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A BASIS FOR
Director School of Education
YONKERS-ON-HUDSON, NEW YORK
THE HOUSE OF APPLIED KNOWLEDGE
Established, 1905, by Caspar W. Hodgson
YONKERS-ON-HUDSON, NEW YORK
The American Spirit, like_the American
heroism of our sons !
Copyright, 1918, by World Book Company
All rights reserved
The past four years have been critical in the life of our country. Repeatedly the question has been asked whether we have such a thing as a national consciousness. Have the many nationalities represented in our ancestry and in our naturalized citizenship been welded together into one unified whole? Has the “melting pot” given us a single product, or only a loose amalgamation which is ready to fall apart under special stress and tension? Is there one American Spirit, or are there many and divided loyalties?
Many insidious attempts have been made in the past three years to array group against group to the end that we might not present a solid front in case we should be drawn into the world conflict as partisans of democracy against autocracy. Fortunately these attempts have in large part failed. Our eyes were long blinded as to the real issues of the European War. But the very measures employed to confuse us and to take advantage of our neutrality have gradually brought to consciousness and focused the American Spirit until it has asserted its supremacy over hyphenism of every sort. Whatever one may think about the original causes of the war or of the aims and purposes of the conflicting nations, we now see clearly that the issue at the present time is that of making the world safe for democracy in a world which autocracy seeks to dominate.
While we have no doubt at the present time that our liberties as well as those of other democratic nations are at stake, the slowness with which the American Spirit has been aroused to consciousness of its danger and the necessity of asserting its rights has compelled us to raise anew the question of education with reference to Ameri
can principles and patriotism.) We see now, as never before, the need of making our children understand and appreciate the American Spirit which differentiates us from the nations of the Old World.
We have not been without instruction in patriotism in the past, but it came too largely through chance occasions and through indirect channels. There has been too much spread-eagle oratory and too much emotional patriotism. There has been plentiful "twisting of the lion's tail" and of cultivation of the impression that the United States can “lick any country on earth.” Our teaching of American history has often been narrow and one-sided. Children have been left with an erroneous impression of distrust of Great Britain and antipathy to that country. The fact is often ignored that there was a democratic movement in England as well as in the Colonies in 1776, and that great patriots there challenged the autocratic ideas and practices of their German king, George III. The democratic movement in England as well as in the Colonies finally won the victory. Yet we spend a lot of time in cherishing an ancient wrong instead of studying the world-wide progress of democracy. Even within our own national life, we have not heeded the example and the wisdom of Lincoln, but have permitted an undue emphasis both in North and in South to be placed on the things which divided us fifty years ago instead of exalting the things which unite us in 1918.
While the crisis through which we have been passing has emphasized the necessity of systematic instruction in American ideals, the American Spirit, and patriotism, this instruction must go farther than sentiments and feelings: it must have in it something constructive. We must inculcate ideas and ideals which will work out into
everyday life and citizenship, which apply in the crises of peace as well as in those of war, which make us conscious of the rights of other nations as well as of our own. Let us not merely glory in our country in an emotional way, but also learn how we may best serve her ; let us slough off the lower and more sordid national ideals and strive to perpetuate and to propagate those which are highest and best.
In the preparation of this little reader, the attempt has been made to focus attention upon the constructive aspect of patriotism. Due regard, however, has been paid to certain of the traditional and emotional elements that cannot be ignored. That which tends to divide us in thought from one another or from the other democratic nations has been largely eliminated. We do not wish to plant the seeds of distrust of other nations, nor can we afford to stress the literature of hatred. We want a wholesome and sane regard for our own country, without the development of undue national egotism. We want our children to recognize at this time that the democratic movement is universal, a world movement, — in some places struggling under a crushing burden of autocracy, in others expressing itself through different political forms from our own, but everywhere working toward the same ends. We have been more favorably situated for the realization of democratic ideals than others; we have a correspondingly greater obligation to be true to them and to consider all other peoples who aspire to democratic control of their governments as our brothers and friends.
There is something in the long history of our pioneer life that everywhere has emphasized freedom, initiative, and individuality. From the time of Columbus to the