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September 23, 2003

patriotism and civic

Some people who talk or write about civic education insist that the United States has the very best democracy (or society) in the world. In my opinion, the US is one of a few dozen polities that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest (due to good luck as well as wise ancestors). I think it's a goal of civic education to help students understand how fortunate they are compared to people who live in tyrannies or anarchy. I feel loyalty and gratitude toward the United States and not toward any other nation, and I think this is a good attitude for Americans to hold. However, it's far from clear to me that our polity is the single best in the world. We have low voter participation; our crime and incarceration rates are amazingly high; and we live shorter lives with more disease, compared to people in some of the northern European nations. Nor do we compare favorably with these countries if one thinks about the long term. Sweden, for example, has been stable and at peace for 200 years, progressing steadily toward liberty and democracy. These other democratic states are all to our left politically. Thus I wonder whether some people want to teach students that the United States is the best society in order to head off discussions about whether we should move somewhat leftward.

September 23, 2003 11:38 AM | category: advocating civic education | Comments


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