Teaching American Exceptionalism and Ronald Reagan

I arrived at school this morning early. I did not sleep well, I felt, well frankly, on the down low and tossed and turned all night. I stayed up last night and watched the mockery that is the United States House of Representatives. This is not change and “ethics” at work, it was more of the same. No one would deny that we need health care reform. I was hoping that it would not come in the form of a Trojan horse that has one ultimate goal.

Back to my story, waiting there in my classroom was Gustaf, a foreign exchange student from Sweden. A nice young man and whom I have gotten to know and think very highly of. He is socialist, comes from a socialist country where they have government run universal health care. Gustaf greeted me as he usually does with a question or two about what today’s lesson might entail. I was not myself and he sensed it, so in his broken but yet very good English he asked, “So you watched the Congress last night?”

Apparently Gustaf’s host family had. We had a 10 minute or so discussion on the Sunday evening events and he then said something remarkable to me: “Mr. Wehner, the health care bill does not seem very American. I don’t understand how America would want to do this.” He spoke of our ideals and values which he learned in his U.S. Government class — which I DID NOT teach.

Sweden is a country of about 9 million and according to Gustaf they pay very high taxes and the health care is not bad. But he wondered out loud, “how will it work for 300+ million?” Good question, I replied.

Though our conversation did not end with an enlightened discovery of what the future will hold, it did nonetheless brighten my mood and lift my spirits. We are exceptional and even to a socialist — a good kid who recognizes the greatness of our country while those spoiled by her freedoms cannot.

Also, I found this national address from President Ronald Reagan and thought I would share. I have a new website in the works for history teachers and well, will speak more about that later.

This is for all Americans and for all who teach American history.

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8 Responses to Teaching American Exceptionalism and Ronald Reagan

  1. Excellent post Chris. Classic Reagan. And no one understood better the concept of American Exceptionalism and why it SHOULD be taught in an affirmative perspective.

  2. Chris says:

    i have to agree…

  3. Chris, a friend pointed me in the direction of this post, as he knew I’d be interested. I used the same speech of Pres. Reagan’s (his Farewell Address) as the first “Great Presidential Moment” on my new DVD entitled THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. BUNKER HILL is the first in a series called AMERICA: HER PEOPLE, HER STORIES, and is designed to teach US History in a traditional, positive way, with an emphasis on American Exceptionalism. I designed the series for the whole family, much like the old Walt Disney TV shows. I’ve gotten emails from families who watch together, and even an email from a grandfather who watched with his 5 year old grandson (and I’m happy to report that the grandson was enthralled!). This is a totally self-financed and self-distributing production that I produced in an effort to combat the revisionist “history” being taught in many of our schools, and to teach our young people that it is ok to be proud of America. I was especially happy to use the clip of Pres. Reagan saying “So, we’ve got to teach history…” in my opening montage, because to me, that summed up perfectly what I am trying to do with this series! Maybe if we all make a concerted effort to push back on this tide of anti-Americanism, we can get our Nation back to what she was originally founded to be…from what I see, you are sure doing your part to help that happen! Good job!

  4. Michael Schack says:

    IIf “Exceptionalism and Positivenes is the goal. What events in the country’s history would be left out or minimized?Which events would be highlighted?

  5. Chris says:

    Michael, nothing should be left out and that is not the goal. What is at stake is emphasis and how history is presented.

  6. Michael Schack says:

    I guess I am still somewhat confused. Can someone explain what emphasis and what positive presentation might be best for just 2 examples: World War 2 or explaining the Dred Scott decision?

  7. Michael Schack says:

    To me the strength of Reagan was his voice of postiveness. The Berlin Wall came down by a series of bureaucratic errors Alhough Reagan can take the credit for it. I always admired how the “evil empire move to a cordial friendship with Premier Gobachev, My big concern during his Presidency was the skuzzines of Iran Contra.

  8. Michael Schack says:

    Obviously I am not too impressed by the argument that ex pres. Reagan did anything particular that enhanced the county’s exceptionalism. What I do not understand is why no one has written the impact of our system; democratic values have had on the world. How many countries have used the terminology of the Declaration f Independence to guide their seeking of independence from another country or a repressive regime? When you read about the little news describing what is occurring domestically in china or even Iran, you hear people talking about their desire for “freedom” of the press speech to travel, to have a say in their government.
    That is American Exceptionalism.

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