The house is in need of some cleaning. A trash bag is filled with used fireworks. Leftover hotdogs and hamburgers are in the refrigerator. Homemade ice cream is in the freezer. Another party has come and gone – and, for some reason, people just never can pick up their empty soda cans. This is the view from my house and quite possibly yours after the passing of another July Fourth in America.

We celebrate Independence Day every year with family, friends, fireworks, and food. These celebrations tend to be founded on mushy emotional patriotism and most of all, give us a good excuse to take the day off and have a little fun. But for those who ponder the real foundation of our free republic, we can’t help but ask the question, “Are we really free?” or at least, “How much longer will America be the land of the free?”

The first question can be answered with hope and assurance. It’s obvious that we are relatively free in America. We can practice our spiritual faiths – at least in private. Most states allow numerous options for education. We have freedom of association and to assemble peaceably. We have the freedom of political discussion and other forms of free speech. Those who are born have a right to life, the majority have a right to liberty, and most people follow their self-interest in a pursuit of happiness. Yes, in a world where we are daily met with news of atrocities against innocent oppressed people, America looks great.

Yet, the second question leaves much room for discussion. Daily news out of Congress shows a federal government that is growing, coupled with daily news out of bureaucracies showing a federal government that is failing. With the failures of government, government grows to solve its problems, thus leading to three things: 1) higher taxes, 2) less freedom and 3) more government programs and reforms. It’s an endless cycle … or is it?

No, it will come to an end. We’ve seen our nation go from a free, constitutional republic, turning into a celebrated democracy, and then sliding into a socialist state. Ultimately, it leads to destruction.

The end has not come yet. There is reason to have hope. This trend can be circumvented, but it will not be easy. To come to a reasonable plan to fight for America, one must first identify why we’re even heading down this road. In a free society, there are two requirements the people must uphold: one being responsibility and the other is being educated. They both go hand in hand. When the people are not responsible enough to do what’s right, government steps in to solve problems. When the people are not educated in the way a constitutional republic is intended to run, government grows out of control.

This is what has taken place in America. Most Americans are ignorant when it comes to even a basic knowledge of our governmental foundation. A study released by the First Amendment Center in August reported most Americans agreed the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees, but according to the survey, many of those surveyed couldn’t remember the First Amendment respects freedom of speech. A mere 2 percent of those surveyed could recite every right the First Amendment respects.

It’s apparent that government education has failed to live up to teaching the founding documents and even the most basic civic knowledge. According to a recent Associated Press report, in 2001 only six in 10 students had a basic understanding of American history. Additionally, though three out of four fourth-graders knew that July 4 celebrates the Declaration of Independence, one in four thought it marked the end of the Civil War, the arrival of the Pilgrims or the start of the women’s right to vote.

According to the report, “Nearly three out of four fourth-graders could not name which part of government passes laws. Most students thought it was the president. And more than half of 12th-graders, asked to pick a U.S. ally in World War II from a list of countries, thought the answer was Italy, Germany or Japan.”

Ironically, politicians look at these problems and look to – you guessed it – government programs to solve this problem. However, it’s simply logical that a growing government will not sponsor education that will eventually lead the people to work for a smaller government. Real education will not take place within government.

After this Independence Day celebration, true patriots must recognize the battle we face: education. It’s probably the slowest way of getting things done, but if we wish to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, we must work to generate interest in government and lead a political battle of returning to our constitutional principles.

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