Monday, April 24, 2006

Civics Brief

Florida Bar president and Pensacola lawyer Alan Bookman has an op-ed piece in today's PNJ that underscores the unconscionable depths to which "civics" education has sunk in Florida. His article is titled, "Get Back to Basics: Teach More Civics.

First the Facts:
[M]ost Floridians... are not required to take a civics course, and many would be unable to pass... .

According to the Florida Law Related Education Association, less than 10 percent of Florida counties require civics instruction in school. As a result, many children, like their parents, are in the dark when it comes to the light of democracy. They have only a vague and often inaccurate picture of our government.

* * *
A recent Harris poll by the Florida Bar found that while 90 percent of Floridians agreed the concept of checks and balances in government is important, only 59 percent could correctly identify the three branches of government involved in this democratic balancing act. For those keeping score, that is a failing grade.

While 59 percent correctly identified the branches of government as "executive, legislative and judicial," nearly 20 percent answered "local, state and federal." Another 16 percent said "Democrat, Republican, and independent."

Our collective score declines even further when quizzed about the definition of "separation of powers," an essential principle of our government. Only 46 percent correctly explained the concept.
Next, what lawyers call the "Issue":
If we cannot understand the basic doctrines of our government and the safeguards that protect our freedom, how will we know when they are being undermined?
And finally, the "Argument":
New governments around the globe, most notably Iraq and Afghanistan, are struggling to adopt and abide by democratic notions, and the challenges they face have received a great deal of attention. But established democracies face threats and challenges to their survival as well, although they might not be as easy to identify. Some threats come from outside. Others develop from within -- ignorance and error, or worse still, corruption.

Our schools have generated robust debate about the direction and components of a good curriculum, but there has been little debate about the lack of civics education. Our children, and the democracy they will inherit, deserve more. By supporting the effort to add mandatory civics instruction in Florida middle schools, and by urging all school districts to join the cause, we can ensure that today's students will be better citizens tomorrow.
Along the way, Bookman points out that almost 44,000 Florida immigrants to the U.S. "recently faced a challenging test of their knowledge about our government and its history, and they all passed."

When it comes to our constitutional history and democratic ideals of government, no lawful immigrant is left behind. Why, then, do we consign our own children to ignorance about their own country?

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WanderingHoo said...

Those in power have a vested interest in making sure that the general populace understands as little as possible about how the system works.

Then and only then can raw power grabs and payoffs to contributors be sold as "reining in activist judges".

l'etat c'est moi.

Bryan said...

How can you have a public school that doesn't teach civics? I was a military brat in schools all over the world, and they all taught civics.

I'm stunned.