patriotism and civic

Some people who talk or write about civic education insist that the

United States has the very best democracy (or society) in

the world. In my opinion, the US is one of a few dozen polities

that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest (due to good luck as

well as wise ancestors). I think it’s a goal of civic education to

help students understand how fortunate they are compared to people

who live in tyrannies or anarchy. I feel loyalty and gratitude toward

the United States and not toward any other nation, and I think this

is a good attitude for Americans to hold. However, it’s far from clear

to me that our polity is the single best in the world. We have low

voter participation; our crime and incarceration rates are amazingly

high; and we live shorter lives with more disease, compared to people

in some of the northern European nations. Nor do we compare favorably

with these countries if one thinks about the long term. Sweden, for

example, has been stable and at peace for 200 years, progressing steadily

toward liberty and democracy. These other democratic states are all

to our left politically. Thus I wonder whether some people want to

teach students that the United States is the best society

in order to head off discussions about whether we should move somewhat


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