What Is Success?
American civics education teaches the founding principles and documents of the United States, the key events of American history, the structure of our self-governing federal republic, the functions of government at all levels, how our governing institutions work, and the spirit of liberty and tolerance that should animate our private interactions with our fellow citizens. Such civics education should teach students to take pride in what they share as Americans—an exceptional heritage of freedom, a republic that has succeeded in making liberty a fundamental principle of our government, and the joyful accomplishments of their common national culture.
By the time students leave high school, they should comprehend the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, elections, elected office, checks and balances, trial by jury, grand juries, civil rights, military service, and many other points in the traditional American civics curriculum. College undergraduates, and especially graduates of education schools, should also learn how these civic fundamentals emerged from Western Civilization, including through developments in Western political theory and American history.
Noah Webster wrote in 1788 that,
every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country; he should lisp the praise of liberty, and of those illustrious heroes and statesmen, who have wrought a revolution in her favor.
A selection of essays, respecting the settlement and geography of America; the history of the late revolution and of the most remarkable characters and events that distinguished it, and a compendium of the principles of the federal and provincial governments, should be the principal school book in the United States. These are interesting objects to every man; they call home the minds of youth and fix them upon the interests of their own country, and they assist in forming attachments to it, as well as in enlarging the understanding.
The means of civics education should all lead to this end.