Youth in America know very little about civics.
Ask the average teen, and you’re more likely to be met with a shoulder shrug or apathy, rather than an in-depth response that speaks on the duties and rights belonging to every citizen.
Due to suspected willful ignorance, dismal performances on civics exams, and low voter turnout, the Arizona-based nonprofit Joe Foss Institute has called for a U.S. citizenship exam to be instituted in high schools across each state, as a way to install a strong foundation in civics. However, is that a step too far?
Each student should learn about citizenship and civics, but not for one particular reason -there are several reasons. For one, democracy depends on citizens to be informed, vocal, and conscientious. For this to happen, civics education must begin early, and there should be a decided effort to shape the curriculum to foster proactivity, competency, and knowledge.
Read on to learn three fundamental reasons why civics should be a part of a students’ regular education:
Checks and Balances in the Government
Executive, judicial, and legislative are three branches of government; this, many students already know. However, a proper civics education demonstrates not only knowing the name of government entities but comprehending the essential functions of the government. Students should understand that three branches of government must work cohesively to pass laws, but also know that each branch has isolated responsibilities. The individual duties of each department help to guide a carefully composed checks and balances system.
A vital component of civics is understanding the strength of a vote. Voting isn’t merely a duty or a right; it’s a thoughtful act that illustrates how much each voter cares about his/her community. Each vote helps to contribute to a given audience or voice and acts to address a concern or determine an outcome. Students can learn a great deal by holding thoughtful voting sessions in their classrooms, by reading speeches, by following political campaigns, and by monitoring the news. Education is the most significant tool against ignorance, and with a proper understanding of how votes can impact the public, it may inspire them to be more proactive and intentional.
Regulating the Government
The American government may seem like a large, powerful force, but even they have limitations and face regulations. Constitutional rights belong to all citizens, and individual rights theoretically cannot be taken away or violated by the government. The Bill of Rights, as well as the list of amendments, grants power to the people. It’s up to the people to know what their rights are.
Lawful citizens can lay claim to the government when they become adults, and they can help to shape the government. The citizenry, not politicians, are to be influencers, as politicians are placed in power to represent the people and their needs. Democracy relies on citizens being aware of the purpose of politics, and gainful civic education demands that citizens understand the limits placed on the government.