American’s knowledge of civics is declining. Yes, I said it.
So did Sandra Day O’Connor – for those of you who are victims of this decline in knowledge, she’s a retired former Supreme Court Justice. She’s so concerned, in fact, that in 2009 she founded a non-profit group called iCivics to teach the subject to America’s youth and has now expanded the program though a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs.
In announcing the partnership, O’Connor noted “Two-thirds of Americans can name a judge on ‘American Idol,’ and only 15% can name the chief justice of the United States[.]” (John Roberts.) This got me thinking – theses are the people that are voting in our Representatives, Senators and the President. And they can’t name the head of one of the three branches of the US government, really? How many could name the Speaker of the House? Or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate? (John Boehner (R – Ohio) and Daniel Inouye (D- Hawaii) respectively.) How are they voting if they don’t know the first thing about our system or who’s in it?
Near as I can figure? They vote how other people tell them too.
Now, perhaps this sounds outrageous or insane but think about it – between unions, religious officials/organizations, civic groups and interest-based clubs, I’m sure you have received some thinly disguised “guidance” on how to vote. Or “information” about how a particular candidates’ voting record and position is good or bad or indifferent somehow. An acquaintance of mine, who is an NRA member and owns multiple guns, recently told me that she would never vote for Obama no matter who ran against him since he would “take away her guns.” I asked her where she got this information and – after arguing past the “it’s common knowledge” arguments – she admitted that she had been told multiple times by the NRA representatives and leaflets at her gun club. Imagine that, the NRA is against the Democrat! Even after showing her that Obama has at worst a mixed record on gun control and that guns were far from an issue during either campaign, she refused to reconsider but insisted that she must exercise her right to vote. Even after admitting she knew little else about Obama or the potential opponents! And this is a person who, on the surface, would seem to be the perfect demographics for the Democratic party in it’s current state (young, open-minded regarding other people’s life choices, relatively low income, parents and husband in fairly unionized industries). Yet she doesn’t consider any of this.
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I’ve heard countless other stories of people voting how they do because their pastor told them that it was the “Christian/Catholic/Buddhist/etc” way. Or voting with the union because that’s how they vote (at least that has some semblance of reason – voting with ostensibly your pocketbook). And I know first hand of a number of folks who don’t even bother to know who’s running, they just go and mark down straight party ticket for one party or the other. Ridiculous! No one party is going to get every nomination right. Nor should one party control the entire government.
People. Learn about the political system and how it runs. Require Civics in our schools to teach children the same. And for the love of everything good, and the country to boot, LEARN about who you are voting for – and do the reading and research yourself on the candidates own sites, don’t just take the leaflets at church or another place at their value. Or don’t vote. Just don’t vote in ignorance because it’s “your right” and ruin the country for those of us that care enough to be informed.