By: Michael Jennette
One of the biggest problems with our school systems is the severe lack of education when it comes to perhaps the biggest entity in our lives: The United States Government. Only 60% of high schools in the U.S. require students take some sort of civics course, and only 25% of students that participate are considered proficient by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It is completely unacceptable that learning about the country we live in today is given less of a priority than learning about the one that existed 250 years ago. Basic knowledge of how the political system works can avoid many problems and prevent irresponsible legislature from passing without the public batting an eye.
Picture this: you’re a Representative in Congress and your district is split almost evenly between both parties. A newly proposed bill comes across your desk. The bill proposes big cuts to education, healthcare, and vital public services. It goes against everything you stand for, and without these services the economy in your district will begin to falter. Seems like an easy call, right? Just vote against it and move on. However, there’s one major problem. The bill includes a tiny cash bonus for a few former veterans and the bill is titled the “Rewarding Our Heroes Act”. The major detrimental cuts are barely mentioned or publicized by the media. Social Media rallies behind the bill solely because of the title and what the media tells them. If you vote against this bill, you will be portrayed as a traitor to our soldiers by your opponents and voted out of office. If you vote for it, your opponents will point to the crumbling economy and you will be voted out of office. All because the constituents you are trying to serve are unaware of the real contents of the bill, due to lack of unbiased education on how Congress and other aspects of government operate.
We’re all taught about the Three Branches and how they’re supposed to be balanced, but that’s not even scratching the surface. The relevant laws and cases that have shifted the balance of power back and forth are nowhere to be found in the classroom. From Marbury vs Madison to Citizens United vs The FEC, the process of shaping the law is lost on many today due to this lack of education. This leads to the spread of false information and the manipulation of facts that leads the American people to believe laws like the PATRIOT Act are great landmark pieces of legislature that will progress America further, rather than an Act that all but strips any right to privacy that Americans once had. The USA’s creation as a democratic republic was a monumental occasion and shaped the world today, but it extends beyond what was written in the 1780s. It is constantly evolving, and we should be more vigilant in teaching our children about that evolution and how to be a responsible citizen.