Thursday, June 23, 2016

Out of Many, One

Several weeks ago, we celebrated another Memorial Day in this country.  My wife, Deborah, and I place great meaning on this holiday--it is much more than the official beginning of summer.  Both of our fathers and several uncles served in the military during World War II.  Many historians along with others who study American culture contend that the population of the United States was more unified during World War II than at any other time in our history.
Then came the cold reality of the day in which we live—the massacre in Orlando, Florida.  We experienced what our security forces fear the most, a home-grown terrorist.  The feelings of unity evaporated in the senseless slaughter of 49 souls.
With this event, the negative tone and wild accusations of the presidential race, and the inability of Congress to work together for the good of all, it seems as if we are being ripped apart void of any solvent that could hold us together.
As a teacher, I often try to determine the essential characteristics/cultural traits/attitudes that are missing in society--knowing that it’s imperative these missing traits are somehow instilled in the next generation.  For the past few years, one question continuously comes to my mind.  How can we unite the diverse population of our country?
Several years ago, Arthur Schlesinger wrote The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, which was sharply criticized by his friends on the political left.  However, I believe Schlesinger was correct when he identified the nation’s schools as the critical institution that must assimilate our diverse population into one nation.  I want to share two paragraphs in this book with you.
A century after Tocqueville, another foreign visitor, Gunnar Myrdal of Sweden, found the essence of the “solvent power” in what he called “the American Creed.”  Americans “of all national origins, regions, creeds, and colors,” Myrdal wrote in 1944, hold in common “the most explicitly expressed system of general ideals” of any country in the West: the ideals of the essential dignity and equality of all human beings, of inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and opportunity.

The schools teach the principles of the Creed, Myrdal said; the churches preach them; the courts hand down judgments in their terms.  Myrdal showed why the Creed held out hope even for those most brutally excluded by the white majority, the Creed acting as the spur forever goading white Americans to live up to their proclaimed principles, the Creed  providing the legal structure that gives the wronged the means of fighting for their rights. 

“America,” Myrdal said, “is continuously struggling for its soul.”  (p. 33).

My dear friends, as our country becomes more diverse each day, we cannot unite its people around one religion, one race, or even one moral code.  But we still have a chance to unite this country around the great ideals we have held, though not perfectly, since the founding of this nation.  So my fellow teachers, gear up!  It seems we have been given a short reprieve from the consuming emphasis on standardized test scores.  Let’s unite the next generation around these ideals.
Bless you my children,
Terry L. Simpson
Schlesinger, A.M. (1998). The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

No comments:

Post a Comment