In the 1960’s I was actively involved with the State of Tennessee’s education department while serving as an adjunct professor at Peabody College. It was a time when America was making major efforts to bring parity to the educational system after having a dual system based upon race. Major efforts were present in the provision of tutorial programs, especially individualized programming for students who were delayed in their educational achievement. There appeared to be no limit to the intervention. For the next decade ‘people of color’ were given special treatment (affirmative action) in the admission to college. Students who were unable to make the enrollment criteria were allowed to enroll in remedial and/or developmental classes. In most of these cases minority scholarships were given to these students. Scores on international assessment, i.e. National Merit examinations were lowered to include more people of color. Students who displayed responsibility and effort were able to go to the college of their choice.
Occurring simultaneously to the intervention with students, similar action was occurring in the employment area. On more than one occasion I was instructed to recruit African-American applicants, and if two candidates had equal credentials the preference would be given to the minority applicant.
The effort to bring equality could be seen in the economy where massive building programs were making low cost housing available. Free telephones, housing allowances, food stamps, and free medical help were readily available for low income families. The opportunities afforded people of color far exceeded any efforts found anywhere in the world.
While all of this was happening many people were coming to our shores to become Americans. And many have taken our ideas back to their parts of the world. I say this as a testimony to America. The ideas we alone embodied have been exported to many nations around the world, and this quality –one might even call it a kind of generosity—has much to do with our success. We only have to look at what America has done in Africa to combat AIDS. Impressive are the ships filled with supplies to disaster areas around the world. Lest we forget, it was America who came to the aid of numerous countries where tyranny reigned. We have to acknowledge the United States has been remarkably and consistently generous in sharing what it has and trying to help its citizens and the world to achieve.
I say all of the above because, as of this writing, I am troubled with a young student who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States’ Flag. When asked why, his explanation was “America Sucks, and as long as they continue to kill us, I will not stand.” The following day the teacher took the student into the hallway during the pledge and was later disciplined for her action. Similar action is seen with athletes, some of the most privileged individuals in the world, who refuse to stand for the National Anthem. I readily admit I cannot understand an individual whose salary exceeds 10 million a year, as does the overwhelming number of his colleagues who also are people of color, and their complaint is ‘social injustice’. I think the issue does not have anything to do with the color of their skin but with performance. These athletes grew up in the same community as other individuals, and what sets them apart is their work ethic, their responsibility, and their willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve. The same qualities needed by all individuals, regardless of the color of their skin.
Our constitution embodies the phrase “We the People…..” It is we the people who must be self-governing. Not the Government, not some organization designed to promote the community or any other outside source but –WE THE PEOPLE. This concept is sorely missing in the teaching of American History and how America began with a ‘Republic” form of government rather than a monarchy or democracy. We must teach Freedom is not a license to do what you want but a responsibility to do what is right and virtuous. Without virtue, freedom cannot exist. Coaches, teachers, moms, dads, the entire village must embrace the concept and be willing to support it in the market place.
Our founding fathers in drafting the Constitution were very clear in their thoughts, “the only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue.” In other words, “only virtuous people are capable of freedom.” I would recommend Os Gunness’ book on the Golden Triangle of Freedom as a means of understanding where we are in the present circumstances. I do know we are in the process of self-destruction and without God, we are lost. He is the one who inspires us to virtue, (righteousness), and He is the only one who can help our country rediscover its virtue. This is not optional. It is at the heart of who we have been as a nation, and must remain central to our future.