The US must bring civics into the classroom

by Staff

Most of us weren’t even in high school when the Twin Towers fell. Since then, our country has faced many crises. Hurricane Katrina, corporate corruption, the great recession and the BP oil spill are just a few of the disasters we’ve lived through as a generation. With so much political drama every year, the life of a U.S. citizen should be incredibly exciting, but for some reason, even as we’re becoming adults, our conversations are the same as they were in the eighth grade. Talking about the latest Jersey Shore episode or what Kanye West did at the Video Music Awards take the place of real discussion about national events that actually matter.

Saying we are too busy, jaded or apathetic are all pathetic excuses for not having a basic knowledge of what’s going on in the world today. But perhaps our lack of world knowledge isn’t completely our own fault 8212; mainstream media is fluffed up and sugarcoated to keep viewers’ attention, and our education system doesn’t actively engage the majority of us in deep political conversations. The slightest addition to our long-term educational careers could help cure the epidemic of ignorance we face today.

Requiring civics classes that teach the rights and duties of citizens would help motivate students to understand and care about the political environment that they are a part of. We should require classes, starting in grade school, that keep people involved in their country from a young age. In addition, colleges should require a similar course geared toward current events every semester or quarter. Even a one-unit class that meets once a week would help keep our students informed about the true-life drama that is our American democracy.

Every generation is faced with its own political issues. Yet, when we become isolated from the histories experienced by the generations before us, we often fail to recognize the links between the news today and the events of the past. Although we are now mentally trapped in a history time bubble, we are still expected to have convicted stances on current events while only having a narrow idea of what is really going on.

For instance, how many people do you think take the time to investigate U.S. and British involvement in the Middle East during the 1950s? I’m not here to give you a history lesson, but some serious political and military intervention went down just to ensure that Americans could fill up their Cadillac and Ford gas tanks with a low price tag. Our existing involvement in the Middle East isn’t some isolated incident and neither is any other current event. They all have a rich backstory that give hints as to why and how things came to be how they are today. A civics program would help keep students informed not only about the history that created individual political events, but also about the key figures and moments that have shaped our current political climate.

You don’t need to be a political genius to keep yourself informed and have strong views about the world. If we don’t take the time to inform ourselves, we will idly sit by as our civil liberties and dollars turn to dust. Whichever side of the political debate you’re on, civic education is key to a strong democracy in the U.S. Nobody enjoys the company of a blind, ignorant conservative more than a fellow blind, ignorant conservative, and no one appreciates the rants of an uneducated, idealistic liberal more than another uneducated, idealistic liberal. If people continue to exist in their political bubbles, they will neither change anything nor live as anything more than a vat-full of ignorant political opinion. A comprehensive civics education would lift the burden of remaining informed off of the student and would keep our citizens engaged in our society’s dramatic development from a young age.

8212;Patrick Glendening is a philosophy and political science senior.

8212;The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.