President Donald Trump, in an Independence Day announcement, said he was creating a new National Garden of American Heroes as a “vast, outdoor park” to recognize and honor the greats of U.S. society, and then he named some of those to be included: John Adams, Clara Barton, Frederick Douglass, Audie Murphy, Gen. George S. Patton, Booker T. Washington — and more.
That’s good and all. The monument’s a patriotic and interesting idea. But better would be if Trump used his executive powers to compel public schools around the nation to teach civics’ classes, or else lose funding.
After all, isn’t that the point of The National Garden of American Heroes — to remember those in this nation who’ve stood strong and tall and proud on core American principles of freedom and faith, and in the end accomplished great things?
That the idea comes at a time when anarchists and ignorant leftists in the streets — and Democrats in Congress — are busily destroying and dismantling and removing some of the monuments of these very same-named heroes is not coincidental. The motivations of this president are dead-on; to preserve the greatness of this country by fighting those who woule tear at the threads of the greats who best represent this country.
But the tax dollars and efforts to create and construct this garden of heroes could be better used by requiring public schools, or at the least pressuring public schools, to bring back the civics’ classes.
Trump could better serve the American interests by issuing an executive order to his Department of Education, an executive memo, an executive letter of guidance, what have you, that mandates two or three or more years of civics’ lessons for high school students, with funding dangled as the enticement, with funding restricted or reallocated for failures to comply. It’s civics, after all, that teaches exactly what this garden aims to represent: the best America has to offer.
Why build a monument when you could train a mind?
Why create a mass of statues that stand idle — when you can inspire a nation of youth committed to living the very ideals the statues represent?
“Civic knowledge and public engagement is at an all-time low,” American Progress wrote in 2018. “Only nine states and the District of Columbia require one year of U.S. government or civics. Thirty-one states only require a half-year of civics or U.S. government education, and 10 states have no civics requirement.”
That’s sad and sorry.
It’s also perhaps part of the anarchist-in-the-street problem currently spreading across America. You know — the one that just tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass in New York?
Frederick Douglass, the former slave.
Frederick Douglass, the former slave who went on to become a hugely influential abolitionist and orator.
“We Need Civics Education in Schools to Build Effective Democratic Citizens,” The American Academy of Arts & Sciences wrote in September of 2019.
Effective Democratic citizens — yes. And less ignorant activists in the streets.
“We will honor extraordinary citizens from every community, from every place and from every part of our nation,” Trump said, in his Fourth of July speech. “Great men and great women. People that we can look up to forever.”
His sentiment is commendable.
His timing even perfect.
But given the choice, it’s better that this country had an emerging generation of leaders trained in mind and heart to soar like the heroes and greats of America’s past, than a park filled with lifeless statues — statues that the untrained mind, the cold, hating heart, will one day, no doubt, target for toppling.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.