NOTHSTINE: No civic education, no American Republic

Are American educators preparing students to help keep this country free? It’s almost impossible to be exuberant by that prospect after being bombarded with talk of “safe spaces” or simply the rejection of long-established freedoms on many college campuses.Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska, recently spoke about one of the greatest threats to liberty and the survival of the American Republic. In his brilliant remarks last week before the Federalist Society, Sasse addressed the need for a “cultural catechesis” to renew and repair society.Frankly, civic education is a multi-generational project that now seems more daunting than the promise to land a man on the moon and return him safely was in the 1960s. It’s not impossible, however. Sasse used the Federalist Society as a model, which revolutionized the importance of “originialism,” or “textualism” in the legal community. It plucked a judicial philosophy out of obscurity and placed it into the mainstream.Sasse touched on important factors, such as anger over the election outcome. A lot of young people were mad because their preferred candidate didn’t win. That is understandable. However, more troubling is that many have no understanding of the Electoral College, checks and balances, or separation of powers. “If the people who rule America in 20 to 30 years don’t understand America, America will slip away,” Sasse declared.Unfortunately, some educators are stressing partisan politics and professional victimhood. Forty-one percent of citizens under 35 now believe the First Amendment is dangerous. Older people too struggle to say anything coherent about inherent rights and the purpose of government. The crisis of civic education means we no longer as a nation discuss the foundations and deeper principles that are vital for the survival of the Republic.One of the highlights of Sasse’s speech was that he mentioned the George Washington monument in Baltimore, and not D.C. The Baltimore statue features our first president wearing a Roman toga. “Why? Because they knew the story of Cincinnatus. They knew the dangers of Caesarism,” said Sasse. He noted that school children in the 1820s and 1830s would have understood the meaning behind the statue and that it was a tribute to the manner in which Washington gave up power, so reminiscent of the Roman statesman.The entrenched and arrogant D.C. power structure paid a price this election. But regardless of who’s in power, the point is that power ultimately rests with the people of this country. Americans should understand that moving more power away from Washington is essential no matter what party controls Congress or the White House.The American framers believed that the existence of government was essential in order to protect our natural, or God-given, rights. The very starting point of that notion requires surrendering power. Republican leadership in Washington now has an opportunity not only to legislate but to help reteach civic truths. Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to teach is by example, and the only way to do that is through self-restraint and adherence to the Constitution.