For most people whether they be Americans or citizens of the world, we want the very best education for our children. Through a good education our children are prepared for their future. They are prepared not only for a career but as human beings, hopefully ready for life’s challenges and for life’s responsibilities.

Part of our responsibility as a citizen is to take part in society, the society in which we live. Public education’s importance in their role as educators can not be or should not be taken lightly in preparing our young people for living in our civil society and knowing what they were given at birth and how to maintain it.
We who have the responsibility in helping to determine curriculum and a culture of learning are failing miserably in teaching our children about our government and how it works.

The ever growing lack of voter participation is evidence of this failure.

The Los Angeles Times Newspaper editorial board has done us all a great service in their Op-ed on December 30, 2014, detailing the failure of our public educational system to teach the lessons of citizenship in the 21st Century. Our system of government can only survive as long as our citizens not only participate in determining who leads and represents we the people, but more importantly understand the rights that we the people have. It is quite evident that if you have a people who do not understand their rights, it becomes much easier for each and every one of us to be part of the delegating of these rights to others and thereby losing the precious rights that we have been given at birth.

A course in Civics used to be mandatory, that is no longer the case. A survey recently conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that 36% of the respondents could name all three branches of government. Citizens are so poorly aware of their own government 35% could not even name one branch of our government. During the last Congressional session, a representative from Missouri made the comment that we have 4 branches of government. I wish the reporter could have had the courage to ask the Congressmen to name the 4, that would have been good for a laugh. But this lack of knowledge regarding our own government and how it works should be the sounding of an alarm for all of us. Shockingly 21% thought that Congress could override a Supreme Court decision.

Sorry, the taking of one semester or even one year of civics in High School is not enough. The new Common Core Standards recognize that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are foundational documents that students should be able to analyze. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement only 9 states insist on students passing a social studies test in order to graduate. Most exams are multiple -choice exams rather than essays. History and government classes too often require learning by rote or memorization rather than critical thinking. These facts insure that our young people will be guaranteed to be ignorant of their rights and any knowledge regarding political philosophy.

Our foundational documents should be taught as guides to civic engagement whether it be on the local, state or federal level.

All of our states should look closely at the recommendations given by the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning, in a report given in 2014 as a guide for a greater emphasis to be placed on learning about how our system works. It would establish a more action oriented teaching model, that would be project based and it would encourage a level of participation by stake holders in community and civic minded activities.

Greater levels of democracy often occur on a local level that wind up filtering through to the top rather than the other way around.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, yes, we do have a Republic if we can keep it. The question is how can we be good citizens if we do not understand the basis for our rights and the knowledge of how our system works.


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