Bring Civics to Civilization – Why Americans Ought To Know How Government Works

Civics education, or government class to some, has all but disappeared from the curriculum. Knowing how our government functions became synonymous with indoctrination during the 60s and 70s. “Teaching about our democracy imposes values on our students”, many activists of the time shouted. As it became apparent Americans were woefully lagging behind other industrialized nations in math and science, curriculum planners gave civics a near deathblow.

The results have been dangerous. On a recent civics quiz the average score was 49, meaning we failed. Less than half of Americans can name all three branches of government. Only 27 percent of Americans know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from establishing an official religion in the U.S. 54 percent do not know that the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, not the president. Founding Father James Madison who said, “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.” is surely rolling over in his grave. Unfortunately too few people know enough about the document Madison helped create to be too concerned about some dead president’s hurt feelings.

If a “better informed citizenry places important limitations on the ability of public officials, interest groups and other elites to manipulate public opinion and act in ways contrary to the public interest,” then what does an ill informed public allow. The past eight years proves just how far the public will allow our government to go. And thank God it was only eight.

Not understanding civics could be the downfall of America. A boost in civics education will reduce voter apathy, increase pride in our communities, and allow citizens to properly keep elected officials in check. Americans love of democracy unites us. In order to continue in that beloved democracy we must insist on educating our citizenry in its history and major documents.


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