Whatever Happened to Civics?

…”What was discouraging was that none of the young people had any desire or intention to vote for any presidential candidate because they felt totally betrayed by the entire political ‘system’. These weren’t a group of disenfranchised youth but educated and talented young people.

The conversation started innocently enough at the end of a holiday dinner gathering when the ‘20 somethings’ were casually asked about their thoughts of the 2008 presidential candidates. What transpired after that was nothing short of disappointing. None of those queried had any distinct knowledge of the candidates or their political positions. The lively conversation proceeded to span the socio-political gamut from the rights and responsibilities of our freedoms to civil liberties to why we’re in the position we find ourselves as Americans in 2008. What was discouraging was that none of the young people had any desire or intention to vote for any presidential candidate because they felt totally betrayed by the entire political ‘system’. These weren’t a group of disenfranchised youth but educated and talented young people.

 “Two parties forces me to choose between the lesser of two evils”, “I don’t trust any politician”, “they’re all corrupt”; were just a few of the reasons they cited as to why the disconnect exists. They assured me they were not alone in their thoughts and that most of their contemporaries shared this sense of malaise. Apparently they aren’t the only demographic that feels that way after reading the latest polling data that lists only 9% of the sample as giving our Congressional leaders a good or excellent rating. That’s pretty scary especially since our next president will emerge from that questionable group.

civics? bueller? anyone?

civics? bueller? anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s look at this another way; how ironic is it that GenNext looks at our political system and it’s leaders and wants nothing to do with them after all their legislation and social engineering to make life better, easier, and more affordable? Better access to education, more opportunity to achieve in different fields of endeavor, financial advantages to get started, etc. Apparently they don’t see it that way.

But it goes deeper than that. What also came to light in the dialogue was not just a political short circuit but also a dearth of knowledge about the basics of citizenship; what the Constitution and Bill of Rights provides, the separation of federal powers, budgets, surpluses, deficits, taxation, and how they are tied to candidates’ policies. I know what your thinking, “what a way to kill a holiday dinner”!

This wasn’t exclusive to our dinner table though. I have observed this discouraging trend in our youth for the last 15-20 years.

Somewhere along the line their generation lost the sense of civic responsibility that is essential to extending democracy’s run in our world. Little thought is devoted to giving back to the society that has provided incredible opportunities and freedoms. Lost is the idea that there are inherent responsibilities that come with these freedoms; the least of which is to become educated and conversant in how and why we do the things we do. Agreement isn’t necessary, but understanding is. But maybe this notion went away when Civics class was replaced with Social Studies.

We often hear the complaint that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in math and science. I contend that the truly tragic piece of data is that there is a sense of illiteracy within our population about the basics of what makes America, America.

 

  

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