Today's Lesson: Dream, but not at government's expense
The first part of all of their essays was pretty standard stuff. They wanted to have a good job, a home, a family and enough money to enjoy their lives for decades to come.
One student who thought her American Dream could be best achieved with more government regulations went so far as to say, "We all know that there are many bad side effects when regulations take place, but as human beings, we are not really responsible for our own acts, and so we need government to control those who don't care about others. It makes sense that our freedom is reduced every day with the new regulations."
Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time in our nation's history, 51 percent of Americans will not pay income taxes this year. It should also be noted that in 1983, just over 29 percent of Americans received some form of government assistance. Today the figure is 44.4 percent.
These figures are noteworthy and arguably linked to my students' concept of what the role of government should be in their lives.
After all, it makes intuitive sense that in a nation where fewer and fewer Americans are net contributors to our prosperity, the children of those who increasingly live off their fellow citizens would develop the perception that part, if not all, of the American Dream involves taking money away from a working, productive American in order to fill the financial gaps in our lives.
On the second day of class, I asked my students to pull out their purses and wallets. In each class, I approached one student, grabbed his wallet, opened it and took out all of the cash.
I then told the shocked student that part of my American Dream is to have a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota some day so that I can enjoy my retirement in this beautiful part of the country.
My students listened to a mini-lecture on our Founding Fathers' view of our rights — especially as it pertains to the pursuit of happiness.
Many seemed to comprehend, perhaps for the first time, that all of us have every right to pursue access to high-quality health care, a good job, a home, cars, retirement and whatever else we might want to peacefully acquire, but that no one has an inherent right to use the arm of government to forcibly take the private property of another citizen in order to obtain our desires.
Z: So, how do we teach kids the truth? How do we undo their American public school educations so that they have respect for success, set their own goals dependent on their own talents and, (gasp) hard work, don't expect handouts, and understand the self-reliance and independence which founded this country?