There’s only so many times you can see a social media commenter tell you that the Senate is not part of Congress before you want to call it quits.
I wish I were kidding, but yes, I’ve actually had this happen to me. And so much more.
So when I came across the Atlantic’s recent article, Can Civics Save America?, I read it with great interest.
The author shares some truly horrifying, but perhaps not terribly surprising, statistics like that only 1 in 4 Americans can name all three branches of government, or that 37% can name a single right they have under the First Amendment.
There’s been a widespread failure in our country to teach kids not just the facts and concepts about our government, but also the concept that it’s ok and even normal to disagree. This quote really stood out to me:
“The art of self-government depends on a capacity for argument, persuasion, compromise, and tolerance of disagreement—civic virtues that need to be learned and practiced.”
At a time when we are dealing with so much disinformation, I wonder if the population was better informed about how our government works — and honestly, how elections are run or how our court system works — less of the disinformation would take hold. I mean, if Americans understood what Congress was actually doing on January 6th, they couldn’t have gotten whipped up into a frenzy believing that it was possible to overturn the election. They would still have been upset about the outcome of the election, but the insurrection wouldn’t have happened.
There are attempts to pass legislation to help schools teach more civics, but of course, it’s being attacked by the right. (The Atlantic article has more on that effort.) In the meantime, I think we can all make sure that we make sure we know how things work, and pass on that knowledge to our own kids, family, and friends.
One thing I like to do from time to time is take a practice civics quizzes. (Yes, I can be a bit of a nerd.) There’s a bunch of them out there. Here’s one: Civics Practice Test
If you have children in your house, there are a ton of resources out there, from lesson plans to YouTube series (by reputable organizations) to full curriculums. I encourage you to look at some and be sure to teach your kids what they need to know.
Ultimately, while many politicians may prefer that the populace doesn’t understand how our government works, it is in our best interest to make sure that we do. That’s how and why grassroots efforts have been so successful over the years. We know how to get things done.
I’ll leave you with a lighthearted moment from the Pixar movie The Incredibles that I find very relevant. In the first half of this clip, the boss is very upset that our superhero’s customers have figured out how to “penetrate the bureaucracy.” It always gives me a laugh.