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Kids, Read Your Textbooks. Facts Matter.
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Kids, Read Your Textbooks. Facts Matter.

 In High School, Promoting Tolerance, Student Rights

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Having taken a particular interest in history, I don’t mind scrupulously studying the AP World, US, or Government textbooks. Most of my peers however, find their nightly, 25 page readings nauseating. And trust me, I understand: throughout my school career, I’ve complained about the hours I spend memorizing facts for exams. But I’ve had an epiphany, realizing that indeed, knowing these small details is incredibly valuable. 

(Source: Vox)

Before explaining myself, I’d like to preface this post with an apology to my fellow peers: 

I will promote a tedious task that we, as students absolutely dread. Sitting through lectures, especially in history classes, I will encourage you to pay close attention to the seemingly insignificant dates, people, and events presented. And do your homework: read the textbook to reinforce the concepts. Trust me, doing this will serve you, and the next generations tremendously. 

On most Friday nights and Jewish holidays, my parents and I host dinner for our friends and family. These gatherings however, go beyond the excitement in celebrating our most beloved traditions and amazing food. While filling our bellies, we fuel our brains so we’re ready for controversial discussions on a pre-assigned topic or those that spontaneously emerge. From our various circles of friends, we enjoy socializing with an array of intellectuals and experts; and sometimes, I’m the only young adult sitting at the table. From religion to politics, economics and science, and sociology to psychology, we cover it all. Without a doubt, being a dedicated student certainly enhances my experience: as I’ve grown up, my contributions have become not only more frequent, but more intelligent and profound. 

Recently, a mature couple and a few friends came over to our house for dinner. Since the past week saw chaos in both political and international arenas, we failed to decide on a set topic for discussion. Nevertheless, several conversations about these staggering affairs led to the question, “Where did America go wrong?” 

I was intrigued and eager to share my opinions on the subject. Each member at the table was to identify the time they believed fostered the erosion of American values and integrity in politics. Instantly, I reflected on material from my US history and Government classes. My mind travelled through presidential periods and the events defining each: FDR and World War II, JFK, LBJ and Civil Rights, Nixon and Watergate, Reagan and the Iran conflict, so on and so forth. By remembering the chronology, I was able to pinpoint dates where the United States had displayed faults in making and executing policies. 

 Always angered by authorities’ indifference toward people in crisis, and wanting to deliver an unconventional response, I went with FDR’s presidency. Shocking. From around the table, all eyes targeted mine in misunderstanding, confused. A man who’s New Deal brought the American people out of depression and re-established confidence in the economy. A man who guarded our country against the dangers of the Second World War.  What did he possibly do wrong? 

At the time, 95% of the American public favoured isolationism coming out of the turmoil of the First World War and the Great Depression. Anti-semitic propoganda and the red scare in the United States displayed the rampant fear of immigrants, feuled by the thriving racism in Europe. And so, when Jewish refugees fled to the US seeking a life free from persecution, they were shunned. I believe FDR turned them away primarily because welcoming this wave of immigrants put his re-election at risk.

The Roosevelt Administration also failed to act upon the Nazi’s slaughtering of European Jews. It was not until the last year of the war that the US took direct action and bombed Auschwitz; liberation of the camp shortly followed. More important than ending mass atrocities on the European front was military victory and glory. Priorities here were skewed. 

Helping these refugees and intervening early on may have reduced the casualties of not only the Holocaust, but the Second World War. Even after the Refugee Convention of 1951, that established the requirement for all attending nations to admit “refugees,” we see the same fears driving leaders to breach this agreement. 

To conclude, my opinion lies mainly in the ongoing pattern that’s ensued since the 1940’s. Under Trump’s ego-centric administration, we’ve witnessed the decay of morals and Constitutional values to the extreme. This pattern has exacerbated overtime, and I’m left wondering, can it get any worse?  But thankfully, the burning volcano of lies and hypocrisy has erupted in cases of impeachment against him. Maybe Trump’s presidency was meant to break this barrage of corruption in our government. It’s a signal to all Americans to, this 2020, vote for integrity, for honesty, and for transparency. 

While my answer to the question, “Where did America go wrong?” remains a prominent portion of this piece, my purpose is not to convince you that my argument is correct. At the end of the day, we analyze history through subjective lenses: an individual’s life experiences are fundamental in shaping their interpretation of certain events. What I will emphasize is, in explaining my opinion, I cited various examples from memory by which I connected history to modern events. Employing historical evidence to support any argument is one of the most effective ways to convey your message intelligently, without logical fallacies or direct attacks. Plain facts are facts: they’re indisputable. 

 Able to articulate a unique perspective to adults, I was also enriched by their responses to my argument and opinions on the central question. Since adults often reference their detailed experiences growing up under various political administrations, I could easily follow their thoughts while filling gaps in my knowledge with important details. Even more rewarding was hearing that a federal judge and doctor, among other intellectuals, were impressed by my historical recollection and insight. 

History must continue being taught as a sequence of events, whose causes and effects foster repetitive patterns. Specific details, such as the qualities that elected leaders display and their reactions to global affairs, are extremely significant in illustrating the shape our world takes.  Awareness of chronology allows us the platform to examine the origins and growth of these patterns. Having knowledge of a problem’s source gives one the power to cut off a toxic cycle. Education that highlights details and their importance is key in molding the minds of generations to come. Making informed decisions is to look back at the past and understand mistakes to avoid for the future. 

(Source: wvik.org, Vote Smart Organization)

 

This year, our voices matter most: the way we vote decides this nation’s fate through the next decade.

Repair begins with knowing the details, understanding the roots, and acting on the basis of progress. We must cast our ballots toward a new political pattern where principles come first, hoping that years from now we’re asked, “Where did America go right?”

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