For the past several decades, within the dreary halls of every unionized public school in this country, a great fiction about our nation’s history has been spoon-fed to the minds of the young and impressionable. They are programmed through a rigorous Prussian style system of repetition and regurgitation, that what built this great country was not the ingenuity and ambition of great masters of industry and entrepreneurship, but rather a combination of some short lived and irrelevant union called “The Knights of Labor” and various federal government pork projects. The great American rag to riches histories of self-made men and business titans such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, are belittled as nothing more than grand thieving robber barons who had to be put down and squashed by heroic Washington bureaucrats.
This juvenile folklore passing as historical fact would be almost laughable if not for how widespread the acceptance of this myth has become. The state school system fails in most regards, but it has quite the penchant for propagandizing and does a marvelous job at it. As a result of this misinformation, our nation has a collective ignorance of our own proud history and it has led us astray not only politically, but more importantly culturally.
Culture is everything. Our founders crafted a beautiful and eloquent system of governance that guaranteed our freedoms and paved the way for us to be a prosperous and stable Republic for most of our history, but even they knew that it was never enough. At the end of the day, it is the gritty, hardworking, and individualistic spirit, one which is embodied in the American worker and entrepreneur, that is what truly kept this nation together. A healthy questioning of authority, an ambitious zeal to better oneself, a fear of God, and a love of family are the quintessential facets of traditional American culture. It is from those values and our embrace of capitalism that we have been able to achieve a level of prosperity and innovation that was never seen before in history.
To the average upper middle-class liberal arts student, this may sound like typical “right-wing” patriotic hyperbole. They may not believe it, but it is true.
We shouldn’t blame them for their ignorance.
They have grown up in a society with more prosperity and leisure than any generation before. The everyday fears and angst that hung over their grandparents and great-grandparents no longer exist in this rapidly changing world. With every passing generation, those worries of want and struggle have been replaced with a sort of emptiness, a lack of direction, and a lack of purpose. To put it in anecdotal terms: this young generation of Americans are the spoiled heirs to a great multi-generational fortune, a fortune that they do not respect, nor know what to do with.
They fill the void with binge drinking, social media narcissism, and all expense paid trips to Europe, where the grass is apparently always greener.
We shouldn’t blame them for this vapidness.
They have been indulged by both parent and teacher alike into a false and misleading narrative of the world, one in which success and happiness are a linear upward hierarchy from grade school through college, into a cushy corporate job that no longer exists in a stagnant and ever more socialized economy.
A general laziness combined with very real factors such as minimum wage and mass illegal immigration have taken away from them their first, and maybe only, jobs.
Thus they will never experience a chewing out by their boss and they will never learn the value of an honest day’s work. Critical character-building life experiences.
We may scoff at their cries of victimhood and trigger warnings every time someone tells them they're wrong, but they truly are the victims of decades of cultural and economic stagnation.
In order to stave off this regression, we must attack the root of the problem. Contrary to what many caramel macchiato drinking pseudo-intellectuals may say, the real root of the problem is not “materialistic and exploitative capitalism,” but rather our cultural values.
A return to our historical roots is what is needed. We must unapologetically preach that the greatest successes and joy come not from short-term and hedonistic living in the now, but rather tirelessly working for the benefit of not only yourself but your posterity. That is the sort of thinking that paved the way from their great-grandparents’ sweatshops and farms into their parent’s law firms and medical practices in just a few short generations.
If we fail to achieve this, we are effectively handing over our nation to a generation that currently believes that diversity should not include ideas, that speech should not be free, that entrepreneurship is exploitative, that ‘‘family values” are sexist, and that what they want must be given to them, not earned.
That is the recipe for a disaster that our founders feared most.
Hence the great quote from founding father Benjamin Franklin, “A Republic, if you can keep it… so do not give out participation trophies so willy nilly.”
That may not be accurate, but I wouldn't know since I did go to a public school after all.