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Should the principles of freedom be taught in our education system?

Updated on January 11, 2015

Our education system is one of the greatest if not the greatest system in the world but with that being said it could stand some improvement in specific areas. One involves the history of our country and the battles which have taken place over the 200+ years since our country began. The freedoms we have which are engrained in the Constitution I feel are not being taught in our education system. The principles of freedom is something we all need to cherish as they are part of the character of our country and deserve to be spread through our educational system.

Thomas Jefferson quoted the following in defense of the Constitution in 1787 and it is as appropriate today as it was when he said it:

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

To answer the question whether the principles of freedom should be taught in our education system, the answer is yes. Why this action is necessary and the importance of these 7 principles is presented in subsequent paragraphs below.

The principles on which this country was based need to be taught in our school systems all across the country. Help in achieving this objective is available through the Bill of Rights Institute which identifies 7 basic principles of freedom. These freedoms along with those in the Constitution are critical for the leaders of tomorrow to know and understand in the hope that when they are in positions of leadership especially in government entities they will honor the freedoms identified by the founding fathers. The freedoms identified in the 1st ten amendments of the Constitution are important for those who will be the leaders of tomorrow to understand and appreciate. One of the most important freedoms is that of individual liberty. Individual liberty is based on the premise that each person is born with freedom from arbitrary or unjustified restraint

In addition to the principles of freedom discussed below we cannot forget the freedoms we have in the Constitution such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom to bear arms if we so choose along with other freedoms engrained in the Bill of Rights. In discussing individual liberty we must realize especially in these times of expanded government as James Wilson stated: “Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness.” Another statement made by John Adams said “We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.”

Our individual liberties in many respects are being threatened today through an ever growing of the size of the federal government and the laws and regulations which are being initiated. It is hoped that with the new Congress more level heads will prevail and generate laws for the good of the country and every citizen. A start to this end was the reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives as one of their first actions. It was a significant event to remind the individuals now serving in this legislative body the responsibilities of the federal government along with the limitations.

A second principle of freedom is federalism. Federalism involves our structure of government and is a dual system of sovereignty. The federal and state governments have powers and authority identified in the Constitution. With regards to the federal government certain specific powers are granted to the federal government or what federalism refers to as a national government. James Madison referred to this structure of government in federalist paper 45 in 1788 in which he stated: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” This principle was written into the Constitution in the Tenth Amendment in 1791. It is important that the future leaders of our country understand the limitations and responsibilities of the federal government and what the authority and responsibilities of the state governments entail.

The principle of limited government is seeing a rebirth in our country through several organizations which have not readily been accepted or understood. The overbearing size of the federal government has ignored this principle of freedom yet there is a growing movement that will not go away. The philosophy of limited government involves the principle that the national government has only those powers given to it in the Constitution. If it is not listed, the national government is not assumed to have it and should not propose laws or initiate regulations for topics for which they have no jurisdiction according to the Constitution.

We have a representative government where we elect individuals to resolve issues which affect the country as a whole and those which fall within the constitutional authority of the federal government. Government should not be involved with every issue which surfaces in the economy but only those which are identified in the Constitution. As a representative government we are considered to be a republic form of government. According to James Madison in Federalist paper 39 a republic is defined as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

The principle of private property may not seem like it belongs as part of the principles of freedom but when looking at the reason for it to be included we can understand the justification. Government needs to protect the rights of individuals to own private property and actions identified as eminent domain seems to contradict our private property rights. Eminent domain decisions by government need to be restricted in the sense that individuals should not be placed in a position where their property is taken from them at a price determined by government at any level. James Madison made a statement concerning private property rights in his essay on Property in 1792. He said “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” Thomas Jefferson in his first Inaugural address in 1801 identified his perspective regarding private property rights. He said “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”

The freedom principle that all men are created equal is another one which needs to be taught in our education system. Benjamin Franklin stated it well in his Emblematical Representations in 1774. He said “The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy.” In addition this principle was included in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 which stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The last principle of freedom is the principle of the separation of Powers/Checks and Balances. While the term separation of power and checks and balance is not specifically utilized in the Constitution the structure of the federal government is a system of checks and balance. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson presented their concept of separation of power and checks and balance. James Madison wrote in the Federalist Paper 84 in 1788 that “A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch, and in An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison in 1797 signified the principle of the Constitution as “a separation of legislative, Executive and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified. If this principle be not expressed in direct terms, it is clearly the spirit of the Constitution…”

Teaching the principles of freedom in our education system does have some help through an organization called the Bill of Rights Institute. Their mission and vision is provided below:

The mission of the Bill of Rights Institute is to educate young people about the words and ideas of America’s Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society. It is the goal of the Institute to help the next generation understand the freedom and opportunity the Constitution offers.

The vision of the Institute is to create a citizenry that has the knowledge, values, dispositions, and skills to exercise the rights and responsibilities needed to maintain a free society.

Including the principles of freedom provided above in our education system is a critical aspect which appears to be missing today. All students regardless of the level of education where they find themselves need to learn what the principles of freedom involve and their importance to society today and into the future. The leaders of tomorrow need to embrace these principles in the decisions they will find themselves in a position to make and not violate these principles in their decisions.


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