Over the season where we celebrate the birth of our nation, we often speak of the freedoms we are afforded by living in a free country. Advantages such as freedom of speech, the right to assemble, voting rights and others are touted as benefits of living in a country such as the United States of America. But do we really understand ALL that living in a free country has to offer…or, in some cases, the expectations of living in such a place?
What does it really mean to live in a free country? How does one reap the benefits of the freedoms so bravely fought for by brave men and women for its citizens? Does it mean that citizens are freely given advantages such as good jobs, financial security, or clear pathways to personal goals and aspirations? Or rather, is it expected that citizens utilize the tools provided through living in a free country to build and create these advantages for oneself? Furthermore, can citizens sit back and wait for others to take the helm and ensure that the freedoms we so readily enjoy in the United States are upheld and preserved? Should the common citizen depend solely on those in public office to ensure that the country is run properly?
In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a fellow statesman, he wrote “Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive in their attention. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature.” –Thomas Jefferson, 1787
Clearly, Jefferson felt that it was important that the citizens remained involved in the governance of the country, regardless of whether or not they held public office. And in order to be involved, one must understand what it means to live in a free country. We must understand the principles on which this great country was founded. We must understand our duties as citizens, and how to best engage in our community. And finally, we must understand that the opportunities we have are just that…opportunities, not entitlements. A greater understanding of how best to employ these opportunities will allow us to enjoy the blessings and benefits of living in a free country.
Unfortunately, in the academic world, these principles are not taught until high school or college, if they are even taught at all. Why wait? In a conference in 2010, Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor shared that “barely one-third of Americans can even name three branches of government, much less say what they do” and “less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how civic participation benefits our government.” If these statistics don’t frighten you, they should. We can’t wait. Let’s engage and empower our youth now to become thinkers, leaders, creators…equipped with the knowledge and deep understanding of what it means to live in free country.
IndED Academies will be offering a course this fall for ages 8-11 (approximately grades 3-5) titled, “What it Means to be a Citizen”. For more information on the course, go the Course Page.