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Columnists
Cal Thomas: Ignorant nation

At a National Archives ceremony last Friday in Washington, D.C., 30 immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens. In a video, President Trump encouraged them to embrace the “full rights, and the sacred duties, that come with American citizenship.”

It was a noble sentiment that once resonated with Americans who believed passing along their history to a new generation of citizens was something that ought to be done. Not anymore.

One of the new citizens, Juliet Sanchez, a teacher born in Colombia, told the Washington Post: “We can and should respect, celebrate and embrace our new culture, but you shouldn’t tell us to assimilate.” This attitude may be one factor contributing to an increasingly divided America. The other is equally disturbing.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center discovered that Americans are ignorant about the Constitution and the rights it protects.

The poll found that 37 percent of those interviewed could not name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment. Forty-eight percent got freedom of speech right. Thirty-three percent could not name one of the three branches of government and only 26 percent correctly named all three.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, responded to the poll: “Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

One can’t have a country if citizens are ignorant of its origins and purpose. When I was in public school, civics was a required subject. That it is rarely taught today likely explains the disturbing Annenberg poll results. Adds Jamieson: “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional principles.”

Good luck with that. In an era emphasizing diversity and multiculturalism and the fear that anyone teaching the superiority of the Constitution might be named a xenophobe, or bigot, even the Pledge of Allegiance is being challenged in some schools in an effort not to offend immigrants.

Another study by the Newseum Institute discovered just 19 percent of those polled know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.

Ignorance about the documents that founded and have sustained America through many challenges ensures the country we have known will not be recognized by future generations. That is fine with some on the far left who appear embarrassed and ashamed of America and think it the cause of many of the world’s problems.

Hillsdale College in Michigan is trying to make up for this ignorance about the Constitution by offering a free online course.

The problem begins in the public schools and extends into overpriced universities. Writing in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Few of the liberal arts and sciences faculty at these schools offer courses that explore the origins, structure, substance and aims of the education that they supposedly deliver. Instead they provide a smattering of classes on hot-button topics in higher education such as multiculturalism, inequality, gender and immigration. This is no trivial oversight, as the quality of American freedom depends on the quality of Americans’ education about freedom.”

Higher education’s failure to educate produces graduates who find it difficult to find jobs and must return home to live with parents. Unfortunately, when they return they’re burdened with crushing student loan debt, which according to the Department of Education, is at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion. So desperate are graduates to wipe out their debt that the personal finance website, Credible, surveyed millennials (ages 18 to 34) and found that 50 percent of them would give up their right to vote during the next two presidential election cycles in order to never make another loan payment.

What does this say about our next generation of Americans?

These polls demonstrate the failed products of a once-great American education system. It is why those who can afford it are turning to private schools or to home-schooling. Many consider public education to be America’s last monopoly, but these polls indicate that it isn’t working for individual Americans and it isn’t working for the nation.


Columnists
READER COMMENT
Reader Comment: Don’t believe legislators who say God wants us to let our children die

In 2011, Pamela Jade Eells died of pneumonia. The 16-year-old from New Plymouth had long suffered from a rare but treatable infection in her pelvic bone. Since the infection was never treated, she developed pneumonia until her lungs filled with fluid.

Pathologist Charles Garrison, who performed the autopsy, described Pamela’s final days this way: “If you’ve ever been in a situation where you can’t breathe, it’s pretty desperate. You’re drowning in your own fluids.” Another physician likened Pamela’s dying to “being waterboarded four or five times a day.”

Pamela’s bone infection and pneumonia could have been cured with antibiotics. Instead, she was given no medical care. Pamela’s parents were members of the Followers of Christ, a religious group that believes that only prayer can cure the sick. And so the Eells allowed their daughter to die an agonizing death.

Pamela’s tragic case is just one of many in which Idaho children become disabled, get very sick, and die. That’s because Idaho state laws allow parents to deny their children needed medical care if they use “prayer or spiritual means alone” to “treat” their children.

Stunningly, legislators seem unmoved by the suffering of these children, insisting that the laws should remain as they are to protect so called “religious freedom.”

In March of this year, senators serving on a task force to study the issue strictly limited public comment and provided no recommendations. At one meeting, despite the unusually high number of child deaths among the Followers of Christ group, legislators made little mention of the need to protect children’s health and instead pontificated about their own beliefs about “faith healing.”

Committee chair Jeff Siddoway tried to persuade attendees that, in cases in which children had died, more child protections still were not needed. His reasoning was based on his belief that lawmakers were essentially doing the dead children a favor by preventing them from receiving necessary medical care. “Those children that have gone on, they’re probably where we’re all trying to get,” said Siddoway.

It is confounding why legislators would take such a position. In defending the current laws, they are essentially advocating that parents deny their children needed medical care, a form of neglect they themselves would most certainly not perpetrate against their own children.

As a person of faith, I know that a loving God does not want children to suffer or die from illness, especially when we possess the knowledge to help them get better. What is also clear is that these elected officials are out of step with the majority of Idahoans. You’d be hard pressed to find many people who think children should have to suffer or die for their parents’ religious beliefs.

Legislators are simply not doing their duty to protect children who desperately need protection from adults responsible for their care. It’s time for us as Idaho citizens to stand up and demand that legislators protect the children of our state and stop sacrificing their health and their lives.