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Why study US history, government, and civics?

Studying American history connects us to inspiring stories of human courage and resilience, like Abraham Lincoln's. It helps us understand the ongoing experiment of freedom and liberty, and our role in it. Thomas Jefferson emphasized the need for each generation to refresh their understanding of America's founding ideals to prevent the country from failing.

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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Ben McCuskey
    Does the current environment (I'm writing this in 2020) within social media encourage or discourage greater individual involvement in the social and political conversation and national identity writ large? Does it encourage greater inquiry and diversity of thought and an evolution of a new and evolving set of common values or does it merely serve as an instrument toward tribalism and division?

    I suspect that social media is an instrument with the potential for both greater interaction and creativity and diversity of thoughts and ideas as well as possibly becoming a vehicle that solidifies already entrenched attitudes and hardens barriers between groups who consider themselves on "one side or the other" - dividing rather than uniting . What do people think?
    (12 votes)
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Video transcript

- So John, if I'm a student studying American history or U.S. government, why should I care? - Well first, there are great stories. The characters in American history, all the way through, are fascinating, just, human beings. They would make great movie characters, period: heroes, villains, people who rise to courage when they were otherwise pretty boring people. Look at Abraham Lincoln, for example. He failed miserably repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. Then he becomes the greatest President. And when he's almost at the end of his, well, he doesn't know it's the end of his life, but later in life, after he's had his greatness, he says, "I confess that I was like a cork in a stream." Well, if you're a regular person and you think, "My life feels kinda without a purpose," you can think, well, the greatest President in America felt like his life was kind of bouncing around. And so, that is an incredibly human connection to greatness, and we all need connections to greatness of whatever kind to inspire us. Because the questions today that America faces about freedom and liberty and what it means to be an American, and how the power is distributed throughout our governments and our lives that affect us today were discussed and talked about and wrestled over all throughout American history. And it is a continuing experiment. And when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he said, "This new country that we're creating "has to constantly refresh, each new generation "has to refresh their contact "with the original ideals that the country was founded on. "Otherwise, the country will fail." And so, it's not only important to know what's going on around us by studying history, but it is, according to Thomas Jefferson, your duty to stay engaged with the ideas of America so that those ideas don't get lost in the kind of flurry and craziness of a current moment.