October 20, 2022
We’ve arrived in unchartered territory in our national landscape. A territory where the foundations and tenants of our Republic and the shared heritage of our Nation are maligned and denigrated rather than cherished and respected.
Born in the late 1960s, my formative years were the 1970s and 80s. I remember starting each day standing beside my desk, facing the flag, hand over heart, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember the National Anthem playing over the intercom system. This tradition was part of my education just as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Iran Hostage Crisis were part of the dialogue around our family dinner table. They were not events consigned to some distant past, they were front and center. We were affected by them just as generations past were affected by the American Revolution, the Civil War, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and both World Wars.
We understood both their significance and their consequences because we had learned about them in context and with respect for their impact on America and the world. The facts were not sugar-coated nor were they altered to fit a predetermined narrative.
The one thing I remember most about my history and civics classes was the critical thinking and reasoning skills I developed. I was encouraged not to accept anything at face value, but to ask questions, seek facts, and always pursue truth. These skills were not just for the history classroom, they were encouraged in all aspects of my education, and so I thrived as a student and my curiosity and love of history grew and flourished.
By the time I reached high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in education teaching the subjects I loved, history, government, and civics. I was passionate about learning them and even more passionate about teaching them. Though life threw me a few curveballs along the way, my dream eventually became reality and for fifteen years I enjoyed the privilege of being a history teacher.
The one thing I tried to impart to my students was the incredible story of our country and the responsibility that comes with being an American citizen. I had plenty of amazing examples in my life. My Nana, who had come to America from Ireland as a young teen in the 1920s and later became a proud U.S. citizen. My grandfather, who had come to America from Greece, had opened his own successful café, married my Nana, and with her raised six first-generation Americans. My father, whose family had forged their way in rural Georgia during the Great Depression, had served proudly in the United States Coast Guard, started his own successful company, and with my mother raised six children who were taught to value faith and family and to respect the flag and the country it represents. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in the time I did. To have experienced exactly what it means to be a patriot and how important preserving and protecting my heritage is.
I’m saddened and at times fearful of the generation currently coming through our education system. They are not being taught the history of America in the same way. They do not understand the reason for standing during the Pledge or even why they should know and respect those words. They are not taught the value of history, much less why it matters or how it informs and shapes the future. They are not encouraged to think critically, pursue logic and reason, or ask questions.
Instead, they are recipients of a woke agenda, indoctrination, and censorship. They are taught that questioning the “status quo” is unacceptable. In short, our public school system, from K-12 through secondary, has watered-down, dumbed-down, and for lack of a better word, “reimagined” so much of our history that today’s students don’t even know the basics.
Rather, they’ve been spoon-fed an alternate version, taught to despise our past, hate the country they live in, and lament their place within it. They are shamed for their skin color, exposed to confusing and dangerous messages, and taught that equity is preferred over equality, and that physical attributes are more important than merit. No wonder our institutions are crumbling and our freedom is being undermined.
The good news, in my opinion, however, is that the history being vilified is the same one that will save our Republic and secure it for future generations, because within that history lies truth, and despite attempts to quell it, truth always prevails.
I have faith in our Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, and in the Judeo-Christian values that underpin our foundation. I have faith in the lessons history has taught us. I have faith in the progress we have made in the last 240-plus years. Most of all, I have faith in the people of this country, in their love and respect for freedom and liberty, and for family and each other.
We are not a nation divided, as so many would have us believe. We are a nation of hard-working, faithful, and willing citizens. We know that our voices matter. We understand that the time for apathy has passed. We acknowledge that though America isn’t perfect, it is ours and worth preserving and protecting. We respect the flag that represents her and the sacrifices that created and continue to shape her. We have faith that the forces attempting to redefine and destroy her will not prevail, because we firmly believe that this “Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all,” is the last best hope for mankind and that our shared heritage will indeed safeguard and secure her for generations to come.
JN Fenwick is a Florida-based, former US History Teacher and writer.