Saturday, January 14, 2006

Civics Lesson

"All correct answers automatically disqualify entrants for a job in the George Bush administration."
While, in the compelling view of the Pensacola News Journal, Sam Alito and the Senate Judiciary Committee were making a bad joke of the Supreme Court judicial confirmation process this week, the Florida blog Sticks O' Fire was bringing us news about the people responsible for putting those jokers where they are today.

It's us! No wonder the new blog on the block, ...Because Everyone Else Has One, finds it so "effin' depressing."

The Florida State Bar recently commissioned a survey of Floridians and found "Only 59 percent of Florida adults surveyed ... could name the three branches of government." Barely 46 percent knew the meaning of "separation of powers" and only 61 percent knows what "checks and balances" refers to.

The reason, so the bar association suggests, is that so few schools in Florida teach civics any more. In 2004, the Florida Law Related Education Assn. surveyed 13 school districts in the state. It found:
"Less than 10 percent of Florida's 67 counties require the teaching of civics in middle school. High school students are required only to take a one-semester government course, usually in senior year... ."
Barely more even offer civics as an elective, as the map below illustrates. Schools aren't the only ones falling down on the job, though. The mainstream media doesn't help much, either.

Consider this: Last week also was supposed to be the culmination of the Association's annual "We The People" event. It was scheduled for yesterday, January 13, at the Ivanhoe Plaza Hotel in Orlando.

This is a kind of mock congressional confirmation hearing where students compete to really answer serious constitutional law questions. The same kind of questions Judge Alito artfully dodged all week.

Did the Orlando contest take place? Was it postponed? Is it still going on? Who won? What did they have to say?

There doesn't seem to be any news source in Florida that can tell us (although they all have room for today's horoscope and basketball scores.) So let's indulge and compete against ourselves.

The "We The People" contest involves posing several questions to student teams. The questions are tougher than they look. And, unlike Sam Alito, participants actually have to answer them to win.

Below are two of the contest questions. How would you answer them?
1. What is the difference between a government with a constitution and a constitutional government?

2. What is the rule of law and why is it important in a constitutional government?
Caution: All correct answers automatically disqualify entrants for a job in the George Bush administration. Incorrect, disingenuous, or evasive answers win an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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