Our Social Studies Teachers Have Failed Us

Social Studies teachers have failed America, and parents by and large have done nothing to stop this atrocity.

We all know these famous words:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The problem is that not so many of us are as familiar with the rest of that second paragraph beyond the first sentence, where the entire case for independence from Great Britain, rather than simple autonomy within the nation, is laid out. First, we have the philosophical reasons, which are the most remarkable – and revolutionary part of the document:

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

But perhaps Social Studies teachers have failed us even moreso than simply not teaching our kids those extra few lines. Because as revolutionary as they are, as absolutely imperative as they are, they only lay out the “ivory tower” reasons for independence. They say “this is in general why the current system of government is wrong”.

The next part goes in to say in particular why the current government is wrong:

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Note that of the 27 or so particular reasons that the government of King George was wrong, and so wrong that the valid philosophical reasons should be invoked in the real world at the cost of blood and fortune to the very men crafting this document and thousands of their friends, families, and countrymen, I can count at LEAST 12 *DIRECT* parallels to actions of the US Government in the course of my lifetime, and possibly as many as a dozen and a half.

But the document goes on, noting the numerous attempts made to resolve the conflict peacefully and without outright separation – something the Founding Fathers clearly saw as imperative before the “ivory tower” philosophical reasons to absolve government were invoked. Finally, it notes that since EVERYTHING ELSE has been tried, they have to admit reality: there is no other option but war, but as soon as the war is won, friendship should once again reign supreme:

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

And finally, the coup de grace, the statement that marks each of these men traitors to the country they have been a part of – and Founding Fathers and Patriots to the country they are now founding:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Outside of the New Testament, this is the single most radical, most revolutionary document in history.

Yet our Social Studies teachers have failed us in not teaching us every aspect of it, and forcing it to memory as much as the opening two sentences.

Maybe if they had not failed us, maybe if our parents had not failed us in doing the same, MAYBE we would not be at a point where more and more, the specific reasons for separating from King George were becoming specific reasons that men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Adams, and the rest would also separate themselves from the current government of the very nation they founded.

3 Replies to “Our Social Studies Teachers Have Failed Us”

  1. You are dead on with this. Most Social Studies teachers rarely go into the philosophical foundations of the document. They do not mention Locke or Hobbes or Montesquieu. They take for granted the fact that the founding fathers have laid out rights and rarely explain from where these rights are derived.

    For the most part, they speak only of the importance of “democracy” and the idea that if a government has a democracy, then it is good. Democracy is the good, not rights, not limited government. These clear principles established in this document, the Constitution and the Federalist papers are not even mentioned when teachers discuss this part. But of course, as we would agree, democracy is not the end. For the founding fathers, democracy (albeit, a very limited, controlled, regulated democracy) was the means to an end – liberty. Liberty was the highest good of the founders. Of course, liberty and equality are mentioned, but they, too, are rarely explained.

  2. I am only reading writing this once and I will probably not return to this website again. But here is my peace as a Social Studies teacher (in America and abroad). 1, you’re wrong. I don’t know what school you went to but I learned about Locke, Hobbes and Montesquieu in high school and I teach them today. 2, Have you ever tried to teach uninterested 12-17 year olds about the “philosophical foundations” of anything? AND DO IT IN 35-45 minutes? Give me a break. Everyone sits on their high horse and says Teachers should do this, teachers should do that – Go teach. You try to do something. You tell Johnny who constantly picks his nose and has ADD that he has to learn philosophical foundations or “forcing to memory” the entire document. Get real.

    Go back to high school – would you listen to you? Probably not. You would probably say something like “sit on it Potsie”. 35 minutes a day, 5 days a week (not counting holidays, drills, other unforeseen distractions). You teach children the entire world’s history in about 4 years. Let me know how that works out for you.

    1. Thomas:

      Until this past June, I was a certified 6-12 Math teacher in Georgia. Trust me, I know all about the pains of teaching – and I maintain my position that our social studies teachers have failed us. Kids don’t need to know “the entire world’s history” – just that which had a direct impact on the US (in everything but World History, which is 1 class. In World History, obviously a quick review of the entirety of human existence is called for.)

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