While the rest of the world holds the written Constitution of the USA – if not the application of that Constitution – as the model for democracy, in this country we continue to ignore the inspiration of the Founding Fathers.
If we continue with this stupidity, we risk not only the permanent loss of our greatness but the surrender
of the original reason for the birth of our nation. Liberty.
Something very bad has happened to us.
While in DC, our Capitol, running from meeting to meeting with famous important organizations, we discussed the problem of how damaging it is to not teach Civics, starting with our youngest students. I realized that what should have been a walk in the park has become a ‘complicated issue.’ Not one of the networks, magazines or think-tanks had said simply “Yes” when asked to endorse Civics as a Non-partisan issue.
Endorsing civics, or the practical realistic knowledge of how to run the country, is about as problematic as endorsing breathing, or the right to read. Teaching Reason, Logic, Clarity of Thought, Critical Analysis, and raising up the values of dissent, debate, civility and opposing views sounds like provocative, weighty stuff; teaching that we are responsible for forming a more perfect union, or providing for the common defense is nothing to jump into lightly. Of all these things, plus promoting the general welfare, establishing justice, insuring the blessings of liberty on ourselves and our posterity, none of these things are getting any serious study, perhaps it’s safe to conclude that they’re not that important.
We don’t teach our kids how to run the country anymore. We deliberately make the future stewards of our system ignorant of that system; that is neurotic and ridiculous. Have we all lost our collective minds here?
Have I stepped on any toes? I apologize.
I do no such thing. If you are prepared to fight the inarguable necessity of teaching our children how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country, I am willing to fight you, because your stance is fundamentally self destructive.
Such senselessness draws a grim picture of the America we pass to our children and the country we live in today; the values we teach (Profit at all costs) or don’t teach (clarity of thought, intellectual freedom, accountability, reward and responsibility), obscure what is right and proper; it’s what the gladiators of Rome called ‘a slow kill,’ fatal but sure. You can feel America getting smaller, losing grandeur, turning away from nobility.
We have been proud of a revolutionary system that hands true political power to the general public through representation and trust. How can we sustain trust when we refuse to teach how a Republican Democracy works and by whom? All people have an inalienable right to know who they are, and why they are who they are. Why have we stopped doing it?
Teaching our history with maturity and candor is the only way we can see the singular political miracle America is. Civic Education is the knowledge of an ethical platform upon which all America stands, and from which we can disagree with one another all we want; the youth of America could learn Responsible Sovereignty, that the Ruler and the Ruled are one; that tale compliments man kind, clarifies the two-way street of accountability, reward, responsibility, and freedom. That is the energy and beauty of Republican Democracy. Making expert those who inherit that power is basic, sensible, and inarguable. Why don’t we do that?
Would you stay on an airplane if you knew they picked their pilots randomly from the passenger list? Is the notion of preparedness so radical? Our children aren’t prepared for anything. They don’t know how to hammer a nail, read the fine print, cook, sew, what due process is, why we fought for it, what it cost in blood and sacrifice, how few had it, or have it now, or that we threw it away in our panic and changed it to ‘selective’ due process.
When the homes of the middle class are foreclosed, is there anyone in that family that can start a fire? Or file a class action suit?
We are educating our kids for a 21st Century that resembles a Fred Astaire movie, instead of dealing with dirty bombs or toxic fumes. Why are we creating inert, uncurious, unquestioning people instead of a vibrant resource pool?
We are not born with a genetic advantage on how to run a Republican Democracy. American ideas must be taught, because they are the only binders we have. Refusing to teach protection of civil liberties or governments restrained from illegal behavior, things that must be known for a Republic to run properly is at least self-destructive, or worse, an act of hostility.
The world is hard, and requires intellect and creativity to prevail. We pass out school kids who can’t read or write. This is absurdity; either we don’t know how or what to teach or we’re deliberately making our kids stupid. Secretary Gates said that 75% of those who try to get into the military couldn’t pass the entrance exam. Is our military served by a volunteer army and navy made up of illiterate soldiers and sailors? Is a stupid volunteer military an advantage on any battlefield or, as charged, with the preparation for war and the protection of our loved ones?
We are a nation of business. Is business served by students who think without clarity? Can’t create industry, can’t fill the requirements of management? Management must be taught; risk and courage also, which allows Entrepreneurship. If we don’t, in 10 years, American business will seek its leadership from Asia and India, because we have neglected to reinforce the public schools that feed Harvard and Yale. It’s an easy call, unfortunately; we’ll be out-thought, out-maneuvered, and out of the game. Three strikes and you’re out.
Excellence at the common sense talents of the people wielding political power is ignored; freedoms that opportunity used, to create the greatest industrial energy the world ever knew, are abandoned, along with protecting the basic civil rights of the individual, values our forefathers fought so hard to attain in a world of Darkness, fundamentalism, and ignorance.
There must be a renaissance of Sensible Patriotism, of educating our kids to be smarter than we are. Unless of course we say we can’t afford it, or we don’t need it; that’s the Darkness that never dies: stupidity, just waiting.
Every parent, journalist, churchgoer, or secular citizen wants America to be run by its most intelligent. We are too powerful to be run by anyone less.
Not seeing the problem yet? Not feeling uneasy? That’s sleepwalking or selfishness. Good citizenship is dangerous in its absence, inescapable in its fatal consequence, and unknowable unless taught.
Jay Leno makes jokes about how stupid we are about History. He’s not wrong, but he’s not aiming at our cultural mythology. Every family in this country, except ones that were dragged here against their will or found here and killed, share this mythology.
Every family in this country fled the oppression of the caste or class system designed by wealth in the Old Countries, and came here, “the city on the hill”, known to be a political miracle, for a chance at rising by merit.
This year the Supreme Court said that corporations, not humans, could be completely free to give as much money as they wanted to political campaigns, whether they were American corporations or not. Humans, the ones the governance theories were for, were limited to ritual amounts, so that our participation in politics has been reduced to gesture with no power. So?
So, Sony, the OPEC group, or Halliburton, can give an unlimited amount. Get ready for 50 billion dollar campaigns. If you think that’s a partisan statement, imagine Hugo Chavez or the Iranians or Kazakhstan funneling their wealth into American TV ad money; money is power, is access, is profit; the American Government is putting itself on EBay every 2 or 4 years.
Why would we leave DC with my hosts standing back from endorsing civics? They ought to line up to be first to do it. Until then, all of them should be called the groups who want Civics to be a partisan issue, who have reasons for keeping unknown the powers the Constitution mandates to us.
Was that too complicated? Keep us from knowing what power is handed to the People of the United States, keep us from knowing our rights and responsibilities, then realize we’ve created the Goldilocks of thievery and criminal behavior: unlimited greed leading to unlimited theft and protected by the public’s complete ignorance of how to stop them? A front row seat at the decline and fall of the greatest idea of governance in history.
Before dismissing me as a fool, a hypocrite, or an actor, ask me: “What is it Mr. Dreyfuss that you want?” I want common sense not be rare, but to be common. I want to share the political support structure and allow for our parties to use the good ideas of the other party, instead of demonizing everything they say. I want people to be courageous and comfortable in the exercise of true political authority. I want our kids to be smarter on Friday than they were on Monday, our parents to know what to say to their children, our ministers what to say to their congregations. I want to see the Press celebrate its mandate, the willingness to speak truth to any power.
All of which adds substance and good acts to patriotism. I want my country to prevail not by re-writing the rules, buying the rules or ignoring the rules, but because we know the rules in our sleep, know them to be fair, know the strength that comes with diversity and the strength that comes with how open channels of opinion combine in strength and take us farther and achieve respect for America, a country worthy of real respect and devotion.
This original article is printed un-edited by Moves. The magazine agrees unequivocally with the principals expressed herein and endorses fully the importance of civics and civility in American society, but the comments and definitions are the author’s.