Earlier this week I lamented that so many Americans cannot speak their own language properly. Much worse, however, I understand that so many know so little about how their own government runs—and do not care to learn.
Educating our kids about Civics appears to have gone the way of the Dodo.
Ignorance in Government
Recent events have revealed that this ignorance now extends to people who serve very government they don’t understand.:
- New Senator and former football coach Tommy Tuberville (yes, that’s really his name) (R-Alabama) sits in the United States Congress yet does not know what the three branches of government are. He thinks they are the Executive, the House of Representative and the Senate. Sorry, Justice Roberts.
- New Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) demonstrated her ignorance about what a Constitutional amendment actually is. while co-sponsoring a Constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms a person can serve in Congress.
Rep. Boebert Tweeted that, “Protecting and defending the Constitution doesn’t mean trying to rewrite the parts you don’t like.” Actually, that’s exactly what an Amendment is designed to do. The United States Constitution has been amended 27 times, including the first ten in the Bill of Rights.
Citizenship and The Birther Lie
The whole birther lie that was promulgated about Barack Obama demonstrated that most American citizens have no clue what qualifies a person to be a United States citizen.
Our laws have quite clearly defined citizenship for anyone who is paying attention. It takes only one sentence in the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Children are considered to be citizens of America if any of their parents is or became one just before they turned 18 years old. As Barack Obama’s mother was a U.S. Citizen, that made him one regardless of where he was born. (Just for the record, President Obama was born in Hawaii, which was one of the 50 states last time I checked.)
It annoyed me (and still does) that people who considered Barack Obama ineligible would vote for Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada. They probably voted for John McCain, although he was born on a military base in Coco Solo, Panama. (I understand considering a military base to be U.S. territory.) Their parents or grandparents might have voted for George Romney, who was born in a fundamentalist, polygamist community in Colonia Dublan, Mexico. See what I mean?
The Clueless Man on the Street
If you harbored any doubts concerning how ignorant most Americans are about how their government and its legislation works, just listen to the Man on the Street interviews that late-night comics like to do.
- This one focuses on the difference between “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act. (They are, of course, both the same thing.) These interviews also demonstrate the power of language in politics.
- Watch Jay Leno ask real native-born citizens questions from the Naturalization Test you take to become a citizen.
- On this one, people on the street acknowledge that Donald Trump signed the Declaration of Independence.
- If you’re unclear on what the DC in Washington DC stands for, don’t ask these Americans.
I have provided just a sample but there are more. You can try this yourself, although it probably works better, and is a little safer, if you have a microphone and a cameraman.
A Sad State of Affairs
How did America achieve this sad state of affairs? Basically, we stopped teaching our young people what they need to know to be good citizens. We used to do this, of course, with a high-school class called Civics.
I took Civics as a freshman in high school. That year coincided with a presidential election and a new president’s creation of a Cabinet. That scenario provided a perfect example, which Mr. Barrar used to illustrate the subject matter. Thus, I learned things at 15 that seem to have escaped many of today’s adult Americans, including the aforementioned Sen. Tuberville and Rep. Boebert.
A Civics class doesn’t always stick, however. In 2016 I had an argument with my sister, who took the same class and has a college education, about how citizenship is defined. When I explained that you’re are a citizen if one of your parents is a citizen, she replied skeptically, “Well, if that’s the way it works.” Every American should know how it works.
Reinstating Civics Classes
Still, Civics classes provide a good foundation and should be reinstated. We should demand that our children know at least as much about how the United States government works as an immigrant applying for citizenship.
Who knows, those kids might decide to run for office themselves. In that case, don’t you think they should know what the three branches of the federal government are and which one they want to hold office in?
My wife is an immigrant. When she was studying for her citizenship test I told her she lucked out. I can routinely get 95% or better on those tests… but then, I CARE about what makes America unique and exceptional.