As we approach both a national election and the Fourth of July, I am thinking about the competing visions of national identity offered by both the Democratic and Republican parties. So far, both the presumptive candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have openly attacked one another, have presented opposite views on national defense, the Affordable Care Act, educational reform, and how to bring jobs from overseas back to the nation. The American voter has been courted with changes to the tax code, free college tuition, and promises to make the nation great again without any real definition of what that would mean. But among all the political discussion and debate, and untouched by either candidate is an issue that predates the Constitution of the United States: will we be a nation under state governance or will all political power be exercised by the national government?
August always brings about an opportunity for me to study the new trends of the younger generation. It marks the beginning of a new academic year and for many young people, the change to reinvent themselves as they enter what they consider the adult world. Over the past seven years I have seen several trends that made me question the future of our nation. This semester I began to notice something new – two distinct sets of new trends that should make Americans become more serious about what we are teaching the younger generation of Americans.
Understanding the future and what awaits us as a people can be done if we truly understand our past. This is one of the reasons why the modern university system has followed in the traditions of Aristotle and has included the study of history as a part of the core requirements for almost every degree. From our vantage point in the 21st century, the Enlightenment Era was the time in human history where the foundation of our nation was laid. The men and women that began to contemplate the weightier issues of life, such as the origins of individual rights and liberties, how governments form, and the origins of national wealth and prosperity had questioned everything that had formed the traditions of church, state, and life in Europe for as it had existed for millions of people over nearly a thousand years of human history.