New Toolkit for Shaping Kids' Views of America

In his bestseller, A People’s History of the United States, author Howard Zinn writes: “I think it extremely important for young people to learn a different history that will make them skeptical of what they hear from authority. I think if people knew, for instance the history of lies and violence that have accompanied American foreign policy, they would not be enticed into joining the armed forces.” You may ask yourself why Zinn’s ‘history,’ which has sold more than 1.5 million copies, has eluded the failure that plagues so many other left-wing authors. Zinn’s raucous anti-Americanism can survive only with institutional support of his ideas and virtually no debate from those who disagree with his worldview. Consequently, A People’s History of the United States is being read by thousands and thousands of American college and high school students.

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There are numerous organizations dedicated to combating the left on college campuses, but authors Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston argue that by then it may be too late to save the next generation from forming a cynical view of America and its values. In their new book, How to Raise an American, they discuss the views and patriotism of younger generations and those of older generations.

Blyth, a mother of two sons, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. She is also the former editor in chief of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor in chief of More magazine. Winston, the mother of one son, worked in President George H.W. Bush’s administration and was the first woman to head the White House Office of Speech Writing. She has written several books, including What Color is a Conservative? with former Rep. J.C. Watts (R.-Okla.). Both have interesting personal stories on raising little Americans (and one British husband) that are peppered throughout their new book.

The authors write, “It was our love of America and our belief in its inherent goodness and greatness that led us to write this book. It was also our fear that raising good Americans in today’s political and cultural climate is becoming more and more difficult.” For proof, look no further than the May 4 Republican debate in which MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked presidential contender Mitt Romney, “What do you dislike most about America?” Romney answered the same way most of us would have, “Gosh, I love America. I’m afraid I’m going to be at a loss for words.” Actually, most of us wouldn’t have been as diplomatic. How do you think the crop of Democratic candidates would have answered that question?

More than a narrative on patriotism, How to Raise an American is a toolkit for parents seeking ideas and support for integrating patriotic life lessons, trips and memories into their children’s lives. Rather than dwell for too long on the obvious question of why these important lessons aren’t being taught in America’s schools, the authors implore parents to take control and use the activities as supplemental education and quality family time. As heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey often said, “The best defense is a good offense.” Dempsey, himself a patriot, quit boxing and volunteered for service during World War II.

Having spent more than a few childhood car trips with boredom increasing with each mile-marker, I can certainly sympathize with children who groan at the mere mention of the nearest historic battlefield. A learning experience doesn’t have to be boring in order to have educational value. The authors remind us that boys will love the gory details of a battle while girls will swoon over the love letters exchanged between soldiers and their wives and Abigail Adams’ plea to her husband, John, that he “remember the ladies” and their contributions to the country.

In the chapter “Some Last Thoughts,” the authors remind parents of their unique role in shaping their children’s views: “Never forget that more than any movie they see or music they hear, more than any celebrity they idealize or any textbook they read, you are the most important force in your children’s lives. If you believe nothing else, believe that, and then use that influence to make them the proud Americans you want them to be.”

One of the most important last thoughts from Blyth and Winston is this: “[R]emember that kids long to be part of something bigger than themselves, something they can be proud of.” September 11 engaged our generation in the most important battle of our lifetime. To preserve freedom for future generations to enjoy, we must start with the belief that America’s birth, values and people are worth fighting for. Like generations past, we are on the verge of greatness for ourselves and freedom-loving people all over the world. That is something all Americans, young and old, can be proud of.


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