WE have belatedly come to appreciate "the greatest generation" that fought and died in World War II to preserve the freedom that Americans enjoy today. But the disappearance of history from our schools, and its virtual disappearance as a requirement for graduation from many of our leading colleges as well, has left most Americans with little knowledge or understanding of what has made us so much more fortunate than most of the rest of the human race around the world.
When you can graduate with honors from Harvard without having taken a single course in history, do not expect much widespread understanding of how we got to be where we are -- much less what is required to protect and preserve the precious things that make this America different.
On the contrary, much of our education at all levels is focused on complaints about "our society" -- as if other societies do not have similar or worse problems -- and exaltation of the idea of "change," as if things are so bad that any change can be assumed to be a change for the better. That might have been true of Nazi Germany -- but 21st century America?
"Change" is a blank check -- and as dangerous as any other blank check. There is no reason to be automatically for or against anything as vague and sweeping as change. Everything depends on the specific merits or demerits of particular changes. But the ease with which so many people embrace undefined "change" is scary. It makes them -- and us -- vulnerable to any glib demagogue who can come along and hype his particular brand of "change."
The patriotism we celebrate on the Fourth of July is more than an expression of love for our country and pride in its achievements. An appreciation of the origins of the blessings we enjoy is essential for preserving those blessings for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.
Even racial frictions between blacks and whites in America do not begin to compare to the violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda or Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Unemployed Americans have a higher standard of living than most working people in most countries. The rights of criminals in the United States exceed those of law-abiding citizens in many other countries. What corruption exists in our institutions is like child's play compared to corruption in Russia, China or Nigeria.
Turning from negative things to positive things, the United States stands out even more.