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Civic and political education and an uninformed population

Some dates are prominent, such as February 14, October 31, and December 25. But what about September 17? It should also stand out, but it is not. In fact, most of us don’t think twice about the date; However, we certainly should. That is because it is not another day; It is Constitution Day, reserved by Congress in 1952 to encourage civic engagement.

To institutionalize the day, in 2005, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia promoted legislation that would require recognition of Constitution Day in all schools and colleges that receive federal funds. Unfortunately, six years later, Congress cut funding for civic education, and that, he says. Education weekRoss Brenneman sent the message that civics is important, but not worth federal dollars.

And so it goes on.

As a people, we are very much in uniform on American history and the workings of our government. In fact, many are not even sure who our current leaders are, with one exception. Not surprisingly, Obama enjoys great recognition, having been president for nearly six years and frequently tours the country campaigning and raising funds. Also, the nickname for our new healthcare program bears his name.

But what about second in command Joe Biden?

That’s exactly what late-night host Jimmy Kimmel recently asked some people on Hollywood Boulevard. One girl suggested that it might be a man; some others said they had seen it in movies. Another identified him as a Republican running for president, while a couple more seem to think he is governor. It was downhill from there.

After, The Huffington Post responded with the headline: “Jimmy Kimmel hilariously proves Americans don’t know who Joe Biden is.” Ridible and embarrassing too. Meanwhile, a 2010 Pew Research Center found that only 59% of us know he’s the vice president – a failing grade, if there ever was one.

As for the Constitution, in September, the Annenberg Center for Public Policy asked 1,416 adults questions about the government. The result:

  • 36% were able to name the three branches of government; 27% could not name any.

  • 27% knew that it takes two-thirds of both the House and Senate votes to override a presidential veto.

  • 21% incorrectly thought that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision goes to Congress for reconsideration.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A glance at the civic test of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress suggests that our children are clueless, constitutionally and governmentally speaking, either. Here you have:

  • 27% of 4th grade students scored at the proficient level or better;

  • 22% of eighth grade students scored at the proficient level or better;

  • 24% of 12th grade students scored proficient or better.

Sandra Day O’Connor, a retired United States Supreme Court Justice, explains: “Knowledge of our system of government is not transmitted through the gene pool. Citizenship habits must be learned … But we have neglected education. civic activity over the past few decades, and the results are predictably dismal. “

That sentiment is seconded by Robert Pendiscio of Citizen First, who says: “We send children to school not only to become employees and entrepreneurs, but citizens capable of wise and effective self-government in our democracy. The public dimension Education was a fundamental tenet of American Education. We have almost forgotten it in the era of educational reform. “

That is also why Judge O’Connor founded Its purpose: “To revitalize civic learning through engaging and interactive learning resources. Our educational resources empower teachers and prepare the next generation of students to become informed and engaged citizens.”

Meanwhile, in 2013, the Civic Education Initiative was formed with the support of Judge O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and even actor Joe Mantegna. Its mission is to get all 50 states to require their high school students to take and pass the 100-question US naturalization test. And they are starting to gain ground.

So far, seven states are considering legislation that, while not required, would reward students who take the test. As it stands, those who score at least 60% would see a yet to be determined increase in their grade point averages. Those states are:

  1. Arizona

  2. Louisiana

  3. Missouri

  4. Oklahoma

  5. South Carolina

  6. South Dakota

  7. Vermont

FYI: 91% of those seeking citizenship pass the exam. Here are some sample questions to test your own civics knowledge:

  1. What is the supreme law of the land?

  2. The idea of ​​self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?

  3. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

  4. What is it one Right or Freedom of the First Amendment?

  5. How many amendments does the Constitution have?

  6. What prevents one branch of government from becoming too powerful?

  7. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

  8. How many US senators are there?

  9. We elect a United States senator for how many years?

  10. How many voting members does the House of Representatives have?

  11. We elect a United States Representative for how many years?

To check your answers, go to the Naturalization Test on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, and then do a better one. Get yourself a copy of the Constitution; You can buy one at your local bookstore or head over to Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online. Then read, learn, and talk with your children, friends, and neighbors, too.

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