Why the USA desperately needs to bring back Civics class

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc5UoPoI_xY

I do not post this video to mock Rita, or to praise Michelangelo Signorile, or even to trash Sarah Palin. I post it to call attention to the desperate need in the United States for sound civics education.

Rita sounds perfectly reasonable, and fairly articulate, but she is wrong. I’m not saying I disagree with her opinions, I’m saying she is factually incorrect.  With these incorrect facts as premises, she has constructed a (presumably) logical view of the world and of American politics that is entirely warped, and that is sad.

As the famous saying goes, “people are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”  The trouble these days is that many people are forming their opinions based on incorrect facts, or on no facts at all.

In the above video, it’s clear that caller Rita has a complete lack of understanding about the American system of government, the Constitution, and the tenets upon which it is based.  The idea of pure majority rule is antithetical to everything the United States was built upon.  I can’t believe that anyone who claims to love America could forcibly blind themselves to that fact – I have to believe Rita was never taught.

In recent years I’ve seen a few scattered cries for a return to sound civics education in public schools.  Actor Richard Dreyfuss (whom you may best remember for not wanting to play C-3PO) and American Bar Association President Stephen Zack have tried to call attention to America’s need for civics classes.  As of 2006, the NAEP reported that only 26% of high school seniors could pass a standardized civics exam.

In my own experience, “Social Studies” was synonymous with “history,” and anything I learned about the workings of the American government was secondary to the stories about its formation.  Most of what I know about the workings of the American government I had to learn through independent study – and therein lies the problem.  I view my education, which led me down the path to become a dedicated civil libertarian, as accurate, factual, and unbiased – but so do the people who have learned from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

What we as a country desperately need is sound civics education at the high school and junior high school level – and hope that it isn’t too late. To get there, we likely need an organization with a higher profile than Richard Dreyfuss or the American Bar Association to lead the push – and so far, I have not found one.

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Chris
Chris is an author, artist, personal trainer, and long-time nonprofit fundraiser. His work has appeared in The Nib, GOOD, the Huffington Post, Salon, MTV, and numerous other publications. Chris lives in New York City.

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