A More Inclusive Definition of Patriotism

I just watched the film Patriot Day about the Boston bombing. The response of the police, fire, and citizens made me proud to be an American. We must all support our first responders in the difficult and dangerous jobs that they perform. In watching these brave Americans performing their jobs under great stress, it occurred to me that we need a more inclusive definition of patriotism.

We have millions of people in America living in poverty. We have learned that giving them money doesn’t structurally change their situation. High school career academies provide high rates of high school graduation with 900 hours of job preparation. This educational intervention does structurally change lives. This is where I got my idea for broadening our typical definition of patriotism. It isn’t necessary to put your life on the line to take steps to help our country. You can do something patriotic without being a hero in the sense of doing something heroic like a cop or soldier.

For instance, how about school boards creating career academies to help average or low-performing students? This would take courage in the face of the “college for all” movement. This would be a Kennedy “profile in courage.” Imagine school boards actually standing up for average and low achieving students. They would demonstrate an understanding that half the kids are below average in intelligence and need an appropriate education in order to survive in a capitalist society. They would have to recognize the unreality of the “college for all” concept and create an appropriate educational program, career academies. This act would be courageous and should be viewed as patriotic. The result would be high school graduates who are ready and capable of going to work.

A second act of patriotism would be for state legislators to provide additional funding for expansion of career academies. Ninety percent of the funding for career academies is already in place to fund a regular high school education, but additional funding for career technical education is necessary. Career technical education requires specialized facilities, equipment, supplies, and training of teachers and administrators. The career academy requires a restructuring of the American high school. The additional marginal cost is trivial when you consider reduced gang participation, reduced crime, and reduced incarceration and their associated costs. We need patriotic funding legislation to support expansion of career academies helping those who need it the most.

A third act of patriotism is for chambers of commerce and businesses to step up and help their career academies. Businesses can donate equipment and supplies, and provide speakers and advisors, and hire interns and graduates. It is time for businesses in America to view support of high schools as patriotic. Helping poor kids make good must be viewed as part of running an American business.

This more inclusive concept of patriotism is not as exciting as cops or soldiers serving our country. However, the scale of American people who can be helped is almost overwhelming. Almost a million kids drop out of high school every year. The new alternative online and mall high school graduation programs do not provide job skills. There are another million kids a year who will not go on to graduate from college. Think of this two million kids getting lost every year over a ten-year period—it equals twenty million lost kids. The scale is enormous. We can save these kids from gangs, drugs, prostitution, crime, and incarceration. We just need to rethink our concept of patriotism. We think that Buy American is good for the country, but how about Hire American? We need a system where all young Americans are prepared to go to work with high-level skills. Jobs are the solution to most of America’s problems, but job skills are a prerequisite to finding employment. A new question for school boards, state governors, legislators, and businesses is, “What have you done recently for career academies?” Our pride in our country must also become our pride in our high school career academies and contributing to their success must be viewed as a form of patriotism.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon.com

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on Amazon.com
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