November 26, 2019

JOEL KOTKIN: Giving Thanks Matters:

Thanksgiving may be approaching, but its chief value, that of gratitude, seems oddly out of fashion. When the Pilgrims broke bread with their Native American neighbors, it was with full appreciation of the role of Providence in their salvation.

Such a sense of appreciation is increasingly rare. Most Americans, according to a Templeton Foundation survey, feel they receive little gratitude at home or the office. The feeling of gratitude appears to drop with age. Today’s millennials are the least grateful. This is not surprising given the new generations’ low levels of interest in the very things we are likely to feel grateful for, such as family, religion or America itself.

Older people, who often have overcome hard times, are more grateful. They witnessed the triumph of liberal democracy over communism. Many of them, like me, were raised by parents who came from poverty, and instilled the notion that, for all our problems, living here, at this time, in this country, is a manifest blessing not to demeaned or ignored. . . .

Thanksgiving has long been part of the American story, a critical part of its identity. To be sure the sanitized versions of the first Thanksgiving almost 300 years ago were often cartoonish and ignored the suffering meted out by New England’s settlers to both Native Americans and religious dissenters. Yet it remained an uplifting part of our national story, based on the notion that all Americans had common cause to celebrate their life in this amazing country.

This loss of faith is particularly marked among the young. Nearly 40 percent of young Americans, for example, think the country lacks “a history to be proud of,” less than half the average for boomers. One-third of young Americans, according to one recent survey, have a favorable view of communism and most seem ready to jettison the market system essential to America’s evolution.

This is not surprising for a generation that has been educated under a system increasingly dominated by social justice warriors to believe that America is a hopelessly flawed country. Here the proposed California ethnic studies program, for example, takes a basically hostile approach to American history, essentially turning it into a tale of racial and other repression. This approach is increasingly the case even in the Heartland and is widely promoted by the National Education Association, the powerful teacher union.

It’s almost as if our education system is in the hands of our nation’s enemies.

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