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I'm a teacher. I don't formally teach social studies, or political science, or history, or government. But in order for my students to understand what I do teach—cultural anthropology and women's studies—they have to have a basic understanding of how political systems work—especially ours—and need to know the basics about legislation, politics, civil rights and social change and how they are affected by political and social systems.  

They don't.  

I teach college students at a working class state university. My entry level classes have students who are fresh out of mostly public high schools. Last week, once again, as I do each semester, I faced the challenge of explaining not only why they should vote, but what that vote means to them, in real life terms, and how their activism, or lack of it, will affect their lives, now and in the future.

I'm in New York. Not one student could name both of our U.S. senators. Only one student could name their Congressperson. None had a clue about their state assembly persons or senators.  

I wasn't shocked. Happens every fall. Sure, they all know the name of the president, whose campaign was effective in getting out the youth vote in the last presidential election.  But political engagement is not just about electing a president.

We need to plan ahead and get more youth engagement in midterms. With 2012 looming, only one of my students could name a Republican candidate for the primaries and wasn't really sure what she was all about, nor could they articulate the difference between Democratic and Republican party platforms. Actually, they didn't know what a platform was.

They don't read newspapers. They don't blog. Only a few said they watch The Daily Show. Two students who happen to be LBGT knew who Rachel Maddow is. In women's studies, none had ever heard of Emily's List or NARAL. They all have internet access.  They spend a lot of time texting each other because they all have cell phones. A majority have facebook pages.  

Question is, what are they talking to each other about?

Last Tuesday, our class was visited by NYPIRG campus rep who registered over 100 students to vote. NYPIRG is non-partisan. I'm not. Be that as it may, what good is it to register students to vote, if they don't have a clue about who or what they are voting for, other than for POTUS in 2012?

I talk with other teachers across the US. Many have raised the same concerns.  

I'm not saying that there are no schools, K through 12, that incorporate civics and civil/human rights into their curricula. All I want to assert here today is that from my point of view, they don't seem to be doing a very good job at it.

We know we have problems with the U.S. system of education. I'm not here to debate that. What I'd like to say is that each one of us, whatever label we wear—liberal, Democrat, progressive, activist—is responsible. Each one of us who does know how the system works, who votes, who has strong feelings about democracy and justice, has a responsibility to teach someone who as of yet doesn't know this. Not everyone who is reading this is a teacher. But we all better become political educators and not make assumptions that what is common knowledge to us is to our young folks.

Not all of us have children or grandchildren. Everyone reading this today must know someone young—a niece, nephew, godchild, neighbor's kid—or have co-workers with children. Take a time out from your favorite issue and each one teach one. The basics.

As a teenager and young adult growing up during the '60s and '70s, I remember nationwide campus teach-ins. I also worked doing community PE (political education) as an organizer to reach young folks who didn't have the luxury to go to college.

I still remember this song.

You want "more and better Democrats"?

Then you need more and better voters. We had better teach our children.

I often read derisive comments about "typical low information voters" fed a steady diet of Fox News and American Idol. The kids I teach are not watching Fox News; they aren't watching news period.

Am I saying that there are no young people organizing or engaged in political action?  No. I applaud those who are, and those organizations with whom they are engaged.

What I am saying is that we have to do more, much more, if we want to turn this country around and make change. Change does not come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up, and the next generations of voters are our "bottom."

We better not make assumptions about what young folks know.

There are probably quite a few of you who remember Schoolhouse Rock and this segment:

How many of you are aware of the updated and expanded versions on iCivicS?
Try playing some of the games yourselves (and pass them on).

iCivics: How Games Can Teach Kids to be Better Citizens:

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spearheaded its development.

iCivics (formerly Our Courts) is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.

Expanding civics into civil rights—a history we take for granted—isn't really being taught well, if at all. Sure, kids can all name Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks. But what do they really know, and how does that history they are not taught affect contemporary involvement in issues of human rights and social justice?

The Southern Poverty Law Center just issued this report:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress—commonly called “The Nation’s Report Card”—tells a dismal story: Only 2% of high school seniors in 2010 could answer a simple question about the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. And it’s no surprise. Across the country, state educational standards virtually ignore our civil rights history.
Teaching The Movement, SPLC

Teaching the Movement:The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States 2011

Generally speaking, the farther away from the South—and the smaller the African-American population—the less attention paid to the civil rights movement. Sixteen states do not require any instruction whatsoever about the movement. In another 19, coverage is minimal. In almost all states, there is tremendous room for improvement. As the nation prepared this year to dedicate a monument to its greatest civil rights champion, the Southern Poverty Law Center undertook a comprehensive review—the first of its kind—of the coverage accorded the civil rights movement in state educational standards and curriculum frameworks. This report sets out the results of that review. It provides a national report card on the state of civil rights education in our country. Most states, unfortunately, get a failing grade.

Dedicating a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall is of great symbolic importance. But if we, as a nation, are to move beyond symbolism, teaching our children about the great movement that Dr. King led is a national imperative.

The report offers more details:

Given what states expect them to be taught, it’s no surprise that American students know so little about the modern civil rights movement.2 The comprehensive review of state standards and curriculum frameworks set forth in this report reveals that the state of education about the civil rights movement is, in a word, dismal. How dismal? In this assessment of state requirements, no state received a raw higher than 70%. The scores reflect the degree to which a state’s frameworks or standards encompass the generally accepted core knowledge about the movement. A score of 100% would mean that a state requires all of that content to be taught; 50% means that half of the content is covered. Based on the scores, letter grades were assigned on a scale that recognizes the best state efforts. Only three states—Alabama, Florida, and New York—earned a grade of A.

• Sixteen states do not require any instruction at all about the movement. These states—along with 19 others whose coverage is minimal (with raw scores from 0 to 15%)—received grades of F.

• Three states—Arizona, Arkansas and Massachusetts— and the District of Columbia earned grades of D for raw scores between 20 and 30%.

• Six states, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia—earned grades of C for scores between 31 and 50%.

• Four states—Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia—earned grades of B for scores between 50 and 60%.

• For all states, there is room for improvement.

Rather than recognizing the profound national significance of the civil rights movement, most states mistakenly see it as a regional matter, or a topic of interest mainly for black students. Nine of the 12 highest-scoring states are from the former Confederacy.4 They are joined by the states of Illinois, Maryland, and New York. Generally speaking, the farther away from the South— and the smaller the African-American population—the less attention is paid to the civil rights movement.

Imagine if children in Texas, California and Minnesota were exempted from lessons on the American Revolution— or if students in Alaska, Hawaii and Montana got a pass on the Civil War. We all recognize that the American Revolution and the Civil War are critical events in our growth as a nation, important for all students to study. It is time to recognize that the civil rights movement, too, is one of those critical events that defines us as a nation. It is a recent and important reminder of how individual self-governing Americans can act collectively to correct grave injustice. The civil rights movement is a national, not a regional, issue. It has lessons for more than just the students in the South. In the words of noted civil rights historian Taylor Branch, “If you’re trying to teach people to be citizens, teach them about the civil rights movement.”

Many get out the youth vote organizations are gearing up for 2012. Groups like Rock the Vote have education sections like "Democracy Class."

I'm suggesting that we each take responsibility for teaching one-on-one democratic civics classes. All of our futures depend on taking action. Don't sit back and wait for schools, and those of us who are paid to teach, to do it for you.

It will be too late.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for teaching civics and civil rights (142+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aji, gchaucer2, brooklynbadboy, mawazo, orestes1963, slksfca, Dancun74, Brainwrap, bozepravde15, BarackStarObama, doingbusinessas, raina, MadRuth, AverageJoe42, shaharazade, Regina in a Sears Kit House, drmah, JC from IA, Julie Waters, bibble, blueoregon, Hedwig, ej25, greenheron, Stuart Heady, r2did2, jan4insight, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, jamess, esquimaux, anodnhajo, ahumbleopinion, Lizabet, wiseacre, poco, purplepenlady, dopper0189, swampyankee, tobendaro, rbird, HamdenRice, Youffraita, sebastianguy99, bread, shantysue, divineorder, Egalitare, bythesea, stolen water, SouthernBelleNC49, Diogenes2008, JekyllnHyde, MrJayTee, joedemocrat, COwoman, xenothaulus, 714day, mofembot, Chitown Kev, kerflooey, beltane, TerryDarc, Futuristic Dreamer, catilinus, DamselleFly, smartdemmg, Maggie524, Getreal1246, Panacea Paola, kishik, hester, luckylizard, metamars, FogCityJohn, moose67, JanF, just another vet, abarefootboy, Dartagnan, BlueDragon, annieli, martinjedlicka, mainely49, chuckvw, elfling, carolyn urban, Friend of the court, Kelvin Kean, jeannew, dizzydean, hmi, Livvy5, anafreeka, mapamp, susanala, Mary Mike, Eric Nelson, mayim, greenbird, GenXangster, KrazyKitten, Van Buren, Habitat Vic, Possiamo, Ebby, Disgusted in St Louis, Dretutz, Ian Reifowitz, mahakali overdrive, shanikka, Sister Havana, dle2GA, DaveS002, 417els, BoxNDox, Justina, mooshter, geordie, maf1029, Ignacio Magaloni, Vicky, meralda, fhcec, JD SoOR, capelza, Oh Mary Oh, coppercelt, JesterDel, BYw, etherealfire, awesumtenor, Hirodog, renbear, Ohkwai, Captain Chaos, fnpople2008, oysterface, Matt Z, ocular sinister, Senor Unoball, Yasuragi, no way lack of brain

    It's our responsibility.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 12:52:58 PM PDT

    •  sorry to be coming to this so late (7+ / 0-)

      but I started the day in SW Virginia volunteering at a free dental clinic, drove 6+ hours to DC to have one last beer at Hawk & Dove, which closed this evening, and then had to meet with several people for the conference at the DC Hilton tomorrow on taking back the American Dream.  Then I had a one hour strategizing session on getting educators more involved.

      I want to quibble just a bit.

      I applaud that Justice O'Connor wants to focus on having people better knowledgeable about our civic processes.

      But too often teaching of "civics" overly simplifies, and does not teach the most important civic lessons - to be critical thinkers, for starters.

      How a bill becomes a law - you mean like when an aide to Arlen Spector inserts a provision to the USA Patriot Act while it is in conference that no one knew was there and it gets voted into law without ever having even been discussed?

      Or when a revenue bill, which must start in the House, is done properly because the Senate takes a House bill on an unrelated topic, strips out everything except the title by Amendment, and thus the Senate creates the ACA which gets sent back to the House for passage?

      Or how about how a filibuster is supposed to work, which is not what has been happening.

      Or how about ...  oh heck, I could go on and on.

      A "conservative" Supreme Court trashes decades of precedent, first in finding an individual right to keep arms in the 2nd Amendment while ignoring the part about the militia (why not find it where it belongs, in the 9th - oh wait, that would possibly justify Roe), then in unleashing corporations to spend freely on federal elections -  so for a Conservative Court stare decisis loses all meaning, unless it is a decision which pleases conservatives.

      Or perhaps that the 4th Amendment has under recent Congresses, two administrations of different parties, and now SCOTUS essentially been gutted.

      "Civics" as the term is usually applied is insufficient.

      It has to be both government and politics, including how politics has become increasingly debased.

      If we are not as mad as hell and not going to take it any more, teaching more "civics" ain't gonna make a difference.

      Yes, people should know who their elected officials are.  But that is nothing knew.

      Hell, every year someone goes out on 4th of July and the American people prove they do not know the Declaration.

      Regularly politicians of both parties show their ignorance both of American History and the Constitution.

      We think that is going to change because we do a better job of teaching "civics?"

      Unless and until we make preparation for being a citizen in a Democratic republic a core part of our our educational processes, we are kidding ourselves.

      And when a supposedly Democratic administration focuses on preparing for jobs in the competitive world economy, it is hard to believe that the efforts of Sandra Day O'Connor will make much of a difference.

      And remember, I teach 6 sections of government and politics each school day, with a current student load of 175.  I know it is important.   I also know I am spitting into the wind.  But I am stubborn.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:18:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It died with Super Host.... (20+ / 0-)

    sorry, unless you're a Pollock from Cleveland you probably wouldn't get that.

    But, Super Host was a Polish dude with a red nose who showed Godzilla movies on Saturday on the local Cleveland outlet and during intermission he gave lessons in Civics...along with some polka dancing lessons.

    I learned more about being a responsible citizen from Super Host than I ever learned in school.

  •  It is astounding, but not uncommon. Here in (35+ / 0-)

    Bed-Stuy, I've first had to explain what civics is. The question I get from young people most often, when I'm out in the community, is "What is civics?

    You literally have to start at the very beginning. Each of us can make a difference, but often it feels like trying to hold back a tsunami with an ostrich feather.

  •  As someone who left high school only 3 years ago (35+ / 0-)

    I can tell you that this doesn't surprise me at all. I remember when in my senior year Government and Law class, we did an activity to fill out all the states on a blank map. I was the only one who could do it. The closest person to me got 19 states. Almost no one in the class knew that Hawaii and Alaska were even states! This, by the way, was an "honors" level course. A few months later, and we did a world map. This was even more of a disaster. I'd guess the average was 5 countries identified. I got all of them, but that's mostly because I'm a geography nerd, heh. Most people got Canada, Mexico, South Africa (simply because it's the south of Africa) Japan and Italy. Kids in the class with Brazilian friends (including my friends) usually got Brazil. That was it. Our Senators? Their congressman? No point in even asking. They wouldn't have known. High school was about if you got the A, not about what you knew, and it was rather depressing, to say the least.

    Mas eu tenho certeza que se eu não morrer, nada nessa vida vai me surpreender.

    by bozepravde15 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:10:41 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for sharing that - I hand out (18+ / 0-)

      blank outline maps - of the continents - sigh.
      Geography has gone down the tubes.

      Even Europe (except for Italy) is unknown territory.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:14:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It makes me sad that people don't know stuff (6+ / 0-)

        like that. It's partly lack of knowledge like this that helps bad people, like the Bush admin. to get away with invasions and bombings of countries, because, well if I don't know what an EYE-RACK is, why should I care if we bomb it? My city is very Italian, even the few Brazilian immigrants here are often Italian, but the only reason they know Italy is because it looks like a boot, not because of any sort of knowledge about the country itself. Maps have always been a strong suit for me, I never ever get lost, but the lack of geographic knowledge these days is so bad, it's inexcusable.

        Mas eu tenho certeza que se eu não morrer, nada nessa vida vai me surpreender.

        by bozepravde15 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:24:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was almost as bad (6+ / 0-)

          back when I was in school.  We didn't have to do a world map, but I ran into opinions like this:

          "I've never been out of PA, and I can't imagine a better place to live."

          Face, meet palm.

          I was gob-smacked.

          By then, my only foreign country was a visit to Canada, but my parents had also taken me across the country; and more regionally, to VA and D.C. and MD and NYC -- repeated visits to D.C. (Smithsonian), VA (Colonial Williamsburg), MD (cousins and also Baltimore) and NYC (class trips, mostly).

          I could imagine many better places to live.

          That girl is probably now a woman who votes GOP b/c she cannot imagine a better party to vote for...against her own self-interest.

          Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

          by Youffraita on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:57:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Valuing your community (3+ / 0-)

            Isn't a bad thing. Some people are more adventuress than others.  Loving your home, or hometown, and feeling comfortable there isn't a bad thing.  Thinking it's better than other places, and not just a place you're more comfortable with is where the problem comes in.

            I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:27:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Maybe it is Better... (3+ / 0-)

              because they value family and friends more than physical surroundings.  If we all moved to the "your better" place, it would get really crowded.

              There is nothig wrong for different people to have different values.

              •  You don't get it, do you? (8+ / 0-)

                Someone who has never been anywhere else, who has never seen how the Hopi live, for example, or visited New Orleans, or Kentucky, or even D.C. deciding -- on the basis of no other sample that where they live is THE BEST, simply b/c it's all they know and they can't imagine anything else --

                OMG, that is SO wrong on SO many different levels.

                a)  Travel broadens your experience.  You might decide, after having actually BEEN somewhere else, that you'd prefer to be wherever you grew up...but you can't base that decision on never having traveled further than Wal-Mart.

                b)  Travel is dangerous.  You might meet nice people with different opinions.  You might (gasp!) meet some liberals!  Travel broadens your thinking: you can no longer jumble everyone ELSE into the Other category.

                c)  Travel expands your soul.  I don't know how many here know of Pioneer Woman and her website (Google Pioneer Woman.com) but a couple of years ago, her older kids went to MesoAmerica to help out & also tour the region.  PW blogged about it...and about how her girls' natural empathy was expanded by seeing conditions elsewhere...and making friends there, too.

                Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

                by Youffraita on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:56:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I also think kids in grade school should (10+ / 0-)

                  be taught anthropology - to help broaden their perspectives on other cultures.  

                  "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

                  by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:00:32 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  heh: I sort of agree, Denise (5+ / 0-)

                    (Great post, BTW) but think little kids would probably have trouble pronouncing anthropology...much less spelling it.

                    Still...there was this old book I read in elementary school...it was about Peru.  Lots of pictures of people in traditional clothes, and llamas, and stuff...I didn't even know the word anthropology back then, but it effected in me a lifelong (as yet unfulfilled) desire to go to Peru someday.

                    My point?  I think little kids need MORE, not fewer, enrichment classes.  We had art, and music, and YES, I think more multicultural studies directed at grades 2-6 would engage their interest more than "teaching to the test" EVER will.

                    Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

                    by Youffraita on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:10:48 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Unfotunately, (0+ / 0-)

                    You'd get stuck with a curriculum that is forced to pretend that sacrificing a child every morning to ensure that the sun comes up is morally equivalent to one that doesn't do that.

                    Or, as is more likely and worse, one that ignores any mention of human atrocity at all, for fear of giving offense to someone and then having to be defended in court.

                    Any public school anthropology curriculum would be neutered into uselessness, in order to satisfy the fears of the public officials who buy it and the career bureaucrats who have to answer to them.

                    You'd have to call it "Creative Youth Anthropology" and refer to it by acronym... because that's what everybody would be doing.

                    --Shannon

                    "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
                    "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

                    by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:14:15 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  That doesn't jibe with my experience (0+ / 0-)

                      my semi-rural public high school in the Midwest had anthropology - I took 2 semesters. Like any other field of study, anthropologists follow basic research and study principles any kid can understand. I don't remember much discussion of the relative correctness of anyone's views, although that probably would have improved the classes. (I  do remember lots of videos of very floppy breasts on native women of different cultures, which instilled in me a lifetime respect for the bra! Probably not the intended lesson)

                  •  I agree. We didn't study anthropology (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Denise Oliver Velez

                    in my high school but we did petition for a current events class.

                    The name of the class was "Global Awareness" and one of the nice things about the class was that Ms. Meinke would often give us supplemental materials to accompany the lessons. A lot of the supplemental materials had what I now know to be an anthropological component...

                    ...in other words,we learned to look at the world and current events from the eyes of whomever we were studying.

                    •  don't people see National Geographic any more? n/t (0+ / 0-)

                      "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

                      by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 09:35:52 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                •  That's elitist. (0+ / 0-)

                  Travel is expensive, looking down on people who can't afford it speaks worse of you than of them.

                  As for travel broadening your thinking, I've met plenty of people who will travel across the world but not across the tracks, who have no trouble keeping their mind in the cocoon no matter how many places they visit.

                  There is a value in being content with your life, and not needing more.  One can spend their whole life wanting more things money can buy or one can be fulfilled being surrounded by people who love them, and doing right by their family.

                  Everywhere you travel do you think "how quaint, the locals here don't go far?"

                  I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                  by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:33:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  but it's somewhat true (0+ / 0-)

                    I live more or less in the same region Youffraita and the attitude they describe is prevalent.

                    it's extremely provincial here. very little ever changes. people complain (rightly) about jobs going overseas but then attack any type of initative that attempts to bring them back or attract business to the region. the Border area of PA/MD is only seeing any type of 'growth' because it's a suburb of Washington DC now, but eventually that will fall apart.

                    But seriously, people here don't ever leave home. I mentioned up thread I live in a valley north of Harrisburg. Harrisburg is too far for some of these folks. Hell, the other town upvalley is too far. It's only 5 miles! You seem to think people who travel a lot are close-minded to their home-bases, well people where I live won't even travel across the damn tracks. I mean if they don't even want to know about the people in the next town over, who they're likely related to(!), then how can they be somehow better then me, when I've traveled all over the United States, read books other than the Bible and Twilight, and watch television other than Jersey Shore? Elitist? That's an insult I'm willing to own.

                    I guess valuing close relationships with family is nice but I don't know. the families I interact with here where I live don't really seem to like each other, but really like to hype up how close they are.

                    "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth "I prefer to be a total bitch about my science"--me

                    by terrypinder on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 09:05:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I'm not saying all people who travel (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      SouthernBelleNC49

                      are close-minded or elitist, only that one can travel and be close minded.  You can't buy open mindedness with airplane tickets. What I object to is judging others because they can't afford to travel and are content with their lives.

                      Putting someone down because they can't afford to do something you can afford to do, for being happy with their life without that, is elitist in the worst way.  I'm not denying that travel can be a great and enriching experience, I'm just saying that it isn't required to have a meaningful life.

                      I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

                      by Futuristic Dreamer on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 10:37:25 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  I've known a lot of Republican women (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jeannew, Dretutz, AustinSF, BYw

            who know exactly which side of their toast gets buttered.  As long as hubby is pulling down the big bucks, and they don't have to worry, they'd vote for Mussolini.  I'm surprised the Texas GOP hasn't advocated for same day voter registration at beauty spas and cosmetic surgery clinics.

            "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upwardly mobile." Hunter S. Thompson

            by Keith930 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:16:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  PA is wack man (0+ / 0-)

            this state is like, you either move away and never, ever  come back (and I mean you move continents away) or you move only 100 miles (if even that---people in the valley i live in have never left for anything. Harrisburg is too far for them) and stay.

            (I sadly did the latter. heh. It's a pretty state, for the most part, and despite all the ruinous resource extraction, but the politics leave something to be desired.)

            "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth "I prefer to be a total bitch about my science"--me

            by terrypinder on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 08:52:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Hello Boise, Idaho (3+ / 0-)

          I don't know why I had to know all the states and their capitals when I was in Grade 8 in Canada in 1968. We had to memorize the US map and put the names to it at least twice. (My mother was upset that I was tested twice on the same material.)

          Anyway, we live in a just-in-time information era. I'm not arguing in favor of current practice. Denise has made a strong case that civic education should be improved.

          I once had a professor of finance who really valued computation. He was a PhD from Harvard who was an expert in computation. What would he think of the situation today? Would he still encourage people to solve mortgage/annuity problems with a pencil, a formula and a calculator? I don't know. But why do so when the electronic spreadsheet has been invented?

          In the future do you think anyone will be without their version of the web connected phone?

          •  One thing I've learned, (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BoxNDox, auapplemac, fhcec, BYw, paul2port

            after going through a top-25 engineering program, is that manual calculation and lots of repetition are critical to really grokking how a process works.

            You have to understand all of the pieces and parts and how they interact before you can think usefully about any subject.

            For example, if you have not only memorized, but internalized, the differences between exponential, quadratic, and linear functions, you cannot reason about the charts and graphs you see on the evening news. Without the boring, basic stuff, they become visual noise rather than representations of information.

            Rote learning matters.

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:21:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  At the University of Toronto (0+ / 0-)

              in the 1970's the rote memory engineers called it "skool" and called themselves the "Brute Force" committee.

              I am not arguing against learning first principles, just that some of the things we valued in the past won't be helpful in the future.

              When I was at U of T Harold Bloom was a professor there. He argues in favor of the Western Canon of literature. Conservatives have picked this up as a strike against progressive thought arguing it is the work of dead white men.

              So, Leftie, I understand about 90% of all engineers who have ever lived in the history of civilization are alive today. There are some who say about half of what is taught in engineering is obsolete within 5 years.

              That's the problem with education today. And I say that as an educator.

        •  We had maps hanging in our classrooms in (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fhcec, Denise Oliver Velez, BYw

          elementary school!

          If you had the least bit of curiosity, you couldn't help absorbing the visual cue sitting in front of you.

          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 07:43:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  we even had geography class every grade (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez, auapplemac

            in elementary school.

            We studies countries all over the world, their maps, their products (exports, imports), their customs, and so forth.

            I'm sure what we studied and learned would seem laughable now, but at least there was the attempt, along with the study of government, and understanding of how government worked. That was in fourth grade, for the first time, when we visited our state capitol, saw the legislative chambers, and learned about the courts.

            We also spent hours learning about all the counties of Texas, rivers, major cities, and major geographical regions (Davis Mountains, Hill Country, Houston and Galveston, Dallas, Rio Grande Valley, etc.) and putting them in place on a huge relief floor map that got wiped clean every year so the next class could start fresh. We learned about trade, export, import, products, and so forth.

            We memorized the states, the nations, and their exports/imports, weather, government style.

            compared to now, they worked us hard!

            "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

            by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 09:52:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I think I was in seventh grade when (9+ / 0-)

        we did the maps thing - all the countries, continent by continent.  Also the major cities and rivers.  Keep trying - every time they are exposed to it a little more will stick.  At least you are plowing the field in the hope that seeds will be planted and take sprout.

        “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

        by ahumbleopinion on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:38:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Don't blame today's students. With the tectonic (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew, BYw

        plates always moving, Europe is were it was when we were students.  No wonder they cannot find Europe.

        And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

        by MrJersey on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:57:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I thought I was the only one who did that! (9+ / 0-)

        Once and future college instructor here.  I handed out blank outline maps during World Geography 101 and Intro to Geography 101 tests.  Everyone in my class learned the continents, the basics of climate, geology (plate tectonics), ecosystems, astronomy (solstice and equinox, the moon and tides), the names of oceans and seas, major rivers, and the major nation-states - and that's besides the usual economic/trade/demographics stuff of modern geography courses.  No one seems to realize that physical geography isn't taught, or taught effectively, in high schools anymore.  I was teaching these men and women things they should have learned as sixth graders.  One day, when the students were complaining about the work load, I lost my temper and said: "This is high school material.  You should know this already!  What in god's name were they teaching you in high school?"

        For the history classes I taught, I had to give background lectures on the history and science they should have known.  I took a page from Carl Sagan and created a twenty minute history of the universe, from the Big Bang up to the beginning of history, simply because most of my students didn't have a clue as to origins of the Earth, human evolution, or the difference between pre-history and history.

        Every last bit of this, from physical geography to our paleolithic hunter-gatherer existence, I learned in a public school in rural Kansas.

        My apologies to the high school teachers present, and I realize the curriculum and textbooks are beyond your control, but  I have to reiterate:  WTF are you teaching them?

        "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

        by rbird on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:09:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  what are they teaching? (6+ / 0-)

          the pablum needed to pass the latest, obligatory, standardized achievement test.

          •  So make the tests harder. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BoxNDox, auapplemac, fhcec

            Sorry, but "teaching to the test" is a good thing...

            If the tests are designed to cover the material the students are supposed to be learning "teaching to the test" reduces to "teaching the material."

            Virtually every class I took in college, the Navy, and the private sector was taught this way.

            You get taught, you do some practical stuff that confirms what you've learned form the instructor directly, and you take a standardized test. ("Standardized" meaning that everyone takes the same test, the same evaluation criteria are applied to each answer, and the questions have, as much as possible, defined correct answers.)

            And the tests have to matter to the students. Expecting a child, or even an adult, to put forth full effort on something for which the outcome effects them not at all is asking for failure. You'll never win betting on that kind of altruism.

            So, if we're evaluating the performance of teachers based on test results, we need to likewise be evaluating students on that basis. Of course, any school district that tried that would be pummeled by the backlash from all of the obsessive yuppie diaper-sniffers that would be forced to hear that their precious little Adrian wasn't going to get into Harvard because he had to repeat the 2nd grade.

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:32:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)
          No one seems to realize that physical geography isn't taught, or taught effectively, in high schools anymore.

          Grammar isn't taught either, beyond the basics of subject and verb agreement in tense and voice... and it shows.

          If we played a drinking game where each time a television commentator/anchorperson/talking head didn't use a possessive pronoun with a present participle, we'd all be comatose.

          They don't teach things like the seven types of sentence and how they are constructed; they don't teach how to diagram sentences, etc... and even those whose job it is to know better... like teachers and newspaper editors... don't.

          Sorry... it's a peev of mine...

          Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

          by awesumtenor on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 06:44:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And now you know why everyone hates grammar nazis (0+ / 0-)

            Colloquial English is just as muddled as history is.  That's because it's an organic, living language.  English isn't mathematics, it's meant to change and respond, alter and grow.  Actually, even mathematics isn't "mathematics" anymore and hasn't been for a while, what with all the bizarro non-euclidean geometries available for study, all the wild things number theory's up to.

            and I don't use "whom" anymore either.

            Nice attempt at humiliation.  Fuck you and your pet peeves. Go find another outlet for your passive-aggressive behavior.

            "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

            by rbird on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 02:14:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  project much? (0+ / 0-)

              I wasn't talking about you; I wasn't even talking about anyone commenting on this diary or any member of this forum.

              Switch to decaf, bub; or one of these days you're going to spout off to the wrong one and your mouth will have written a check that your ass cant cash.

              Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

              by awesumtenor on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 04:55:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  It's not just that, though (9+ / 0-)

        I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until I was in college. I was in an English class, and the teacher asked us to break up into groups to discuss various paragraphs from newspapers.

        I remember ours, almost (but not quite) verbatim.

        It went something like this:

        "When Senator Bluefargle was asked about adding another face to Mount Rushmore, he responded 'Would you paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa?'"

        Now, I'm betting most people here understand quite clearly what the senator is saying - that adding another face to Mount Rushmore would be like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Why would you deface a masterpiece, or something as historic as Mount Rushmore?

        And here's the rub: several of the people in my group, in a college English class, thought the senator in question was actually saying that he'd like to see a mustache painted on Da Vinci's masterpiece.

        That shocked me. Until that day, I hadn't realized that people could misunderstand something that simple... but there it was. I actually had to try to explain - and some still didn't get it. Or didn't want to.

        I see that all the time, now. People read what someone else writes, and interpret it through the lens of their own bias, or experience, or misunderstanding.

        I quoted that paragraph to a right-winger some time back, and he was indignant that the senator wanted to paint a mustache on "an American treasure" like the Mona Lisa.

        I couldn't help but laugh, but it made me shake my head. Unreal.

        We had a class in seventh or eighth grade that I think everyone should have... I don't remember what the title of the class was, but we were taught to brainstorm, to think critically, to solve puzzles and to consider logical solutions to problems. It was a terrific class, and I enjoyed it greatly. It helped me a lot over the years, because when I had a problem, I could think it through, and consider the possibilities much more readily.

        We need MORE of that. Much more, obviously.

        "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

        by Diogenes2008 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:14:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As Professor Digory Kirke (5+ / 0-)

          said in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

          "What are they teaching the children in these schools?"

          Critical thinking skills, such as what you got in 7th/8th grade, are desperately needed as we need to come up with solutions to the increasingly complex issues facing us...but it's the last thing we're going to find in the schools.

          Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

          by Cali Scribe on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:26:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You Have At Least One Future Civics Minded Person (5+ / 0-)

        growing up.  My 3 year old grandson knows all the states and their capitals.  He knows them on a map, individual shapes and on the phone he can match states and capitals and likes to quiz me to catch me in a mistake.

        I learned my states and capitals in 5th grade.

        Parents are the first line of teaching.

        •  Give me the ability to think (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sister Havana, k8dd8d

          over the ability to fill out memorized facts on a map any day.

          Why does a 3 year old need to know (other than in a general sense) where exactly a state is? He's growing up in a world where his phone will always have that information.

          Teach kids critical thinking. How to evaluate ideas. How to look at a news story and research how accurate it is. How to read a science story about a research study and understand the methodology.

          I'm not opposed to having a shared base of memorized facts, but I find the media obsession with non-problems like whether I can find new Hampshire on a map tedious. We have a lot bigger civics problem than geography in our country (and the idiots seem to be well represented in our adult citizen ranks; no need to finger point at the kids.)

          •  You need both facts and the ability to think (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fhcec, BYw

            critically.

            You have to know the facts in order to have the material to evaluate.

            Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

            by auapplemac on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:04:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  sorry, but that's a stupid human (0+ / 0-)

            trick.  being able to spout off something from memory that means nothing to him is just pleasing the adults.

            that's not to say it won't someday foster an interest in him, but seriously, right now, it's meaningless.

            I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one

            by k8dd8d on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:21:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  if you have to look up all the facts about some (0+ / 0-)

            question in order to be able to think about it, you are lost from the beginning.

            It's like not learning number facts. You can always look them up, but how can you think critically if you have to look up every addition every time you want to consider the City budget, or your budget, or the price of gas.

            It's critical to critical thinking to have a mastery of the facts that pertain to the question at hand. Otherwise, it's thinking in a vacuum, and what's the point of that? It's called dominionism.

            And if citizens don't know where New Hampshire is and important facts about its history and government and the people who settled there and migrated there, then it's much more difficult to understand how its politics works and what it means that it's one of the first two states in the Presidential primaries, even tho' it's absolutely no longer representative of the American population.  

            "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

            by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:06:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  True, but (0+ / 0-)

              I have two kids in public school and from here, there is no lack of facts in the curriculum. Memorization is easy to teach and easy to measure. If my kids don't remember where New Hampshire is, it won't be because they didn't memorize it!

              I agree that you need both information at hand and the ability to analyze information to make good decisions. Clearly, we were also screwing up on one or both of those 20 or 30 years ago since it's not today's schoolchildren who voted us into the conditions we are in now! :-)

        •  I learned states and capitals in 5th grade too. (0+ / 0-)

          We also had to memorize state nicknames.

          Yes we can! Yes we did! Yes we will!

          by Sister Havana on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 07:19:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  My kids and I play a bedtime game (4+ / 0-)

        called "Around the World in 80 days."  Basically I make them pick three places on the world map on their wall and weave a story involving some regularly appearing characters passing through each locale (usually involves some battle or danger involving that locale based on history--they're boys). Their object is to get around the entire world to save their friend (trapped in the Great Pyramid or a prisoner of Montezuma or something like that) within a certain time frame.   It really works to teach them geography.

        •  fabulous... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez, Dartagnan

          My grandson has a map of the world above his bed. I wonder if he's played a similar game before he sleeps at night. I will ask him and suggest it to him, if he has not.

          "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

          by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:07:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Half A Century It Was The Same (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        auapplemac

        I graduated from high school in 1956 in Texas—yes, that place. I never took a civics or government course and none were offered. My senior year I did take a European history course during which one exam included a blank world map on which we were to write in the names of certain nations, seas, rivers, and other geographical or political features, all of which had some bearing on world history but especially European history. I aced the map part but the class as a whole scored about 30% with some getting only one or two correct out of about 25 items. And that was a class of college bound kids, all but two of whom, me and one other, stayed in Texas to this day, and probably remain blissfully ignorant of the world beyond the Sabine and Red Rivers (they mostly separate Texas from Louisiana and Oklahoma).

        •  well, a lot of my TX classmates (0+ / 0-)

          class of '58 stayed in TX, but many of us - maybe half - got out as fast as we could.

          The one who lives closest to me in CA should have stayed there tho' - she'd have been happier among the ultra conservatives that she has become.

          Not sure why - a little creepy, to be sure.

          We studied geography intensively in elementary school, but did have to review maps, I'm sure in high school history and government classes. It wasn't a big thing for me, so I don't remember.

          Our school's major failure was our math program - girls didn't have to have math, more than for shopping and keeping the family budget, I'm guessing, and that's why our math curriculum was so weak.

          "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

          by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:13:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  welcome to NCLB in action folks..N/T (4+ / 0-)

      Silence = Consent. Don't be silent any longer

      by doingbusinessas on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:15:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I saw a web video where (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

      they asked a bunch of students at the University of Washington "what country lies North of the USA" almost 40% couldn't answer this. Americans score second worse in the developed world (only behind Russia) on world geography.

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:49:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd probably have trouble (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

      with that world map -- there've been so many changes in the past several years, especially with the breakup of the former Soviet Union and what's been going on in Africa, that it's hard to keep track. (For that matter, I'd have trouble identifying the provinces in Canada, with the exception of maybe BC, Ontario, and Yukon.)

      Kudos to you.

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:18:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and before that, independence in Africa (0+ / 0-)

        I've never learned all the nations in Africa, and have to do it now for a class I'm taking in "retirement" school.

        It will be fun and satisfying not to be ignorant on that dimension any more ...

        "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

        by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:16:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  as long as their self esteem was nurtured (5+ / 0-)

      along the way, who cares  if they can name the 50 states or not?  

      That's what happened to education in this country.

      "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upwardly mobile." Hunter S. Thompson

      by Keith930 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:50:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And you would not believe (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Keith930, BoxNDox, auapplemac, k8dd8d

        the reaction you get if you point out that the whole idea that high self-esteem correlates with academic performance isn't actually true, and that the generation of children raised under this assumption, (mostly middle-class to lower-upper-class white and Asian kids, at least out West,) are proving to be, in the main, a bunch of self-centered, narcissistic assholes.

        Which is exactly what you'd expect someone to become if you spent their entire lives telling them how wonderful they are and never let them fail at anything.

        But if you bring that up, you get the same reaction you get if you tell a group of suburbanite parents that no child has ever been given poisoned Halloween candy by a stranger. Which is true, by the way.

        --Shannon

        "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
        "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

        by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:39:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Couldn't agree with you more, Leftie. Sorry to (0+ / 0-)

          say that this self esteem garbage was promoted by progressives. That along with the "relevance" nonsense.

          Just another touchy feely idea that helped lower our educational standards.

          Progressives will win when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

          by auapplemac on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:12:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well, in answer to Teacher, leave those kids alone (0+ / 0-)

            There's bound to be a middle path between the abuse and the abject neglect that passes for a self-esteem based curriculum.

            "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

            by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:19:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  yes, x10000 (0+ / 0-)

        I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one

        by k8dd8d on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:23:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Can't have a democracy without INFORMED (18+ / 0-)

    and EDUCATED citizens

    Which may be why we really don't have one anymore... we have the ILLUSION of a Republic, an ILLUSION of choice.....

    Too many voters are readily manipulated by hot button issues - clever 'targeted marketing'  that has little to do with real concerns and issues.  'Guns, Gays and God' have distracted millions from real economic issues and accountability.

    Big money funds 'astroturf' movements that fool people into voting against their own interests - believing they are following some independent populist program....

    Critical, independent thinking is sorely lacking.

    We are becoming far too distracted - and manipulated by - meaningless 'symbolic'  rhetoric and imagery.  FLAGS, FLAGS, FLAGS... the cross, Jesus.... Lewis was right - Fascism is coming - wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross - and the people are applauding it, welcoming their new masters with open arms, selling themselves willingly into serfdom.   How many people now join the military because they lack any other options - politicians pose with soldiers all the time yet treat them as cannon fodder and do little for those that survive the slaughter.  "We support out Troops" - even thought he causes we send them to fight for are unjust?  even though we let contractors build facilities that kill them?  even though we ignore their wounds - physical and spiritual - when they return?

  •  All through school, I only remember... (7+ / 0-)

    civics being taught to prep for the constitution test, which was mandatory to graduate from high school.  I remember not being interested much, only memorizing dates, as I have a gift with remembering numbers and dates.  Other than that, I never thought about politics at all, and that was a common story I'm sure.

    "Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far, so I will." - President Obama, 9/23/11

    by BarackStarObama on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:12:44 PM PDT

    •  My kids went to good public schools (10+ / 0-)

      and colleges and were exposed to civics, history, etc.  However at their age, to some extent, hormones where more in control of their interests than their brains were.  I have stayed on them and now as they reach their mid twenties they are beginning to see the need to be politically active.

      I keep telling them, it is your future.  What kind of a country do you want to live in?  It is up to you to make that happen.

      “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

      by ahumbleopinion on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:43:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right - it takes a village (5+ / 0-)

        Good schools with good teachers, good parenting, a community that reminds their members of important events and why we celebrate them.  I visit lots of public schools in my area and they do teach government and US history and world civilizations/cultures.  I wish they would do more though and it is very important that parents reinforce what the kids get in school.  As a college instructor, I'm often dismayed at how much they "forget" - most of my students could not pass or answer most of the questions on the US citizenship test required of all incoming immigrants who want to belong to this country.  They do, however, always know who is performing on Dancing with the Stars or American Idol.... sigh.... There is always more work to be done.

        "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." A. Einstein

        by moose67 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:02:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Finding something that they can connect to (0+ / 0-)

          personally helps immensely.  My daughter who has a teaching degree, but no full time job, was galvanized by the SB 5 issue in OH.  She is already berating all her friends to Vote NO on Issue 2.

          “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.” Alan Grayson

          by ahumbleopinion on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 09:03:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm happy to report that my brother bought my son (18+ / 0-)

    ...the Schoolhouse Rock DVD, which includes every SHR episode, including the later ones (I didn't even know until we played it that they were still cranking them out as recently as 2009).

    My 5-year old became obsessed with SHR last spring and watched them over & over again; he now has his multiplication tables memorized up through 12x12 and knows the basic concepts of civics thanks to the America Rock series.

  •  At least my kids k-8 does (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, poco, jeannew

    emphasize HR and has some civics taught in every grade..  

    Silence = Consent. Don't be silent any longer

    by doingbusinessas on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:13:00 PM PDT

  •  The problem is endemic (17+ / 0-)

    and false information is propogated by too many sources.  Look at how easy the false notion that Dems needed 60 votes in the senate to pass anything was readily embraced by the Dem caucus, the news channels, and even many around these parts.  

    As a high school student in the 70s, I was shocked when I learned that civil rights laws did not "protect" blacks or women, but all of us.  It was very popular then (and persists) to view civil rights legislation as granting "special" rights or status to members of minority groups.  I have seen this false notion propogated on those horrible legal show, like LA Law and Boston Practice (or whatever it was called).  I know you will say, well, what do you expect? but this is how people's ignorance of the law grows.

    IMO, the biggest misunderstanding is the notion that the constitution "grants" us certain rights (which the right  finds bothersome at best), when, in fact, the bill of rights is an expression of those rights that exist above the law, that no law can abridge.  It is quite profound, but rarely taught.  (And, of course, runs in conflict with the notion that non-Americans are not entitled to the same rights.)

    Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox.

    •  stay on your soapbox :) n/t (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, rbird, jeannew, fhcec

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:25:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just scoot over, I'll join you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew, mayim

      on that soapbox -- I want to scream and throw stuff at my TV when someone starts prattling about granting "special rights" to GLBTs, whether it's talking about the lifting of DADT, support for marriage equality, or just making sure people don't lose their jobs because of who they love.

      Now to try to end the wars we ask our gay and straight soldiers to fight. -- Chris Hayes

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:30:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would you believe that in my small home town (0+ / 0-)

        newpaper in NC, a poll released by our local private university said that North Carolinians do not favor a change to the state constitution to ban same sex marriage.  It will be put forth for a vote in the next election thanks to Republicans.  They over rode our Dem Governor Perdue's veto.

        Perdue is the only person in North Carolina that keeps the Republican Senate and House under control.   The first time that has been the case in many years.  

        Hopefully there is coming a time when those "special rights" will not be so special, but will be "unalienable" rights for all.

    •  why we need 60 votes for everything (0+ / 0-)

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      I am a volunteer for Bob Massie for MA-Sen

      by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:02:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, but why didn't they vote (0+ / 0-)

        to get rid of the 60 vote requirement for cloture after the election when they had the opportunity to change the rules.

        that's what I didn't understand.

        "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

        by fhcec on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:28:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry, don't agree (0+ / 0-)

        Of course, I understand the cloture rules.  But most people do not.  If people were informed that this so-called 60 vote requirement is an issue only because elected Democrats will prevent their party from bringing their platform to a vote, people might start pointing fingers.  Of course, our elected officials do not want this.

        Frankly, I find your position to be counterproductive to effecting reform.  If you accept the false notion that we need 60 senators who all agree on the legislation at issue, I think that promotes a false understanding of how the senate works.  I remember when Maddow challenged Tom Harkin on this point on her show.  He was shocked that she would call out the equivocation re 60 votes.  I lost all respect for Harkin after that.  Him and his starter house metaphor.  Yeah, well where are the new rooms that you promised, Tom?

        •  that is part of what I am doing (0+ / 0-)
          informing people that 60 votes are required only because elected Democrats will prevent their party from bringing their platform to a vote

          so they will stop saying crap like "Obama had control of both houses of Congress and he still didn't [fill in the blank with your preferred issue]"

          He never had "control" of the Senate and anybody who thought he did has no idea how the Senate works, so I get on my Civics 101 soapbox every now and then.

          But apparently it still hasn't sunk in for a lot of folks.

          "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
          I am a volunteer for Bob Massie for MA-Sen

          by TrueBlueMajority on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 06:29:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, I see, all in defense of Obama (0+ / 0-)

            Surely, your political science education taught you the dynamics of the political game.  Using Dem intransigence to excuse Obama's rejection of Dem principles is self-serving and, in my opinion, reflective of ignorance than a desire to bring light.  I apologize for the harshness of my language, but I was really taken aback by where you are coming from.

  •  My husband teaches 8th grade US history ... (14+ / 0-)

    but the school system has gotten so messed up, that now his job performance review has nothing to do with any kind of social studies standards.   It's completely based on how well his students can read and write.  

    So the purpose of social studies from the district's point, is that it's only used as another method of teaching reading and writing.

    The math and language arts teachers receive bonuses if testing shows improvement on their numbers.

    Social studies and science however, don't have an opportunity for bonuses, but yet their entire performance is based on math testing results ( for science teachers) and reading/writing test results ( for social studies ).

    And... on top of all that, No Child Left Behind says that only teachers can teach a subject in the field where they have been licensed.

    My husband is not a licensed language arts teacher.

    So that's probably a law suit waiting to happen.

    ( This is in Denver Public Schools )

  •  State Dept of Education in Indiana cut Teaching of (12+ / 0-)

    Governmrnt from required H.S. courses this year with the arguement more in-class time was needed for students to pass required standardized tests. So in Indiana the only citizens whe will know how to contact their Senator or Representative or understand how a bill becomes a law will be those who go through the legal immigrant classes to become an American Citizen .

  •  One other point (9+ / 0-)

    the fact that so many do not know who their elected representatives are should be viewed as an indictment of those officials- especially reps in urban areas where the district is geographically very small.  The fact that they are essentially absent from public view is in part why they are not known.  Elected reps should go to the schools to speak to students, greet people at local events, and hold town hall meetings.  I can say that I have never had an opportunity to meet my elected officials, even when I volunteered for their campaigns.  

  •  Sandra Day O'Connor teaching civics. (9+ / 0-)

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:17:58 PM PDT

  •  Great idea! (6+ / 0-)

    I have to wonder, though, how the political class in our society would react to an informed populace.  One would think they might find it a frightening notion.

    •  we need to be frightened - and start (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JC from IA, here4tehbeer, jeannew, fhcec

      doing more of the teaching.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:30:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps a starting point should be to define the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jeannew

        legitimate role of government in our society.  There seems to be a great deal of confusion about this in these days of "free market uber alles."

        I realize that teaching civics from the perspective of "Why do we have government?" may seem like an old-fashioned approach, but I wonder if that basic question is being answered for students?

        •  Back to Western Civ..... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JC from IA, jeannew, terrypinder

          I explained this basic question by talking about Egypt and the pyramids.  Let's see if I can remember how it went.  I lost all my course notes in a tornado a few years ago.  Giant binders full of lecture notes, nuked when the house was destroyed......

          Most impressive, but they weren't just the monuments to a particular Pharaoh's ego, or just an expression of the religious zeal of a people.  Their brooding, massive presence crouched on the desert announced to everyone who saw them just what a united people can do.  The nation of Egypt built the pyramid, not with slavery, but with manpower recruited from throughout the nation.  It is a statement of the power of community, of the united power of humans when they come together for a common goal.  This single fact echoed throughout the ancient world.  It is, in my opinion, the greatest single achievement of the Egyptians, the power of the nation-state revealed at last.

          Or something to that effect.

          "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

          by rbird on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:48:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ummm... (0+ / 0-)

            The pyramids were not built with freely-given or freely-sold labor.

            They may not have been slaves in the 19th-Century Confederate sense, but many of them were property, (which is the essence of slavery,) and none of them could quit and sell their labor to someone else.

            That despots can build neat things doesn't make them not despots, and it isn't an argument for totalitarianism. Even if free people don't build pyramids, which isn't proven, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be free.

            If it comes to it, I'll take the freedom and do without the pyramids. If Homo Sapiens has any value at all, we are too valuable to be property.

            --Shannon

            "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
            "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

            by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 05:43:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nope (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terrypinder

              You could call them draftees if you want, or corvee labor, from different regions of Egypt, called up to labor on the pyramids.  But not slaves by any stretch of the imagination.  Archaeologists found the worker settlements near the Great Pyramid.  Many were skilled workers.  They received medical attention when they were injured, they were very well fed.  The talented among them were promoted.  Huh, government health care in ancient Egypt?

              Organization on an almost modern scale was used to supply the workers with raw materials, house them, and organize the work effectively.  There were even competitions between work gangs.  Evidence exists that at least some workers viewed the construction of the Great Pyramid as a holy act similar to the masons who constructed the cathedrals of medieval Europe.  We do know that at least some workers had rights and protested when those rights were overlooked or abused.

              History isn't nice, it isn't ideologically pure.  Egypt was at that time an authoritarian theocratic state.  Democracy wasn't invented until the Athenians, several thousand years after the pyramids were constructed.  Every government in existence at that time was dictatorial, or theocratic, or monarchic, or aristocratic.

              I'm not a apologist for history.  It is what it is, messy and inconsistent.  We take what we can from it.  In this instance, the Egyptians were the first to demonstrate the power of a national government.  They could have built something else, just as the cathedral builders could have constructed entertainment parks.  But they didn't, did they?

              You were born during the 20th Century, just like I was.  Our culture murdered around 120 million people during that century, and that's a low estimate.  60 million in World War 2 alone.  You judge them harshly.  How harshly would they judge us?  There was no Auschwitz at Thebes.

              "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

              by rbird on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 07:19:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It's interesting to me (12+ / 0-)

    I remember civics lessons in grade school.  I don't remember any in high school at all.  I had history and political science courses, but nothing at all about civics.  They taught the structure and framework of government, but from a political history, not from a "this is how you engage with society."  

    In middle school, I remember we did an assignment about a real word issue in which the police and firefighters were going on strike because the wanted better wages and working conditions and the question to the class was "should firefighters and police be allowed to strike."  I learned a lot more from that 5th grade lesson than I remember learning from my high school poli sci courses.  They actually asked our opinions about civic issues in ways that I didn't see again until college.

    "The first rule of pillow fight club is do not talk about pillow fight club." --Keith Olbermann

    by Julie Waters on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:21:13 PM PDT

  •  My husband taught 11th grade American History (11+ / 0-)

    and I guarantee you that his kids knew about our government and the labor movement, the civil rights movement, etc.. unlike the right wing republican teacher across the hall who refused to teach about the women's movement, among other things.  

  •  As a high school social science teacher (13+ / 0-)

    I find that students don't care.  They literally do not connect world events to themselves unless there is a personal reason.

    I think this is less a problem of our schools, as it is a process of growing up.  Until these kids experience the world, they simply don't care.  And they certainly don't understand the deeper relationships between a piece of legislation that restricts union rights with the larger democratic process.  These things take some personal experience to really understand.

    I see my place as building a foundation upon which students can later see connections, but even seniors are just starting to build a political model in their heads.  It takes a lot of information to see the complex relationships, and trying to get through the fog of everyday reality (parties, pheromones, avoiding bullys, cloths, pimples) is extraordinarily difficult.  Showing shocking documentaries helps, but even then, seeing the complex relationships between policy and outcomes is often reduced to simple slogans.

    As such, I am not surprised by the problems the diarist is experiencing, and I am not sure that there is really much that can be done.  Getting kids to vote is one thing, understanding that vote takes a level of world experience that most kids simply have not had yet.

    •  I'm also a teacher...and, I have to say... (7+ / 0-)

      while there is certainly truth to what you say, you seem awful jaded and cynical.

      Kids that age often pretend not to care...but believe me...they care.  They just won't tell YOU they care.  

      Try showing fewer shocking documentaries...and do more to connect their own personal angst to the larger world.

      Never forget...they feel powerless at that age and they blame adults, that includes you.

      Find ways to empower them and some might begin to trust you.

      •  I think you missed my point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

        I am trying as hard as I can to get these kids up to speed, but I am also pointing out the obstacles I am facing everyday in class.

        Yes, they care about the world, but getting them to care about obscure policy issues is HARD, because they don't get it yet.

        I could spend my time getting them to repeat propaganda (which is what my "standards" really amount to), and that would turn out a bunch of ignorant voters, but to get them to understand why is much harder, and without the personal experiences which connect them to a person, it is difficult, and that is why I am not surprised.

        •  Find a way to make it relevant... (5+ / 0-)

          there is always some kind of policy that usually pisses them off.  Teach them the skills they need to argue and promote change.  

          Honestly...sometimes you have to break the ridiculous rules yourself.

          I once taught a class of seniors that would all methodically stand up and say the pledge of allegiance like a bunch of damn zombies.

          I told them they didn't have to do it anymore if they didn't want to.

          Of course, this caused a shit storm.

          But, it was an opportunity to learn.

          If you're standing up to say the pledge because you've been trained like some kind of Pavlov's dog...then the battle is already over.

          I got away with it, because I'm a veteran and nobody would question my patriotism...they did try.  But, they failed.

          •  Was very easy in the 70s. War and draft. (3+ / 0-)

            All problems contain the seeds of their own solutions and all solutions contain the seeds of the next set of problem. - Jonas Salk

            by the fan man on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:32:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, no, that's not gonna play well.... (3+ / 0-)

            Even as a college instructor, I had students rat out me to the administration for teaching evolution in a history class....which was a laugh because it was college.  I didn't get into any trouble, other than the site administrator asking me to be a little more sensitive to the feelings of religious students.  I can't imagine the shit storm a high school teacher would get into by following your advice.  Times have changed.

            I've seen the vacuous disengagement he speaks of, which is why I loved to see nontraditional older students in my classes.  It was a lot of fun teaching them....the kids, not so much.

            Reading this comment thread has me thinking about my high school days.  Many of my friends back then weren't going on to college, they were farmer's or rancher's sons.  They all took shop.....and, oh, man, did they learn a lot.  One year, they built a dune buggy from scratch.  And I mean from scratch.  We were a poor school district, the main buildings dated back to the New Deal, so the shop teachers didn't order parts from a catalog for the kids to bolt together.  Nope.  They got a bunch of thick pipe donated to the school by a failed drilling company.  The kids welded up the frame themselves.  Bits and pieces were donated.  They got an old V-8 that didn't run.  They refurbished the thing, even boring out the cylinders.  It was a wailing beast, all hand-made by the shop class, and they auctioned it off in the spring to raise money for tools.

            So how did the shop instructors manage this with no money?  They knew their shit.  The county was mostly broke, but the school board still rewarded teachers for graduate courses or new skills.  So, crappy infrastructure, talented teachers.  A win situation.  My friends in shop learned out to weld, how to service and repair all manner of vehicles, how to build (another year, they built a storage building for the school from the ground up).  They had real-world skills when they got out of high school.  For those of us who were going to college, we had basic science, history, geography, and even the basics of computer science down pat.  My first computer was a cardboard simulation, where you rotated little wheels to "run" the program.  The school couldn't afford real computers.  Hell, I learned how to type on a manual from the 1950s.  The school board couldn't get any good math teachers, though, so I sucked at math.

            You unleash the teachers, reward them for improving their skill sets, you'll have great students coming out the other end, even if their school's a glorified barn.

            By the way, the town's banker lived down the street from my mom and dad.  Didn't know it at the time, but I came from the lower middle class.  The banker's house, it was only slightly nicer than my mom and dad's.  It had better shingles.  Don't know if that has any relevance to anything, but thought I'd just toss it in. The banker's son graduated from this same high school.

            "To know what is right and to do it are two different things." - Chushingura, a tale of The Forty-Seven Ronin "It was like that when I got here." - Homer Simpson

            by rbird on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:19:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I gave them all an assignment... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              meralda, Denise Oliver Velez

              to find out about anyone in their family who served in the military.  At first they weren't all to enthused....by the end of my time with them, they were bringing in grandpa's medals and grandma's love letters.  

              They were all standing again for the pledge except for one dude who was able to articulate why he didn't want to.

              Except, now they did so because they wanted to...not because they had to.

    •  Kids can care. The children we tauight (5+ / 0-)

      every morning at the Free Breakfast Program got politics along with their pancakes - and related what they learned to taking action in their communities.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:33:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, I apologize if I offended you... (5+ / 0-)

      it wasn't my goal.

      I know it's very easy to become cynical and jaded as a teacher...lots of students (even adult students) no longer have any respect for teachers.  They hear all kinds of garbage about how we all suck and how we're failing them.

      All they seem to care about is getting the highest grade for the minimal amount of work.

      But, never forget...YOU CAN make a difference.  You probably are.  You might only find out in 20 years when that snot nosed little Jimmy who was always throwing spit wads comes back knocking on your door to tell you how you changed his life.

    •  I hated us history in middle school and hs (3+ / 0-)

      now I am lawyer and I find it fascinating.

      But, in my hs days it was the worst. It is rare hs student that will find post-revolution us history interesting.

    •  I agree. This situation is 99% hopeless. I do not- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jeannew, hmi

      see any scenario where the US education system as a whole improves.  I only see an absolute and progressive decline and a very slow and gradual erosion of the US and our global influence. Our governmental 2 party system has rewarded paralysis just way too often and this obession with "balance of power" leaves little room for responsible government. I pray Obama gets relected. If he does not, I see a very dismal future for the USA. And if he does get relected with a Republican House adnd Senate - then what does that mean? Even more paralysis?

  •  Even the voters that do vote are not sure who or (10+ / 0-)

    what they are voting for. The "platforms" are designed to cause more confusion, promote wedge issues and promote negative ads which just confuse things more. Is there anyway to actually collect and accurately report on the issues and politicians. I'm totally convinced that if we came up with a nonpartisan simple and direct database of the local and state issues and some sort of newsfeed, it would improve voter education and turnout tremendously. Something like a Voter Wikipedia which is run by devoted volunteers and is community regulated to prevent partisan takeover. I would try to start something myself, but I don't know how to collect and analyze accurate information. We need some serious local political reporters and policy wonks for starters and then some good journalists who can boil it down to something that the average person can understand and appreciate. Just my two cents.

  •  The sad truth is.. (6+ / 0-)

    we rarely teach history or civics in a meaningful way.  We only teach a whitewashed canon of American mythology (with the usual list of "important" names and dates), pretty much every war that was ever fought (unless we lost - Vietwhere?), and random "important" stuff that happened in some far away country that has no connection to our own lives.  Covering our own domestic political process, warts and all?  Fuhgedaboutit!

    Too often, history class seems reduced to social conditioning rather than teaching kids how to critically analyze events and make connections to their own lives.  Apologies to those who do better, but, overall, it's a mess.

  •  Can we start with this site? (6+ / 0-)

    I'm always so frustrated when folks throw up diaries that are patently ridiculous from the standpoint of civics: Obama could have done X with 53 senate votes, or let's recall XX (a U.S. Senator), or some other assertion that isn't legal or constitutional.

    Another way this shows itself is when a SCOTUS decision is interpreted in a silly way. Some decisions simply say that the litigant doesn't have status (like the recent Virginia health care decision.) There doesn't seem to be any requirement that a person know basic civics to write a diary about law.

    I'd love to see a series--a primer--on basic law for elections and political action, with very specific suggestions at the end.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:35:57 PM PDT

  •  Okay. Here we go with some "I remember when" (8+ / 0-)

    crap from a Kos "senior":

    We had to memorize, on flash cards, the 3 branches of government, the prez and vp, his cabinet, all the names of the justices of the SCOTUS, and so on. This was in the 8th grade.

    In high school, in a senior class called "Senior problems"/
    "Government" we got to know congress and its chief leaders.

    (I still remember, among other names, the Sec. of Agric.
    in those days: Ezra Taft Benson. Yeah, that's how far back I go. I blush to mention it.)

    "...be still, and cry not aloud; for it is an unholy thing to boast over slain men." Odysseus, in Homer's Odyssey

    by Wildthumb on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:36:27 PM PDT

    •  heh. flash cards. Do they still have them (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kroning II, drmah, jeannew, mayim

      I wonder?  

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:37:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I can relate (3+ / 0-)

      I was in high school in the early to mid 60s. I remember active and engaged discussions in history class about politics and civics. Now, this was a small, rather rural high school right in the middle of North Carolina textile country. It was a very unlikely setting for real political engagement. Yet it happened.

      We lived through bomb drills, that classic election of 1960, the assassination of JFK, LBJ, the civil rights movement, etc. It was a time in which national affairs seemed to bear down on us and force us to pay attention.

      I had a friend who got Time Magazine every week. She and I would share it and discuss it. Amazing when I think about it now.

      We even had a current events contest every year, and there was quite a bit of competition for the honor of winning that.

      A lot of things were different then. A newspaper came into my home every day even though my parents struggled financially. We watched the news every night -- always Huntley and Brinkley. Maybe it's the changes in journalism that explains the difference. But I think it's deeper than that.

      "...in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy." Matt Taibbi

      by Getreal1246 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:00:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Civics used to be (7+ / 0-)

    a Requirement to Graduate.  History too.


    Back in the day, when I had to ride my bike,

    Seven miles to school everyday, both ways, in the snow too.

    (That, or ride the bus.)


    The 3 branches of Guvmint, let me see ...?

    Army, IRS, and Wal-Mart.  


    Yeah but, what about the Lotto?

    Oh yeah, forgot about that one.


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:39:27 PM PDT

  •  Yut, great topic. (10+ / 0-)

    This is pathetic

    I'm in New York. Not one student could name both of our U.S. senators.
    I was educated in civics in the '60s by activist Brooklyn nuns with an emphasis on get involved or get paddled.

    This is hysterical

    lQuestion is, what are they talking to each other about?

    I'm 57 with 3 little adopted girls and I teach them. Believe me, I teach them. And I'm always looking for advice. I do focus on federal politics however, and haven't taught them about local or state politics. So after reading you diary I think I will think about how to draw some more local lines from DC back into our community and them directly.

    The oldest just started the local sci & math middle school where they have what is called an International Baccalaureate curriculum - big on community participation but not quite civics. As a 6th grader she's required to complete 3 community based projects this year. We've been kicking around ideas. I love this iCivics site and I think we can use it to build one of her projects and get it circulated.

    Thanks!

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:40:08 PM PDT

  •  This is so important because so much of (5+ / 0-)

    it effects their (the students) lives. I have long said we should send a viral email to every university targeting GOP congresscritters who want to cut Pell grants.

    But on the local level how much funding by the state the University they are in gets, is effected by local representation. It's maybe their most important lunch pail economic issue.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:43:04 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. When students ask me (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kroning II, jeannew

      why they should care - fist on my list are things that affect them directly like Pell, or tuition hikes.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:45:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Especially at a SUNY School (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        Since most of the graduates of these schools (including myself) are reliant on Pell Grants, the state Tuition Assistance Program, and subsidized student loans to help pay for their education, and their families cannot handle the shocks of the never ending increases in tuition and books, as well as the fees that keep on rising as the schools try to emerge victorious in the arms race to attract more students.

  •  As long as it is not (6+ / 0-)

    "tested" in relationship to funding, no one gets to teach much of anything but how to test well.

    This has been coming for years...since Reagan.  Ignorance is bliss for politicians.   Even before Reagan, in the 1950s and 1960s, the population was kept ignorant of so much from the "United Fruit Company" to the beginnings of Vietnam.  Fear of the "commies" taking over was all they needed to keep us in line.  So even teachers did not know too much.

    But back then there was no Internet.  However the press was independent and not afraid to dig deep for the truth.  And when a reporter did so, he was honored instead of being fired (like Dan Rather).
    I started teaching in 1967.   In my years in college, away from home, I was able to meet and hear people I never would have in high school (a catholic one at that).   But back then even the priests and nuns began questioning long held beliefs that finally were being scrutinized.  

    I was a typical little kid who played war game with my friends....who watch cowboy shows.....who believed it all.  But luckily I was in a family that encouraged learning, curiosity and standing up for the truth.  
    So I learned that some of the myths passed on were just that myths......
    I also learned about the labor movement....I learned about civil rights...about women's suffrage.  

    I would think back to my moments in third grade of "duck and cover" and how afraid I was of the bomb and believed that if I covered my head, I would be safe.  Upon learning it was a lie, I wanted to know more.

    I invested in learning about politics because I wanted to know the truth, past and present.  

    We need schools who are allowed to nurture curiosity from early on.  We need teachers not intimidated about losing their jobs if they dare speak the truth.  We need parents pushing for PUBLIC schools and for teaching science truth, not religious myths as a part of that, political truths not myths.  We need parents who are not afraid of their children learning the truth about their government, the corporations control of media and government.   But if their parents prefer burying their heads in the sand, how do we get kids to be curious for the truth?

    •  Yes - I agree. But since we don't have them (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jeannew

      we need to find alternative ways to educate.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:53:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree.... (0+ / 0-)

        and frankly I have been using you and others who write informative, researched and poignant information to educate those I know, who I hope in turn educate their children and grandchildren.

        The ability to meet with and learn from people all around the world is a gift we cannot waste.

  •  I blame Bush (6+ / 0-)

    And I blame NCLB, at least in part. Since only math and reading NCLB scores matter when judging if a school is failing or not, that's where all the emphasis has been placed. In a lot of schools, they just stop teaching history, civics, science or anything that's not test prep for math and reading.

    Interestingly, our local school district recently switched from a math curriculum that was marketed by Pearson Education, the market leader in standardized tests, to one that actually teaches mathematics. And guess what? The kids were all behind grade level even though most of them tested proficient or better on the Pearson tests.  

    I know which side I am on: the one that does the math.

    by Grassroots Mom on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:52:49 PM PDT

  •  Maybe community after-school civics programs? (5+ / 0-)

    To pick up the slack where co-opted schools and curricula have left off?  I think a halfway organized effort would help folks like me, who otherwise have few opportunities to interact with kids.  But I could volunteer for a program.  

    They have tutoring programs for math and science.  Being an informed citizen is at least as important as acing your SATs, IMHO.

    Which side are you on?

    by wiseacre on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:55:19 PM PDT

  •  Civics went the way of art, music, and (12+ / 0-)

    often even PE. It's not on the test.

    Besides, are we really a civil society anymore? It would be kind of like teaching kids the history of the Roman Republic (which, now that I think of it, would be instructive).

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam - Washington isn't broken -- it's fixed.

    by chuckvw on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:55:34 PM PDT

    •  Pet Peeve #2 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw

      as a classics major.

      So many pop culture productions about ancient Rome are set during the Roman Empire.

      I guess that in some ways the Empire is more...cinematic. Or so it seems.

      Where are the films about the fall of the Roman Republic?...that would be instructive (i.e. what the moneyed classes will do to reformers like Tiberius Gracchus, for example).

  •  it's not good enough to teach (3+ / 0-)

    the mechanics of how government works.

    what also must be told is how deeply corrupted it is.

    smash the chair, bust the needle !

    by stolen water on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:57:56 PM PDT

  •  "Principles of Democracy" was the class I had in (5+ / 0-)

    10th grade (early 70s), and before that I remember my 7th grade Geography class and all the other subjects I thought were terribly boring but came in damned handy many years later.

    Tough to compete in the global marketplace when you don't even know the states - let alone how to spell them.

    Oh, and speaking of things they don't teach in schools any more... when did Drivers Ed meet its demise?  Because I can't believe anyone on the road under the age of 30 has done more to learn driving than read a pamphlet.

    I'd be happy with one branch of government.

    by here4tehbeer on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:58:45 PM PDT

  •  This is a pronounced problem in California (4+ / 0-)

    I grew up in California back when the state paid for 14 years of education (yep, no tuition for first two years of college if you went to a Junior College).  I can't remember ever taking a "civics" class...ever.  I took Social Studies and if memory serves me right, that's where we got a little dose about the political system in the U.S.

    I saw THIS and it looks like that remains a problem to this day in California.

    You're dead on in everything you say, Denise.  Once again, excellent diary.

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:59:25 PM PDT

  •  Only one student (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    "Only one student could name their Congressperson"

    Was it Weiner?

  •  Back in the early Sixties I had the luxury of (6+ / 0-)

    attending an academically pretty good to excellent high school. Had the same History teacher for both second and third years.

    Every Monday morning the first thing in his class was a not so "pop" quiz. Ten current events questions. Hardly anybody ever missed even one.

    The reason was simple. The ten questions had appeared, verbatim, in a quiz box at the bottom of that Sunday's NYTimes News of the Week in Review, I believe it was Section 4.

    The lazier, less curious students simply read the quiz and memorized the answers. Most however, would find at least one or two of the questions intriguing and would read the Times summary story, right there in Section 4.

    A whole lot of young men (it was a boy's only parochial school) learned a whole lot of history and civics without much really trying.

    Perhaps there's some comparable tool today's teachers could put to similar use.

  •  A lot of adults know nothing about how gov't works (10+ / 0-)

    ....as evidenced by the fact that so many think that the President is Commander In Chief of the entire federal apparatus, and just has to give orders for things to happen.

    Like a jobs bill.  I have to keep explaining that it's the House that originates bills, the Senate then negotiates changes with the House and the President only gets to sign a bill given to him into law, or veto it.

    He doesn't originate laws. He has no power to legislate. He can propose, suggest, negotiate, he can run the various federal agencies set up according to law, but he can't create a law. Per the Constitution.

    People don't understand that. They just don't. They truly do believe the President is like a corporate CEO, who says "Do this" and it's done. Which means that if things are going badly, it's all his fault.

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:03:06 PM PDT

  •  Wow, very grim. (5+ / 0-)

    Excellent diary. Ignorance not only isn't bliss, it's absolutely life-threatening to our country's future.

    Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

    by mofembot on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:15:51 PM PDT

  •  So sleeping through social studies year after year (6+ / 0-)

    has real world consequences? Who knew?

    Sorry, I don't mean to be so dismissive. It's obviously critical for young people to comprehend how their government works, and why it's so important for them to participate and vote, lest their fate be determined by a few thousand cranky retirees in Florida.

    Oops, that already happened. But still.

    My middle child is actually quiet well informed about all matters political, but unfortunately he is so disillusioned and cynical that he leans toward the "it doesn't matter who I vote for" side. Then again, he leans progressive and lives in South Carolina, so I can see why he feels that way.

    •  Ralph: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

      Please invite your son to check out firefly-dreaming

      http://www.firefly-dreaming.com/

      RiaD is also in SC, and I know she's very frustrated about the politicians there.  And it's her site.  Your son would be very much welcome there (but it's a wee-tiny blog, not like here: please be aware of that).

      Mostly, the firefly-dreaming credo is about making our world a better place: thru politics, humor, cooking, gardening, canning...whatever.

      But I think liberals, no matter how red the state they reside in is, need to join together.  Don't you?

      Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

      by Youffraita on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:32:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  By Design (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jeannew
      he leans toward the "it doesn't matter who I vote for" side

      That frustration is by design and both political parties are complicit. There I go, sounding like a cynic...but maybe a cynic is anyone with their eyes open in today's America.

      "Always remember this: They fight with money and we resist with time, and they’re going to run out of money before we run out of time." -Utah Philips

      by TerryDarc on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:33:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I feel for you. Born in SC and now live in Philly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jeannew

      I left SC in 1994 when  simply could not take the conservatism any longer. I actually tell my dad my life is safer living in inner city Philadelphia.

      •  We were gobsmacked by veneration of all things... (0+ / 0-)

        Confederate everywhere in South Carolina. Non-stop celebration of all that 'tradition' and 'heritage'. The whole enterprise of course assiduously avoids any mention of the word "slavery".

        Yet you can't help but notice those cute little 'slave doors' down at the basement level of all those beautiful mansions in Charleston.

        I keep thinking of Weird Al Yankovich's song Weasel Stomping Day and its great line: "We call it tradition, that makes it okay", sung to the ghastly sounds of stomping/crunching/squealing.

        •  Ironic, a bit... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ralphdog

          ...that here in South Carolina, we seem to be enamored with the basic questions underlying the Civil War. Some of our people, even the ones that couldn't tell you who their representatives are, can tell you all about the role of government, states rights and so on. It's a whitewashed, Ozzie-and-Harriett understanding of civics, but it's not nothing. If the average kid could tell you what Calhoun meant by "concurrent majority," that would at least be a start.

          There does seem to be some interest in it...

          -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

          by trevzb on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 07:38:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Math Trumps Every Subject Today (4+ / 0-)

    I have five children, ranging in age from 48 to 24. I witnessed personally how education changed from my older children's experience to my youngest's. Starting in first grade for my youngest, it was all about math with incredible pressure on the students and the teacher. Her first grade teacher, an older woman, retired that year from the stress. My daughter was traumatized and reported that children were in tears because the work was so hard.

    She told me in first grade that math was the only important subject, and she was dumb. She told me who the smartest kids in math were in her class. I asked her who was the best reader in the class, and she answered "Me, of course." I said, "I thought you said you were dumb", whereupon she informed me that reading was not important, only math.

    The entire emphasis in the school district at that time seemed to want to make all the students either engineers, accounts, or computer programmers. Nothing else mattered.

    Needless to say, the dropout rates increased dramactically and many more kids ended up in the district alternative school or trying for a GED.

  •  Tipped and recced after the first 2 paragraphs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    Now I have to finish reading it.

  •  I graduated 43 years ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    There was no "civics" class.  We were required to take American Government.

    American Government is still a required course.

    It is still taught mostly by coaches, as it was back when I was in high school.  (I was lucky.  I got a political junkie, former candidate for local office who was passionate about the Constitution and conveyed that passion to his students.  He left the teaching profession right after I had his class.)

    My point is nothing's changed. In the schools.  It is the whole culture that has changed. From the cradle, children are assaulted by a barrage of  manipulative messages all with the purpose of getting them to consume.  People walk around all day with a phone on their ear or in their hands, music playing in their ears.  No one is allowed to be alone with their own thoughts.  There is no quiet time.

    It's not that American history and government are not being taught, it's that knowledge and ideas are irrelevant in a consumer culture.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:19:31 PM PDT

  •  I've taught argument classes in college (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    And rather than teach the virtues of the duopoly parties, I just taught critical thinking skills and a healthy amount of skepticism about things in general.  I think that helped prepare students for the nature of our democracy.

  •  Pet peeve here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, drmah, jeannew
    Expanding civics into civil rights—a history we take for granted—isn't really being taught well, if at all. Sure, kids can all name Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks. But what do they really know, and how does that history they are not taught affect contemporary involvement in issues of human rights and social justice?

    Even many adults aren't aware that the black civil rights movement didn't start in the 1950's. Hell, it started during slavery, really.

    I mean, if people aren't aware of Brown v. Board then they really can't be expected to know about Shelly v. Kraemer which, in some ways, was just as important a case.

  •  For kossacks willing to take up the challenge (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    thrown down by this story, here's a resource from my old union, the American Federation of Teachers.  

    Participants interview activists..... does that catch your interest?

    PDF

    Civic Voices: International Democracy Memory Bank Project - AFT.org
     
  •  They're Hungry (3+ / 0-)

    I recently spoke at our town's high school and was telling them about our upcoming Sustainability Center. Our slogan is "what it takes to keep living here."  After that conversation one of the teenagers asked me if we would be teaching them what happens at town meeting, and how to be a good citizen. I asked her "Why don't you just go to Town Meeting?"  "My mother won't let me, until I"m old enough to vote."  
      So I asked the kids if they knew what civics was. I told them I started learning in 1st grade with a little paperback book about how government works, and how people contribute to decision-making.  They looked at me like I had three heads.
      I then spoke with the Senior Citizens from our town and asked them if they would teach the kids how to run a town and be a citizen. After they got over their shock that they were being asked, and that the kids didn't know, they all agreed to help.
      In our area there is a giant rift between seniors and schools due to fighting over funds. This is a way to bring them together, for everyone's benefit.  Where's the down side? Now if I can get just get the center a home....
    www.northcountrysustain.org

  •  One tip from me (3+ / 0-)

    I'm sort of a Great Books type of guy...

    In an American Civics class, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and the federalist Papers should be the minimum requirements.

    Now in the City Colleges of Chicago, you are required, I believe, to either test out of Civics literacy or you are required to take the appropriate poly-sci or American history course to get your associates...

    I would almost be in favor of having that be a requirement to graduate from high school.

    •  It kind of is in Illinois. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, Chitown Kev

      It's a state requirement to pass the U.S. Constitution and Illinois Constitution test twice - once in order to graduate eighth grade, and once in order to graduate high school.

      I did take civics in high school. Now the class is called American Government and it's still required in my old high school. It was one of my favorite classes, but then again  both my parents were/are very politically active - so political geekiness is in my blood. : )

      Yes we can! Yes we did! Yes we will!

      by Sister Havana on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 07:14:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Homeschooling worked for my kids... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    When my children got to the age of going to school, my wife insisted on homeschooling.  The horrible state of teaching politics, civics, history, etc. was part of why we did that.  Now that my children are adults, all three vote and they know quite a bit about how governments work, how laws are made and other basics about the structure of this country.

    Books like Howard Zinn's People's History and also Don't Know Much About History were a great starting place and we also taught them a lot about Native American cultures, the civil rights movement, interning the Japanese here in California, etc.

  •  relationship between citizenship and shop class. (3+ / 0-)

    The following is from Mr. Charles B. Gilbert, Superintendent of the Newark, New Jersey Public Schools in 1905 as he spoke about the danger of sacrificing our democracy on the division between academic work and skilled hand work in the 1905 meeting of the Eastern Manual Training Association:

    "The great function of all public schools, afterall, is not to give specific knowledge or fit for specific things, but to train democratic citizens. The attitude of the teacher toward manual training has very much to do with the democracy of the teacher. Any sort of separation of children into classes intended to go for all time through their lives is exactly antagonistic to democracy--could not be more directly antagonistic; it is the antipode of democracy... What is the great foe of democracy at all times? It is the building up of walls--permanent walls--between classes; is it not? So long as wealth disappears with a single generation or two generations there is not any great danger; but when we get into the position--condition (If we ever do)--that many of the countries of the world are in; if a child is born with the feeling that he is born in a class--that there is a great gulf or a high wall between him and his neighbor who is born in a different class; then democracy is dead."
     I doubt that many people these days would associate the decline of civics and the loss of shop classes in American schools, but if I think Mr. Gilbert was right. Kids get the impression that school is uncool and irrelevant. We know that many people in education learn that whatever skills and intelligence they bring to the classroom are unwelcomed and unappreciated. They learn to be still, to undervalue their own intelligence, and lose confidence as learners, lose interest in learning. Others, gain a sense of superiority, and remaining unchallenged by their failure to attain real skills in the use of tools and real materials, do not arise to their full excitement of discovery, creativity and imagination, even while feeling themselves entitled as a part of a privileged elite. Howard Gardner introduced the concept of multiple intelligences in about 1980, and schools have done  almost nothing to assure the intelligent participation of all students. I write regularly about the value of hands-on learning in my blog, Wisdom of the Hands.
  •  Civics, this generation? (0+ / 0-)

    You have to teach them civility first…or just basic humanism—as in basic human behavior. How to walk, how to talk, how to dress, basic courtesy, manners,etc…  Not to fart in public, for example. That only savages have nose plugs…or that many tatoos
    Do I sound like some old prissy? I’m from Jersey and I was in a punk band…  
     Civics, hah, this generation is so dumb they think Washington is another country….

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:37:56 PM PDT

  •  I wouldn't subject them to Crosby, Stills & Nash. (0+ / 0-)

    That hippy stuff turned my into a Reaganite in the 80s..

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 02:49:42 PM PDT

  •  The kids in this country are doing just fine (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gooderservice, Nada Lemming, Agathena

    http://www.google.com/...

    The failures of yesteryear ought to be studying what these kids have to teach instead of presuming to lecture them.

    President Perry announced that noted terror promoter Noam Chomsky, whose works are believed by the Administration to have inspired terror around the globe, was killed in a drone strike as he ventured out of his Icelandic bunker.

    by JesseCW on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:00:17 PM PDT

  •  Teach the right kind of civics... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    I agree that our schools need to do a better job of teach civics.  But it is important to consider what that civics curriculum entails.  
    My son recently graduated high school and I fought very hard to have his school teach aspects of civics that informed his progressive ideals.  
    For example, our school focused a good part of the year on immigration history, the brutal treatment of native Americans and the negative impact of the Viet Nam war.  Mixed in to these subjects there were sections on civil rights and the positive impact that 60’s generation had on public policy.  The Revolutionary War period was only touched on to inform our students of the contradiction of America, with slave holder founders creating a constitution that is no longer relevant.  If we can mold our children to understand the negative impact America has had on the world and how capitalism exploits the masses, we will have don our jobs.  On a side note, we make sure that Howard Zinn’s books are front and center.

  •  I teach a similar group of students (3+ / 0-)

    NYC college, mostly public school graduates.

    In the entry level class I teach, the first day of class I give everyone a 20 question quiz composed of questions from the Citizenship Test (for Naturalizing Immigrants).

    I would say 18 are what I consider to be easy (colors of the flag, name of the President, how many Senators per state), and I leave in two that are a little more difficult (name the Senators).  I tell the students that if any of them can get a perfect score, they get an A in the class and don't have to do a single thing.

    No one has even come close.  Highest score ever, a 16.

    Almost no one can name both Senators.  Governor is a little better, but not much.  (I just gave the test at the start of this semester, half knew it was Cuomo, most of the others were equally scattered amonst Paterson, Spitzer, and Pataki with a couple of complete off the wall answers thrown in).  Vice President, a little better.  Mayor, about 80 percent, and all but a handful get the President correct.

    Some of the things I'm stunned by: the number of students who don't know what country we declared independence from; don't know who the President was during the civil war.

    Another shocker, for me,  is something not on the test, but that we cover later in the semester, is how few students know that a woman has a right to an abortion for any reason in the early part of her pregnancy.  Mind you, this is about how many agree, I'm talking completely unaware.

    These are all high school graduates who are now all spending money to go to college (or, for the most part, who we are all spending money to send).

    High school is absolutely failing these students.

    The best pizza comes from New York.

    by JakeC on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:14:59 PM PDT

  •  I think a lot of it has to do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jeannew, Chitown Kev

    with the parents. Directly as parents of school children and how you operate at home. Are you curious? Do your children see you problem solving and discussing issues? Do you have access to computers and books? Do your children know you read and research things and do you engage them in discussions?

    And more broadly, the school boards, why are the people on the school boards> what are their objectives>are they parents? What are they like? Did you vote/not vote for them and why?

  •  We are reaping the effects of No Child Left Behind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    and its emphasis on math and reading scores.  Across the country, elementary and middle schools are taking the time once allocated to social studies (and art, music, PE) and re-allocating it to math and reading.  Additionally, the ACT and the SAT Reasoning tests do not assess "social studies" either.  

    IF we want that to change, ALL core subjects need to be assessed in the Age of "Teaching to the Test."  However, I would much rather see emphasis on "The Test" head to the junk heap of failed education "innovations"!

    As the ramifications of NCLB have unfolded, I am finding it increasing difficult to NOT believe in a Far-Right public education conspiracy theory...so much damage has been done!

    My social studies department works diligently to increase student awareness of "civics," but it is difficult when students enter high school with little background knowledge.  We have recently added Animal Farm to the 9th grade curriculum in an attempt to help students analyze comparative economic/political systems...big sigh!

  •  St Ronnie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    Reagan said that students don't need to learn civics.  It was this Repub super idiot that took civics out of the classroom.

  •  CSPAN interviewed Steven Bryer on his book on this (3+ / 0-)

    ...subject this weekend.    It was fascinating to hear this fine Supreme Court Justice hold forth on his book Making Democracy Work and he decried this fact precisely, that just about half of the States require their high school students to take Civics.

    It's a book I'd love to find the time to read some day, by the way.   I hadn't seen Breyer speak before, but he is one of my ideals of what a Supreme Court Justice should be.

  •  We were once a leading nation in education when (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, jeannew

    a nasty little book "A Nation at Risk" came out.  It was full of lies and exaggerations that spurred the Conservatives to start the whole charter school/accountability of teachers/performance based measurement thing.  Another book "The Manufactured Crisis" explains the hair on fire response that did way more to harm education in this country than help it.  NCLB and RTTT are examples of putting a set of corporate expectations on an education process that isn't meant to be so - people are not a product.  

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." A. Einstein

    by moose67 on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:22:47 PM PDT

    •  ...all part of the plan to plant the seeds of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      dissatisfaction with public education!  Eventually, every school in America will be labeled "Failing" because of ever increasing cut-scores to 100% for ALL students.  NCLB does not consider genetic "academic ability."  

      It is succeeding beautifully for the Far-Right.  It has been a 30+ year effort.  Eric Heubeck's The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement provides some of the reasons; note the sections that refer to public education:

      http://www.yuricareport.com/...

  •  I can't fix everything... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dizzydean, Denise Oliver Velez

    ...but I can fix my little corner of the universe, where I'm raising a frighteningly bright third-grader and her toddler brother. We have a very good public school system here, and for the most part I've been impressed with the depth and breadth of the education my daughter's getting, especially in math and science.

    Civics, however, has been rather lacking, and so in a sense I'm homeschooling my kids on that topic. Big Sister went to Washington with me the summer before kindergarten, and got to meet Louise Slaughter in her office (she even got graham crackers from her before a tour of the Capitol!)

    Both kids have been in the voting booth with me since they were infants, and they're as familiar with Rachel and Keith and Lawrence as they are with Mister Rogers and Spongebob. What they don't get in classroom discussions, they get in kitchen-table discussions.

    I wish they were getting more in school, but if I can't fix that, I think I'm at least doing the best I can for them at home.

    (But then, I grew up in a household where there was always a newspaper on the table and Uncle Walter on TV, and my parents were active in local politics from the time I was a baby...so in a sense I'm a product of homeschooling when it comes to civics, too.)

    Intended to be a factual statement.

    by ipsos on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:36:52 PM PDT

  •  Another concern (3+ / 0-)

    is how these children are receiving their political molding at home. What if they are bombarded with Fox 24/7 and have moms and dads teaching them God, Gays and Guns 101.  

    Several years back,  our English team in the school I used to teach at, decided to show Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to our Senior honors for a reward after completing a long recycling effort.  Holy Cow that was a fire storm!  We had 20 or so parents jumping down our neck for showing students, who had spent almost a year working on a green project, a movie dedicated to the same passion these students shared!  Our school said no more, if it has even the slightest of sway either way.  This was in Austin too, liberal as they come!

    •  I always avoid the controversial figures (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      like Michael Moore or Al Gore for the very reason that the young person indoctrinated at home will throw up a barrier to the info.  However, there are other films out there that provide the same message, but without the controversy.  I use the following:  for climate change, Too Hot Not to Handle; for the financial mess, the Frontline episodes;  for the Afghan War, Restrepo; for conflicts in general, The Fog of War and Why We Fight; for guns and crime, Law and Disorder in Philadelphia, Crips and Bloods: Made in America, Doing Time: Inside the Big House.

      Buck up--Never say die. We'll get along! Charlie Chaplain, Modern Times (1936).

      by dizzydean on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:54:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most states require civics/govt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, terrypinder

    Hi Dee...I teach Govt at my school.  The info is there for the students, but they are hampered by one big thing:  they don't read.  No newspapers, books, magazines, etc.  If they go on-line, it's not for information purposes.  

    And that's sad.  Somehow, many young people read the Harry Potter stuff a few years ago (with many educators excited that they were reading anything) but then it stopped.  Nothing else.  Without reading, they have no clue about history, culture, geography, current events or civics.  Our society is becoming more and more one where the present moment's entertainment is all that matters.  It's like Fahrenheit 451.  And it's not just the teenagers.

    And we can be the best educators in the world, but by the time I get them in high school or you in college, it's too late.  It has to come from home and it has to start early.  Somehow, we have to go outside of the classroom and engage parents in the elementary schools in order to change the dynamic.

    Buck up--Never say die. We'll get along! Charlie Chaplain, Modern Times (1936).

    by dizzydean on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:49:19 PM PDT

  •  Republicans work Hard to Take School Boards (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sister Havana

    The Republicans know they need to make an ignorant citizenship. The way they accomplish this is by owning school boards. The Republs spend a lot of money to win school boards - the Dems do not.

    The 50 state plan needs to be revived and expanded to include city councils and school board (local and state).

    Pam Bennett -6.95 -7.50

    by Pam Bennett on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:59:23 PM PDT

  •  New Mexico social studies standards (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    include civil rights.
    http://www.ped.state.nm.us/...

  •  The most important lesson you can teach them, (0+ / 0-)

    Although most adults don't know it, and teaching it will probably get you fired, is this:

    Our government exists only by permission.

    We, the sovereign people, give our government permission to make the rules, subject to strict limits. Outside those limits, they don't have our consent, and they cannot legitimately exist.

    Many of those limits are in the Bill of Rights, which really isn't one. What it is, rather, is a "Bill of Limits." The 1st 10 Amendments define the outer limits of our permission to rule us. They are us, the People, telling our government "no."

    A government which exercises only those powers expressly given to it by the people is the essence of the American system.

    --Shannon

    "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
    "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

    by Leftie Gunner on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:01:31 PM PDT

  •  Some states don't micromanage (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    In some places, the state does not set curriculum, select textbooks, etc. -- local districts do. That's especially true once you get outside reading and math. So the fact that the state doesn't require the teaching of this or that just means the state hasn't set itself up to make those decisions.

    I'm as troubled as the original post by the lack of knowledge or even mild curiosity among college students (I teach them too, and it's about the same for affluent mostly-white kids here.) But I'm not sure that measuring by looking at state standards is that useful. A lot of my kids say they have read or studied MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. But that doesn't seem to affect them. I suspect they might be more engaged with discussions of the gay marriage issue and how that's playing out in legislatures and courts, than with things that happened 50 years ago.

  •  Where I went to HS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    we had not only a half year of civics (called Participation in Government) where we had to look at issues and attend public meetings to understand how local government works, we also had a quarter of Congress in Action, where we had to portray an actual member of the House (I had to be a wingnut from North Texas, but it didn't affect me too much). Then again, I went to a public Ivy League (ok, mostly Cornell, but still it counts) prep school.

  •  My gov teacher insists that Harry Reid is the PPT (0+ / 0-)

    He asked the class who the HMW was and I answered "Kevin McCarthy" only to be told it was Eric Cantor.  He also believes that Ted Kennedy was PPT prior to Reid. I love politics, I live politics, but spreading misconceptions through six classes a day isn't the best way to increase voter intelligence and participation.

  •  Really Appreciate The Diary, Denise! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Look forward to Sunday's Dkos b/c of your writing. Always interesting and always pertinent.

    Y gracias para la vista latina!

    "Always remember this: They fight with money and we resist with time, and they’re going to run out of money before we run out of time." -Utah Philips

    by TerryDarc on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 05:46:25 PM PDT

  •  Wow, an important and interesting post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    several thoughts screaming to get out here:
    - We alwaysthink our education was better then that of following generations and for many of us, I think we became educated despite our school systems.
    - I was a Navy brat so I went to 14 different schools in five states in the 1950s and 1960s. each one seemed easier than the last but the best education I received was my senior year in Key West when we were made to write in every class, which meant the teachers had to do a lot of reading and criticizing.
    - The Southern Poverty Law Center's survey is of standards for teaching civil rights, not a survey of what is actually taught from school district to school district, but I agree NCLB has been a disaster.
    - In my school years there was always something, government, civics,, Social Studies, whatever it was called.  I remember a great debate in Florida circa 1960 about whether the public schools could teach about Communism. It was finally decided they could if they emphasized how awful it was.
    - Travel is crucial to an understanding of the world. See Navy brat above. The best I could do for my son was take him to Europe twice while he was in high school and pay for him to volunteer on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for three months, a real eye- opener for a kid from suburban Philadelphia.
    - It is also crucial for parents to engage their children in critical thinking. And to encourage a love for reading. I don't so much despair for today's young people for their lack of specific knowledge as for their lack of the habit of reading.
    Our politics as commercials civics education is worrisome as well.
    - Civic ignorance is partially due to age, lack of experience and hormones. I do think conservatives encourage t as well.

    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please -- Mark Twain

    by OnePingOnly on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 05:53:36 PM PDT

  •  Yes, Yes, and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Yes! Obama (along with many others, of course), also bemoaned “the loss of quality civic education” from America’s classrooms. There are no easy answers, we just have to do it.

    My forthcoming book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity will be published in Summer 2012 by Potomac Books.

    by Ian Reifowitz on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 05:57:41 PM PDT

  •  Also re travel (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    I have never forgotten the shock I experienced when I, a white teenager from Connecticut, first saw a sign reading "Colored Women" in Virginia in 1959 and understood what it meant.  Civil rights 101 in two words.

    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please -- Mark Twain

    by OnePingOnly on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 06:06:37 PM PDT

  •  I'll tell you why... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, terrypinder

    People are bombarded with YouTube videos of kittens, people singing on American Idol, and chit-chat with their friends. Who really deeply understands what government agencies do?

    Take NOAA for example.

    Do you think these kids have a clue as to what they do? When is the last time you saw an ad or a viral video making NOAA look cool, and educating people as to their mission & accomplishments. Same could be said for just about any government agency. Same could be said for the UN.

    I think some people in government just take it for granted that we "know" what purpose our government serves. That's not the case. And with a bevy of right wing media personalities highlighting every negative action that government is involved in (Solyndra), and ignoring anything positive (Weather Warnings, Coast Guard rescues, Bridges being repaired, new findings by the CDC, etc etc etc), it's no wonder people's perceptions of government are either low, or absent.

    We need not only more formal civics education, but more informal civics "boosting". It might look like propaganda to some, but if it's done correctly it could go a long way to restoring our pride in what really makes the USA great - our history of shared investment in our common future.

    Freedom isn't free: tax idle money

    by walk2live on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 06:22:24 PM PDT

  •  At my University, if we endorse anyone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    we can be fired. Fact. We still try hard to get them involved. Civics isn't on the books as a requirement anymore in the High Schools here. If there is one major curricular reform that I would like to see in California, it would be a reinstitution of that in the High Schools for all JUNIORS (the drop out rate for Seniors is high - 25%... that's 1/4 of the next voting generation; when Civics IS offered, it's as a Senior level class).

  •  From Louisville KY -- "What's 1776?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    I'm not freakin' kidding.  I teach community college US History courses, where students do not know what happened in 1776.  How in the hell can someone get into college and not know about the Declaration of Independence?

    If a student does not know the Declaration of Independence, the chances are good that s/he doesn't know anything else either.   In five classes, just a handful know their Senators and HR member.

    It is getting worse each year.  I blame young people's absolute ADDICTION to their cell phones, which are useful devices, but a disaster to their education.  

  •  there is something haunting about that top pic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    with the chalkboard. we owe those kids a better world. one where our stated ideals amounts to more than lip service.

    smash the chair, bust the needle !

    by stolen water on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 07:26:34 PM PDT

  •  It's not just the young people. It's everyone. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    I have been considering this problem for awhile. Now when ever I receive anything that is informative, I pass it on to everyone who is going to be active in politics this year.

    I got this e-mail and passed it on in a way that I hope is informative and totally relevant to the point of this article. It isn't just young students who don't know this most basic information, it's much of the voting population of all ages.

    HERE IS THE E -MAIL - I have no doubt that something similar is available in every district.

    "Good Morning!
    Please find attached the most updated version of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation Contact List. This document can also be found on the PBC Legislative Delegation website:www.PalmBeachDelegation.com.
    Have a wonderful day!"

    HERE IS MY RESPONSE TO MY FELLOW DEMOCRATS.
    Hello Everyone,
    On our recent visit to Lori Berman's office we met this nice woman XXXXXXXXX and she has been sending some important and interesting information to me.

     When  you open this attachment, you will see all kinds of things that will interest you.

    For instance, here is a roster of all of our State Representatives: with pictures. If you look on your voters' registration card you will see your district on/or beneath the pink line. Just check to see which one of these people is your State Rep. and the next time we are at an event, you'll be able to recognize him or her.

    I have also included our State Senators.
    My Florida CongressCritters are Mark Pafford/district 88, and Ellyn Bogdanoff/district 25.
    You know when we get out there and talk to people about the elections, you will soon learn that most people don't know which district they live in or who their Congress people are.

     That goes for the Federal level as well. It's always helpful if we know this information so we can pass it on. It's also a good way to be helpful to our incumbents by telling people what a good job they are doing and asking for help to re-elect them.

    As Mark Pafford and Jeff Clemens explained to us at our West Palm Beach Democratic Club meeting, the issue of "Fair Districts" will most likely be decided by the Florida Courts. Not only are the Republicans in the State Capitol trying to draw unfair districts: even though we voters have already voted to demand Fair ones.

    Rick Scott has proposed splitting up our Courts so that the Judges who are already seated will become Judges in Civil matters only, and he will appoint the Judges to the newly created court which will decide political matters.
    Can you imagine how that will work out for us?
    Just thought you'd want to know.
    Florida House of
    Representatives

    Rep. Steve Perman
    District 78  
    Joseph Abruzzo
    District 85
    Jeff Clemens
    District 89

    William Snyder
    District 82
    Lori Berman
    District 86
    Irv Slosberg
    District 90

    Pat Rooney
    District 83
    Bill Hager
    District 87
    George Moraitis
    District 91

    Mackenson Bernard
    District 84
    Mark Pafford
    District 88

    lorida Senate

     Florida Senate  

    Ellyn Bogdanoff
    District 25
    Lizbeth Benacquisto
    District 27
    Joe Negron
    District 28

    Christopher L. “Chris” Smith
    District 29
    Maria Lorts Sachs
    District 30
    Larcenia Bullard
    District 39

    Sorry the pictures didn't make it onto this comment.

    Sondra

  •  I had to take civics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez, billmosby

    I took it in the 10th grade.  I had attended Catholic school up to that point. I went to a huge inner city high school in Pasadena, John Muir. I was bused in as the white upscale suburb I lived in had no high school in the 60's. It was one third African Americans. Every one had to take civics.

    My teacher was a old marine, a tough guy, who knew his subject. He taught us all what to look for, passed out lists of gerrymandering,  flag waving,sword rattling, all the tricks the pols and media use and always have. He taught us the Constitution and the real history that went behind it. Despite my teenage disregard and resistance to authority he was fascinating to everyone in the class. He breathed life into our sacred documents and the history and workings of our Republic. He even played Ray Charles, for some reason. But then again he was allowed to teach it as he saw it and we the students a mixed group for sure , loved it and learned.  

  •  The Dreyfuss Initiative (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    Richard Dreyfuss's "The Dreyfuss Initiative" deserves mention here.  Dreyfuss has done some yeoman work on this issue, and he's founded a non-partisan group to lobby for more civics education.  He's also given a number of excellent speeches on the topic, most recently at the Robert Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherdtown, WV (link to video here)

    The Dreyfuss Initiative's website is here.

  •  Simple solution... (0+ / 0-)

    Make all schools democratic. Problem solved.

    "A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience" -John Dewey

    by mikeplugh on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 08:15:25 PM PDT

  •  Civics Education (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    There is an excellent Civics curriculum available from the Center for Civic Education which, up until this year, was a congressionally funded program. Go to http://new.civiced.org/ to see what is offered. One of the programs is designed for junior high and high school students is engaging and gets students thinking about how our constitution is relevant to them. Although not a government teacher, I worked with students in the program for many years and was blown away at their level of knowledge and their ability to discuss complex topics and answer difficult questions about current events without knowing the questions beforehand. One of the posters  stated that his students didn't know Brown v Board-these students could discuss Marbury v Madison, Dred Scott, Brown, Mapp v Ohio to name a few with more understanding than 95% of the adults I know. There is no doubt in mind these students will be active, informed citizens for the rest of their lives ( some currently are field reps for CA legislators and have worked for presidential campaigns). However, Congress, in its austere wisdom, cut a majority of the funding for the program. Personally, I was not required to take a civics class in high school in the early 70's, but I have learned so much about the founding of our country, the writing of the constitution, and how it is still amazingly relevant to our daily lives through helping our students in the program. Peace

  •  Civics (0+ / 0-)

    "Take a time out from your favorite issue and each one teach one. The basics."

    But, what if they don't want to learn??????

  •  A required course in 1966 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, Denise Oliver Velez

    Everyone was required to take Civics and United States History.  I may not remember everything from 1966 but these 2 classes have stayed with me through the years and, not surprisingly, what we see hear and read today is vastly different from then.  
    The most important lesson was how precious the right to vote is and how critical it is to protect that right from being abridged in any way, shape or manner.  Today the right to vote is under assault and anyone who thinks it will stop at simply requiring "official forms of ID" is delusional.  This is the "foot in the door" on the way to transforming  the right to vote into an exercise for the economically privileged.

  •  Good piece, but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Denise Oliver Velez

    I'm confused about your response to NYPIRG's work.  I used to work as a campus organizer for the PIRGs, and I know how much work it takes to engage young voters.  Why do you criticize this work, instead of celebrating it?  

    You ask what good it does to register young voters if they aren't already engaged in the political process.  Because that is our best way to engage them in the process!  Nothing is more demoralizing than getting excited about an upcoming election, only to learn that you've already missed the arbitrary deadline to register to vote.  Registering voters is the first step in the process of mobilizing young people.  

    You should recognize that NYPIRG can be a valuable partner that can help you to engage in the kind of civic education that you're hoping to see.  It is non-partisan, but very progressive.  Being non-partisan means that it is not beholden to either party and will support or oppose a position based on whether it is good or bad for the public, not whether it is good or bad for a party (think about all the times national Dems have told us to support a bad policy or candidate because it's what's best for the Democratic Party).  

     

    •  I am very aware of the good (0+ / 0-)

      that NYPIRG does - but they are not always consistent. Pre-midterm elections they didn't show up to get students registered - we made lots of calls to the office - got no call back.

      They need to  be more active holding forums - they haven't been.  

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:15:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Govt in Idaho High school in the 60's (0+ / 0-)

    I was really really fortunate.  In a small town in Idaho in the 60's, a young US government teacher taught us using a series of critical Supreme Court cases.  In other words, he taught us government by showing us real conflicts and explaining how and why they were resolved.  It was exciting, interesting, illuminating.  I will never forget you Mr. Goetsch, where-ever you are.  Changed my few of government forever.

    Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

    by J Orygun on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:51:27 PM PDT

  •  Do you have any information as to (0+ / 0-)

    in what percentage of school districts civics and history are required subjects?

    I seem to remember them having been required at many points during my early education, starting in about the 6th grade and continuing until my Senior year. And I went to schools in Bellaire and Houston, TX, New Orleans, LA, and Cupertino, CA in the years from 1955 through 1967.

    A lot of my peers found such classes burdensome, but still learned the material. I found the classes gave me a sense of security and hope.

    I have occasionally discussed civics, anyway, with my own children who are 29 this year. I think they are somewhat knowledgeable on the subject but more interested in their career fields.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 05:51:42 AM PDT

  •  Yeah, Civics needs to change... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I'm not sure what still remains of the subject, but I'd be willing to bet that what is generally taught in the Civics classroom doesn't align very well with what the students would be observing of reality every night for homework.

    How does one explain the process of passing a bill, or even drumming up support of one, given the charade our lawmakers go through every day on Capitol Hill? Republicans voting against their own bill because too many Democrats might vote a sarcastic "yea" and the thing might, horrors, actually pass? All the backroom dealmaking that went on in the last hours of the healthcare "debate?"

    It's like Rodney Dangerfield's character in Back To School. "Well, you left out the kickbacks to grease the local zoning board..."

    You'd have to teach corruption in order to get close to reality.

    -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

    by trevzb on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 07:16:08 AM PDT

  •  I'm no longer a "youngin'" BUT... (0+ / 0-)

    ...First, I have to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed this diary!

    I am a 31-year old former political campaign staffer and former candidate for municipal office. One of my best friends is a hard-right conservative who teaches social studies at a local high school continuation school (the place where the thugs and pregnant teens and dopers get sent). One of my mentors is an ultra-left college professor at the nearby university.

    Every semester, these two VERY different educators have me come in as a guest lecturer to their classes. It may be that I missed my calling, but I really enjoy passing on what little knowledge I have to the next guys (and gals).

    So there ARE people out there trying to make a difference! I PROMISE! lol

    As a side note, I noticed the "thugs, dopers and pregnant teens" are actually more adept and interested almost every single time... the college kids always seemed less interested!

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/

    by fnpople2008 on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 08:50:57 AM PDT

  •  it is pretty cler to me that many progressive have (0+ / 0-)

    also not had civics. It is clear because they expect Obama to do things which are not in his power to do. I learned civic every week in 6,7,8 grade, and through our 'current events' program. Also around the kitchen table, as my family discussed politics. Those of us who were in high school in the 60s got a much better all around education.

    U.S. history is usually required in high shool, and it is through that history that civics can be taught, but today's text books are full of pictures instead of information.

    Also those who only read online sites, or articles that fit their political agenda, are limiting their knowledge.
    I read the NYT daily cover to cover. I have read the newspaper daily as long as I can remember. It was a daily ritual in our house.

  •  many people do no get (0+ / 0-)

    how politics, politicians and government effect their daily lives. That is why it is important to vote in every election local, state, and federal, and not just the presidential election. I think the 2010 election is a good example. It was very typical of  low turnout in mid term congressional elections, but the 2010 election had  dire consequences, as it ushered in the even more radical republicans who stopped the Democrat and Obama's progressive agenda in it's tracks. Then progressives start blaming Obama. No it was those who did not vote in 2010.

    Maybe when someone registers to vote we need to give them a test to pass before they get to vote, just like getting a driver's license.

  •  we had civics in 10th grade (0+ / 0-)

    for me, this would have been in 1997 (I think that's right.)

    It was bundled as part of economics, but my teacher made sure we knew our shit. I still have the pocket constitution she passed out for us. I carry it with me.

    There was one unfortunate moment: our mock SCOTUS trial. The class ended affirmative action, and the vote was most definately split by race (3 black kids, myself included--and I argued that affirmative action helped everyone, not just minorities, against 23 white kids and 1 asian kid). Mrs. Hauger was rather disappointed in us.

    I'm disappointed to learn civics teaching has further eroded. I suspect it isn't taught anymore at my old high school except for the students who are in the Honors or AP track---students (again, myself included) in that track get a vastly better education than the others and that's way unfair.

    "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth "I prefer to be a total bitch about my science"--me

    by terrypinder on Mon Oct 03, 2011 at 09:43:49 AM PDT

  •  Not all of us have children ... (0+ / 0-)

    thank you for that ... for the rest... bless your children... and teach them well.

  •  Thanks for this diary. (0+ / 0-)

    I have forwarded it to my school contacts.  Frankly, it shocked me but that was good.

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