The other week McClatchydc.com reported something that continues to sadden and amaze me that was lamented by Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra D. O’Connor. The Justice warned about the alarming ignorance amongst the nations young regarding the most basic questions on civics and our national history.
See if these statements make your neck hairs do a dance in fear for this nation’s future of freedom and liberty: 2 out of 3 Americans cannot name a single Supreme Court Justice; Just 1 out of 3 can name the three branches of the federal government; Less than 1 out of 5 of high school seniors can explain how citizen participation benefits democracy: and most amazingly she stated that less than 1 out of 3 of eighth-graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Dahhh…How about INDEPENDENCE! Justice O’Connor stated, “learning about citizenship is just as important for American children as learning multiplication or how to write their names…if there is a single child not learning about civics or not being exposed to what they must do as citizens, then all our lives are poorer for that.”
But, she’s just the latest addition to the course of voices warning of the lost of this nation’s freedoms and liberties simply do the sheer ignorance of American’s knowledge, understanding, and respect for them by our young, and the populous at large. A 2008 USA Today article, Americans don’t know civics, in the first line said, “From high-school dropouts to college graduates to elected officials, Americans are “alarmingly uninformed” about the USA’s history, founding principles and economy — knowledge needed to participate wisely in civic life…” Here are some mind-numbing bullet points:
Only half of U.S. adults can name all three branches of government.
Slightly less the half adults know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. They think it belongs to the President.
Less then a quarter knows that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but but over half knew Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol.
And perhaps most telling, nearly half can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system and of the elected officials, only 43% knows the Electoral College is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president. 1 out of 5 thinks it “trains those aspiring for higher office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”
A more recent CNN July 4th, 2013 article reported that, “A shocking 85% of Americans cannot correctly describe the “rule of law,” as bedrock a principle as we have. A similar percentage cannot identify the Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” WOW!
Couple this with recent Gallop Poll showing the just 10% of Americans have any faith in the government, the lowest point in history, is a volatile mixture for this republic whose liberties and freedoms rest solely on the presumption that the populous majority would be politically and civic literate.
I recognize that we all have busy and challenging lives. And it is good to escape the pains and burdens that life sometimes bring with trivial pursuits such as, sports and entertainment. But, we have to set priorities and take ownership of our individual responsibilities to keep this nation free as it was intended to be for not just for the enjoyment and pleasures of ourselves but for our posterity. How can we properly defend freedoms and liberties that we know little or nothing about? How can we expected our children to enjoy the freedoms and liberties as many of us have when they are not taught what they are, properly shown the benefits of them, nor have them repetitively hear or see the principles of our constitutional founding? And how can any of us effectively participate in the workings of the government-citizen relationship if we do not know what our proper role is nor that of the government?
As two of my favorite quotes prophetically states,“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan- and the other from Ben Franklin, as he exited the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a woman asked, what kind of government he and the other delegates had decided on? and he replied, “A republic, madam — if you can keep it.” If the thundering alarms of our vanishing freedoms and liberties continue to be drowned out by cheers of the Sunday’s football game, distracted by the excursion to the beach, or just ignored for the sake of not wanting to be burdened with the responsibility to act, don’t be too surprised that there be none to see when you finally open your eyes.