How to Educate an American

The Conservative Vision for Tomorrow's Schools

Edited by Michael J. Petrilli Chester E. Finn, Jr.

In the years after A Nation at Risk, conservatives’ ideas to reform America’s lagging education system gained much traction. Key items like school choice and rigorous academic standards drew bipartisan support and were put into practice across the country.

Today, these gains are in retreat, ceding ground to progressive nostrums that do little to boost the skills and knowledge of young people. Far from being discouraged, however, conservatives should seize the moment to refresh their vision of quality K-12 education for today’s America. These essays by 20 leading conservative thinkers do just that.

Students, according to this vision, should complete high school with a thorough understanding of the country’s history, including gratitude for its sacrifices, respect for its achievements, and awareness of its shortcomings. They should also learn to be trustworthy stewards of a democratic republic, capable of exercising virtue and civic responsibility.

Beyond helping to form their character, schools ought to ready their pupils for careers that are productive, rewarding, and dignified. Excellent technical-training opportunities will await those not headed to a traditional college. Regardless of the paths and schools that they select, all students must come to understand that they can succeed in America if they are industrious, creative, and responsible.  

Anchored in tradition yet looking towards tomorrow, How to Educate an American should be read by anyone concerned with teaching future generations to preserve the country’s heritage, embody its universal ethic, and pursue its founding ideals.