It’s an old joke.
When all else fails, read the instructions.
Look around. Lots of people are upset with other people (see Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years, poll finds (nbcnews.com)). Why? There are innumerable excuses. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and now the angst surrounding the George Floyd riots obviously contribute to the unhappiness of Americans with our country, but there are really too many excuses to list. Still, this unhappiness is an odd thing. We live in a rich country. We are still a free people. So long as we do not infringe upon the rights of our fellow citizens, we each have the right to do whatever we are capable of doing. So what is the problem? When we have more freedom and more material wealth than the people of our country have ever had, why are so many of countrymen unhappy with our country?
Can we actually figure out what is going in the minds of millions of other people? No. We can speculate. We can make what some people would call an educated guess, but that is about it.
So, how do we figure out the answer? Well, we can check the owner’s manual. If we want to know why our country is not working properly, we need to know how the people who set it up expected it to work. That is, there are three types of documents we need to study.
- We need to study the documents the founders wrote at the founding. That includes: the Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution, and The Federalist Papers. In addition to the Constitution itself, these documents explain what the framers of the Constitution expected from their government and how they expected their government to work.
- We need to study the works on political science and ethics the founders thought important. Most would have studied Politics: A Treatise on Government by Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle, Two Treatises of Government by John Locke, The Spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith, and The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Is this a complete list? No, but these are thoughtful works. The point is that the framers debated the purpose of the Constitution and its structure very carefully. Undeniably, the framers of the Constitution were part of a well-educated aristocratic class. However, they had earned the trust of their countrymen, and most had risked a great deal fighting for America’s freedom during the American Revolution. Therefore, we need to thoughtfully consider what they had in mind when they designed the Constitution.
- We need to study the religious works the founders most respected. These include: the Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV) of The Holy Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Since AKJV was published in 1611, it is easier to read a more recent translation like the New King James Version (NKJV). However, to understand what the founders considered ethical and why, we have to read the Bible. That is also why we should read Bunyan’s book. Bunyan wrote the tale of The Pilgrim’s Progress to help people understand the Bible, and until recent times his was the second most popular book after the Bible.
So, why do I think people are unhappy? For generations Americans have allowed government officials to take responsibility for the education of their children. For generations we have been foolhardy. We have allowed people nobody trusts, politicians, to educate the people most precious to us, our children. As a result, we have failed to educate our children properly. Therefore, few Americans now know how to be good citizens.
- Because we have not read the Bible, we don’t know what God expects from us. Too few of us understand the joy we receive by humbly obeying our Lord God and serving each other. Instead, too many of us serve ourselves and seek to elevate our own self esteem above all.
- Because we have not read the classics of Western Civilization, we don’t know how to stand upon the shoulders of the great men and women to lived before us so that we can see farther.
If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton (from here)
The purpose of studying subjects like science, philosophy and history is that such studies enable us to learn what the people who went before us learned. Unless we choose to remain ignorant, we don’t have to repeat past mistakes.
- Because we have not been taught to take the past seriously, to take the challenges our ancestors overcame seriously, we don’t take our nation’s founders seriously. Therefore, we don’t take what the founders wrote seriously, and we don’t know what our government is supposed to do and how it is supposed to work.
So what is my conclusion? To properly teach our children how to obey our Lord God and be good citizens, we each must learn how to obey our Lord God and become good citizens. That includes taking responsibility for the proper education of our children.