In his 1989 farewell address to the nation, President Reagan renewed his commitment to the next generation and beyond, stating, “An informed patriotism is what we want.”
The President continued, asking:
“Are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions."
Reagan expounded that, "We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise—and freedom is special and rare. It's fragile, it needs protection."
Our 40th President's words couldn't be more timely then or today. In our work with students every day, Young America’s Foundation sees history books for high school students teaching that America is not all that great. We see professors and administrators on college campuses treat conservative students as second-class citizens, banningor limiting their events. And patriotism—even acts as simple as displaying the American flag—are treated as bias incidents to be punished.
Professors teach students that their “privilege” blinds them or that they’re hapless victims of someone else’s privilege, rather than learning about the Constitution or our founding fathers. The resulting lack of appreciation for America, its institutions, and unique greatness further undermine the freedoms that have been the hallmark of our country through good times and bad.
A recent poll from the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness (FLAG) suggests the harmful impact this kind of incomplete, biased education has on the rising generation. FLAG’s report suggests students’ negative opinions about America are not based on knowledge or understanding of American history, but rather the one-sided, leftist version of history they’ve been taught.
High-school age respondents (14-17) are split 50/50 on whether America’s future should be driven by socialism or capitalism, yet 86% don’t know which rights are enumerated by the First Amendment.
Among college-age respondents (18-21), 89% were unable to say which rights were enumerated by the First Amendment, but 50% believe America to be more racist than other countries.
A majority of millennials (22-37) believe America is a sexist country (60%) and a racist country (63%), and 19% agree the American flag is a sign of intolerance and hatredwhile 14% say America was never a great country and it never will be.
Fewer than 20% of all respondents could pass a quiz on basic American knowledge; less than half of all respondents knew that the Bill of Rights is made up of ten amendments or name the faces depicted on Mount Rushmore; and more than half believe Barack Obama’s impact on America is larger than George Washington’s.
Without a complete education—one where conservative ideas are presented on equal footing—an informed patriotism is all but impossible. Professors feeding students the same tired, leftist pablum while conservative ideas are erased from the classroom only begets more negative, biased, and incorrect opinions about America. Despite recent legal triumphs over UC Berkeley and Kennesaw State University for their unconstitutional policies, Young America's Foundation realizes that a balanced education is still not a reality for many students across the country. That's why campus lectures by leading voices such as Ben Shapiro, Katie Pavlich, Andrew Klavan, and Christina Hoff Sommers are critical to turning the tide.
The messages brought by prominent conservatives—typically ignored or demonized by the liberal ruling class in academia—give students the necessary opportunity to hear diverse ideas and engage in the free and open exchange of ideas that ought to be the trademark of American education. Yet leftist professors continue to remove conservative perspectives from their curricula and classrooms, thereby denying students a well-rounded education.
Despite the Left's often-unhinged and at times violent opposition to Young America’s Foundation events, the impact of YAF's campus lectures is significant. Not only do these events expose the true intolerance of the Left and shine a light on the institutionalized anti-conservative bias of administrators, but they also expose students to the good news of conservatism—often for the first time.
As we look toward 2019 and the spring semester of campus lectures, we know that leftist opposition is likely to continue its trend toward the radical. But we also know that conservative ideas are needed more now than before if we are to follow President Reagan's instruction to pass on the truth of what America is, what she represents, and what it means to be an American.
President Reagan stated in a 1993 address that "Young America’s Foundation has been a refuge for students seeking an alternative to the politically correct environment enforced on many campuses." We will continue to be that refuge for maligned and marginalized conservative students, and grow the number of students who have the chance to hear and be inspired by freedom's principles.
An informed patriotism is indeed what we want, and that's exactly what YAF is creating on campuses across the country.
Spencer Brown is the spokesman for Young America’s Foundation and frequently travels to America’s embattled campuses with YAF’s campus lecturers.