John Adams on Education and Independence Day

July 16, 2014
I’ve talked long and loud about studying our American Heritage.  There is a reason for that, and I’ll get to it below, but first a few items I left out of Saturday’s post.In that most recent post I mentioned the book, The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, which is available for $9.20 or fee here, here, or here, but I forgot to mention that the book also contains a section explaining the grievances against the king that are listed in the Declaration, something I haven’t seen elsewhere. Although the circumstances are different, those grievances are not unlike the things we deal with today. Tyrants are tyrants. Two quotes I had intended to include will further explain my thoughts about fireworks.  After Independency was passed on July 2, John Adams wrote to Abigail:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”  – John Adams July 3, 1776
The Declaration was quickly printed and copies delivered to newspapers throughout the land, and it was read on many public squares.  It was also sent, probably on the fastest horse, to George Washington in New York where British ships had blockaded the harbor. Washington had been waiting for this announcement and ordered the Declaration to be read to his troops.  Here are his orders:

Head Quarters, New York, July 9, 1776.
The Hon. The Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at Six OClock, when the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds and reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.
The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.

You can see why the occasion of “our deliverance from tyranny,” which came only after much toil and bloodshed, would be followed with celebrations. For Americans today to engage in the celebrations with little thought, knowledge, or participation in the cause of liberty, is somehow sad. What enemy hath done this to our country?

In Utah we have fireworks again on the 24th of July, the day the pioneers entered the Salt Lake valley.  On that day I like to revisit President Boyd K. Packer’s talk, “The Test,” October 2008.  It amazes me that no ward or stake, to my knowledge, has sought to recognize or recreate that pioneer celebration of our American heritage.  Also sad.

What John Adams Said
Now, for the other John Adams quote which will lead us to where I believe homeschool will be going next, finally!  While I was still in the Independence Day Mode on Monday, I watched a few YouTube video scenes from the HBO production of John Adams.  I have never knowingly watched anything on HBO (remembering them from the early cable tv battles), but the clips I saw were fine.  Then I found a wonderful Library of Congress interview with David McCullough.  I had listened to his book on CD, then I bought a copy of the book but never could find a particular quote in it. This was such an amazing interview, but I wanted Mr. McCullogh to open up my computer screen and tell me where in his book he put the quote I need.  I was surprised when he actually picked up a copy of his book that was on the table and read from it!  (That gave me a clue to where in the book I should look.)  Meanwhile, here it is, in the biographer’s own voice, right from the transcript that is linked to the page.  (You can watch or listen to the interview as you follow the transcript, my favorite way to enjoy a talk).  Historian David McCullogh:

. . . I wanted to just read this because I think it’s one of the most potent things ever said by an American.  It’s — it was written for his family.  It wasn’t written for a public address or anything.  It’s very short.  He said, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.  My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children” — and you notice he shifts from his sons to children.  So, he’s bringing women in, “to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”  Now, that’s the upward climb for him.  Not so that they’ll get rich, or they’ll get powerful, or they’ll be celebrities.  It’s the rise of a cultivated, civilized, civilization that he foresees.  And it all comes out of what you do at the beginning, building this foundation, creating this country.

In our case, I believe it is critical that we and our children study our American Heritage so we, and they, can restore liberty, so their children can study Vikings and Pyramids if they choose. In other words, I don’t believe we have the luxury of spending years of homeschooling in ancient history, as most curriculum programs are set up to do. We have to continue the upward climb in the midst of our own war.  Our window of opportunity may be brief.

Our church programs are leading the way, but what wonderful friends we have.  Mr. McCullough shares some excellent advice about studying history, far away from government schooling philosophies.  Thank you, sir.  This is our first “teacher training” lesson for the summer.

I was excited to hear that McCullough is writing a book on aviation, spanning the Wright Brothers through Charles Lindbergh.  What a great “text” for our young men!  It won’t be out until the Spring of 2015, so they have a school year to get their basic American Heritage learned and then a summer to spend in the sky!


Coming next:
1. A lot more information about that upward educational climb is coming. We have two books to suggest, so save a few pennies.
2. You’ve heard that the AP History test has been aligned to Common Core.  Don’t panic yet.  A disruptive innovation is coming.

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