As a former high school teacher, I know one of the great challenges in education is to get teenagers interested in their country. Many of them take their freedom for granted and have no interest in even learning about what it takes to be a good citizen. They are too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to absorb John Adams.
So I have undertaken a new project: teaching a 13-year-old girl to care about being an American.
Lesson number one: obey the rules. We start with open doors. The rule is that no door in the house is closed unless there is a dressing situation. The reason for the rule is to discourage Internet chicanery and encourage lively conversation.
"I can't have my door open, I just can't," the teen wails.
"What's the problem?"
"People are annoying. I don't want to see any people."
"Then look away when a human being passes."
"YOU are SO annoying!"
Lesson number two: discuss intelligent things. Not just reality shows and music maniacs.
"Nobody wants to talk about politics. That's boring!"
"The presidential election is boring?" I am sincerely curious about this one.
"No one cares about Obama and Romney."
"Well, at least you know their names."
"But I don't want to TALK about them."
"I do just fine talking about them; millions of people listen."
"But you have no social skills. That's why you're on TV. I can't be like you."
She may have a point.
Rule three: learn about your country's past.
"My school says we have to read your book Killing Lincoln over the summer." This soon-to-be eighth grader is nearly distraught. "I can't believe it costs $20. What a ripoff!"
"It's worth it; you'll learn a lot about the greatest president America has ever had."
"No one cares."
"So what do you guys care about?"
"Harry Potter and Glee."
Sounds like the situation is hopeless, right? Well, it's difficult, no question. When I was a kid, there was boredom to contend with. Some days nothing was happening, so you might actually read a book about your country. Not anymore. The machines have made boredom obsolete. There are thousands of video games, chat opportunities, gossip sites, and Facebook exposure all available if your fingers work. There is always action in cyberspace, much of it pernicious.
Therefore, you have to either force the urchins to pay attention to important things like their country, or bribe them to do it. There's no other way, unless you have a savant like Bill Clinton running around your house.
But educating America's youth about the value of their country is second only to educating them about the value of their souls. So against all odds, I'm attempting to do it. Abe Lincoln would approve.
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