The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Studying Civics Could Make Americans Smarter

on July 7, 2017

 In light of the fact that Independence Day was celebrated earlier this week I am writing today about the importance of teaching civics to all students. In addition to my own views I will refer to the articles that inspired me to write: Civic knowledge and Engagement Are Critical to Our Republic” published in the “Seattle Times”, and Civics Education, America’s Great Equalizer, Can Make Us Whole Again” published in “The Hill”. Both articles were written by George R. Nethercutt Jr, who is a former U.S. Representative from the state of Washington, serving from 1995 to 2005.

 Not long ago I read two articles about the need for teaching civics in our public schools. According to George Nethercutt, Jr., the author of both, civics has not been taught at most schools around the country for more than fifty years. As a result, he contends that most Americans know little about the events and people who created this country and their most significant contributions. They know even less about examples of American foolishness and failure.

Nethercutt believes that the teaching of civics should be revived in elementary and high schools. In fact, he would like to see “ a congressional resolution” passed calling for civics education in all schools. He would also like to see more adults participating in political organizations or public service. He asserts that “ research has confirmed that civil learning leads to better citizenship in the form of increased volunteerism, neighbors working together to solve problems, higher voter turnout—particularly among young voters—and the development of a greater sense of national pride.”

What I remember from my own schooling was studying American history, but not civics. Over the grades from elementary school though high school, we learned about the most outstanding of our past presidents and other leaders, the most significant wars, and the expansion and settling of the West. Although I remember studying the Declaration of Independence, I have no memory of reading the U.S. Constitution, much less discussing it. Our classes taught us to remember important names and events, but did not to help us to deal with the complicated situations occurring in government all the time.

While I’m not sure that civics teaching would solve all the problems that Nethercutt sees, I think it would make more Americans aware of both the good and bad decisions made by lawmakers and their consequences. It might also move more people to get involved with political and social organizations, and stir them to action when support or opposition to political actions was needed. Above all, knowing more about the ways our country operates and the possible results, might cause citizens to think more carefully about the candidates for public offices, and maybe every one would take the trouble to vote.






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