A Lesson in Civics

As a history buff I’m forever pouring through old books and documents. One of the greatest research tools I’ve ever used is Google Books. Most of the sources for my area of interest were published between 1890 and 1930 — which means they’re all out of copyright. Google Books has an enormous amount of full indexed full text materials from that period. One of the joys of research is that you often come across fascinating materials that are only tangentially, if at all, related to your research. Doing a full text search for a certain phrase will turn up all books containing that phrase, however much or little they bear on the topic.

A recent search led me to a 1920’s civics textbook, A Community Civics, the first chapter of which is a stark contrast to the racist, divisive, anti-American multiculturalist trash being fed our children in today’s schools. I’ve never seen a clearer illustration of what used to be right with our children’s education and what is now wrong with it. I’d like to share that chapter with you today. Please especially note the suggestions for further study and discussion.


The flag was passing by. A group of schoolboys, standing in. the crowd on the sidewalk, had reverently removed their hats and were gazing at the Stars and Stripes as they floated at the head of a regiment of heroes who had just returned. Then with Quickened breath one of the boys turned to the others and exclaimed, “Gee, fellows, I’m glad I’m an American.”

So were they all. You could tell it by the way their eyes sparkled as the soldiers passed along. Deep in each heart was the wish that he too might wear the uniform and march proudly after that flag. And yet when you looked at them you could tell beyond a doubt that one had come from sunny Italy, another’s father at least had been a son of old Erin, and still a third had been driven from Russia by religious persecution. Yet here they were, each a loyal, true American.

What a wonderful country is ours! Not alone because of its great extent of territory, nor its wonderful wealth, but because of the things for which it has ever stood. Puritan and Cavalier, Catholic and Protestant, wearied by the persecutions of the Old World, turned their eyes and then their footsteps toward America, the land which held out to them the promise of Liberty and Freedom. And when in later years an unwise king oppressed them in their new land, they arose and threw off the yoke of England and gave us a new nation dedicated to the cause of liberty which should forever be a refuge for the oppressed of every land. Then came the seekers from all nations ‘of the earth, each throwing in their lot with the American people. And to-day, America, made rich and fruitful by the gifts and services of many nations, stands as the champion of the rights and liberties of all peoples.

There was a time when the proudest man in all the world was the one who could hold up his head and say, “I am a Persian.” Years rolled by and another great people arose who conquered the Persians, and to be a Greek was the greatest honor. Then came Rome, with all its glory and world empire, and men were willing to pay a fortune merely to have the honor of being called a Roman. But to-day the proudest man or woman, boy or girl, in all the world is the one who can hold his head high and”¢ say with joy, “I am an American.”

And why have we the right to be so proud of our great country? Because it has stood before all the world as the champion of the rights of every man. Because it has rendered to the nations of the world the supreme service. Not because of the success of our arms, but because of the ideals for which our people have stood and for which so many of our brave men have been willing to lay down .their lives.

Many of the men who -fought for our country in the Great War were not born in the United States. Many of them had been brought in childhood to this country by their parents as they sought in the land of opportunity for the freedom denied them across the seas. Yet when the call of duty came they were not found wanting. They have won for themselves by their service the right to be called Americans just as did the Revolutionary heroes.

We owe much to the men and women who have come to us from other lands. If we go back far enough we find that there is not one of us whose ancestors did not come to America as immigrants. Each nation that has sent its share of people .to us has contributed something to the greatness of America. We should not look down upon the newcomer because of his ignorance of our language and our ways. He too, if we but give him the chance for which our country stands, will be a true American and make his contribution to the greatness of our nation.

Our country is sometimes spoken of as the melting-pot of the nations. The newcomer, if he intends to remain and make this country his home, should willingly and’ cheerfully adapt himself to the ways of the new land. He will never become a real American until he throws himself heart and soul in with the people of America, adopts their language and customs, and respects their institutions. There will still be much of the old which he will want to retain and which, if used for the best interests of the new group of which he is now a part, will be a valuable contribution to the country of his adoption.

Our nation is one great family. America is our own home. Stretching from ocean to ocean and under the Stars and Stripes is a land which we love to call our own. Bound together, more tightly now than ever before, we are all to live and work together, serving not only ourselves but the whole world. We are going to consider how we as a great united people are to live and work together, and what we are to do that each part may work by itself and yet at the same time with every other part, and this without friction.


1. What should we do when the flag is passing by? Read” The flag goes by,” B. B. Bennett.

2. What is the national anthem? What should we do while it is being played or sung? Every American should know the words of this song. Do you?

3. What do we mean when we say in the salute to the flag “I pledge allegiance “?

4. By whom was your state originally settled? What nationalities now make up the population of your state? Why did these people come to America? to your state?

5. What nationalities are represented in your class in school?

6. Under what kind of government did these people live before , they came to America? What were the living. Conditions? In what ways have they benefited by coming to America?

7. Why is America called” the melting-pot”?

8. Why should a foreigner, coming to America with the intention of making it his home, learn to speak the English language?

9. What are some of the things which other nations have contributed to America through the immigrant?

10. How may we help the newcomer to our country to become truly American?

11. Make a list of the names of some true Americans. Why do they deserve to be called ” true Americans “? Does your name belong on the list? Resolve that it shall ever deserve to remain there.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • John Fairplay

    The vocabulary of this textbook is way too advanced for today’s public high school students.

  • Jerry

    One thing I might point out is that writings like these should be required reading for principals like the one we have in Portland who took the Pledge out of their end of year ceremony.

  • dean


    “If we go back far enough we find that there is not one of us whose ancestors did not come to America as immigrants.”

    It is a stretch to think of American Indians as “immigrants, unless we want to include the Bering Land Bridge era 12,000 years ago. You say this book is from the 1920s. It was only in 1924 that the Indian Citizenship Act granted citizenship to Native Americans. Of course, by then they had been nearly wiped out, their lands confiscated, and they were no longer a threat. Would you care to vote now? No problema.

    African-Americans…not mentioned in the text, were “immigrants,” but not by choice. At the time of the writing most were denied the right to vote by virtue of Jim Crow laws. It took a bit of work to change that situation.

    Women got the franchise in 1920, so apparently they are included in the text. but it took them 70 years of organizing, protesting, and being villified before they prevailed.

    This is a wonderful country. But lets face it. Citizenship has not come easy for the majority of us.

    “True Americans?” As opposed to what Tim? Isn’t any citizen by definition a “true American?”

    • Anonymous

      Doesn’t it ge tiresome being such a cliche?

  • John Fairplay

    I’d say no – only those who live up to – and believe in – the ideals embodied in our founding documents would qualify as “true Americans.” Only those who believe in the greatness and uniqueness of this nation and want to strengthen its traditional institutions would qualify.

    On the other hand, one of the great things about this country is that those who hate it can be citizens and are free to think and say whatever they want. They can speak against it, march in the streets, complain night and day, yet still receive all the benefits of a “true American.” It’s really a great country.

    • dean

      John…so the choices are:

      1) You and Tim get to decide who true Americans are
      2) Everyone not on that list hates America, but get to live here anyway?

      Did I miss anything?

      • jim karlocik

        *dean:* John…so the choices are:

        1) You and Tim get to decide who true Americans are
        2) Everyone not on that list hates America, but get to live here anyway?

        Did I miss anything?

        *JK:* Yep.

        1) Metro & dean true get to decide who true stewards of the environment are. (ie: they who know how others should live.)
        2) Every one not on that list hates the environment, but get to live here anyway *as long as they comply with Metro & dean’s delusions*

        (I probably missed something, but don’t want to hear about it from those who would tell others how to live.)


        • dean

          Touche Jim. Only I have never claimed a mantle of deciding who “true stewards of the environment” are or are not. I have my opinion, but I’m not in the annointing business.

          As for “knowing how others should live,” I claim no such thing. Decisions about how our communities are planned and built is worked out through our imperfect political process, tempered by economics. All anyone has to “comply with” is the law. You and I each get one vote, and your side can’t seem to elect anyone (locally) who thinks as you do. Not my problem.

          Neither do I “tell others how to live.” I don’t know where you get that.

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