acquired through experience. Locke developed his ideas in his “Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” However, it is the publication of two books--“The First Treatise on Government,” and “The Second Treatise on Government,”--that makes Locke important to the study of political philosophy in general and the American founding in particular. In these great works, Locke refutes the divine right of kings and sets forth the nature of legitimate civil government, based on (what was at the time) the radical idea of natural rights and the social compact. It was the revolutionary ideas of natural rights and government limited to the occupation of securing those rights that influenced America’s founding fathers. Locke is quoted and paraphrased throughout much of America’s founding documents.
Over the years, there has been increasing pressure on America’s public schools to increase the level of math and English education. There has also been a corresponding decrease in the emphasis on teaching American history and civics. For instance, here in California, entrance requirements into the public university system call for only two years of history and government, as opposed to four in English and math.
But civic education is at least as important.
According to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, civic knowledge not only “exerts a broader and more diverse influence on the American mind, but it also “increases a person’s regard for America’s ideals and free institutions.” In other words, the health of our republic depends on a citizenry educated in the history and source of its political ideals and the institutions those ideals produced. Certainly, that is as important as geometry. And if students must study literature, which they certainly should, why not read works that also have the benefit of teaching the source of the ideas of the American Revolution?
Between Karl Marx and John Locke, who is more important to our national political identity? So why are our children hanging posters of Marx on their classroom walls instead of Locke? I am not claiming that there is a Marxist conspiracy to indoctrinate our children. However, I do know that if we continue to neglect educating our children about the men on whose ideas this nation was built, this nation will not stand. The borders may remain the same, but the character of this nation will be lost forever.
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