Tucker Carlson Questions the Meaning of Civics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, gestures as he speaks during an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.

Earlier this month, Tucker Carlson visited Moscow. The well-known media personality and former FOX News figure imitated Walter Duranty—admiring Moscow’s grocery stores and subway system, while stating that, “The city of Moscow is so much nicer than any city in my country.” (For readers under a certain age: Duranty was the New York Times Moscow bureau chief who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his favorable coverage of Stalin’s Soviet Union, defending the Soviet gulags, denying millions died during the Russian famine, and praising Stalin as “guardian of a sacred flame.”)

Carlson was particularly impressed by the Russian grocery store he explored. He marveled at the store’s cart system, where customers must deposit a coin to release the cart and only receive the coin back upon returning the cart properly. He was fascinated by the store’s shopping-cart escalator. (Interestingly, many multistory U.S. grocery stores also have similar features.) This whole episode led me to believe that Carlson may be intentionally misleading, as it’s challenging to believe he is genuinely that uninformed.

How does any of this relate to education? Surprisingly, quite significantly. We appear to be transforming the population of the most affluent, successful, and fortunate multi-ethnic democracy into a group of angry, divided, anxious, and envious individuals. In the past, I would have expected this behavior from the more extreme factions of the sky-is-falling campus left.

However, today, it has turned into a bipartisan endeavor.

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Returning to Carlson, as Charles Cooke aptly pointed out in National Review:

I can confidently say that Carlson likely had a pleasant experience during his Moscow visit. As a wealthy foreign visitor closely monitored by the Russian government, he was probably shown the side of Moscow that its promoters wanted him to see. Undoubtedly, that city is quite appealing. Nevertheless. . . .

If pressed, I believe Carlson would justify his praise by highlighting American cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — all of which are undeniably poorly managed. However, his argument would still be incorrect. [They] undoubtedly need to improve, but if given the choice between living in Moscow or any of those places, I would choose the latter in an instant. Any American who wouldn’t is misguided. Moscow is a dull monument in an economically backward region ruled by a dictator.

There, that wasn’t difficult. A bit of honesty, knowledge, and perspective are all it takes to recognize the absurdity of Carlson’s defense. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of Cooke’s insightful honesty today, whether in public discussions or in our educational institutions. This has led us to a point where young Americans are despondent about residing in a nation characterized by an unprecedented degree of peace, prosperity, political stability, freedom, and opportunity.

They echo the sentiments of those who once praised the perceived superiority of Cuban health care and literacy initiatives, or bought into the narrative about China’s “extraordinary” handling of Covid. This mindset manifests among far-right individuals who believe America’s elected officials endanger children at a D.C. pizza joint or insist our elections are manipulated by Venezuelan vending firms. It is also evident when the leading Republican presidential candidate reacts to the demise of a courageous Russian dissident by ranting, “Open Borders, Rigged Elections, and Grossly Unfair Courtroom Decisions are DESTROYING AMERICA. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE, A FAILING NATION!”

Am I exaggerating? You be the judge. Last summer, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans on whether the United States was the greatest country in the world, one of the greatest countries in the world, or not a great country at all. Among Americans aged 18 to 29, only 9 percent believe the U.S. is the greatest nation, while 43 percent believe the U.S. falls behind.

Duranty would have reveled in this crisis of confidence. It was his aim. The reality is that it’s easy to take things for granted, to yearn for the supposedly better produce in the grocery store halfway across the globe (even when it’s just as good in our local corner store). Anyone enviously looking towards Russia, Cuba, or China should broaden their horizons. And brush up on history. Regrettably, only a tiny fraction of high school or college students today are familiar with Duranty or the victims of communism, the Holocaust, or Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Many lack the necessary understanding to form an informed opinion about the world’s state, let alone simplistic TikTok rants on anti-colonialism, without this context.

A significant issue I fear is the extent to which education has become a masterclass in self-absorption. The New York Times‘s “1619 Project” labeling the U.S. a “slavocracy” demonstrates a shockingly narrow view of history. The U.S. is undeniably flawed, but these flaws are distorted when we ignore the broader human experience.

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The U.S. Constitution, influenced by the Magna Carta and the ideas of thinkers like Montesquieu and Locke, established the first enduring republic since the decline of Rome. It is vital to understand that American democracy was limited, discriminatory, fragile, that suffrage was restricted to white male property owners. However, it is equally crucial to acknowledge that the American Revolution ignited discussions of democracy and freedom and how significantly we have advanced and broadened that groundwork. Educating students about the U.S. without conveying this is a moral and intellectual failure.

The current strong attack on American self-assurance is perplexing. After all, our education system has emphasized the importance of inclusivity—ensuring that schools acknowledge and respect the families, communities, and traditions of all students. It’s strange that many educators, under the influence of Howard Zinn and his followers, derive pleasure from disparaging the nation’s founders, history, and customs, the very things these students call their heritage.

I support “true history.” However, the real history of the U.S. is grand, filled with reasons for gratitude and optimism. The motivations behind why Tucker Carlson and individuals of his ilk are dedicated to convincing Americans that the country is lacking are likely to be pondered by armchair psychologists for years to come.

Frederick Hess is an executive editor of Education Next and the author of the blog “Old School with Rick Hess.”

The post Tucker Carlson’s Civic Nihilism appeared first on Education Next.

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