Civic education and engagement must become higher priorities
Perhaps, every legislative body should open their new session with a reading of the Constitution to remind them of the fundamental reasons why they are elected to do the jobs assigned to them (Evgenia Parajanian/iStock Images).
The ongoing focus in the public square should not be on former President Donald Trump’s pronouncement that all rules, regulations, laws and articles found in the Constitution of the United States be terminated so he can be reinstated as president.
Instead, the concern should be more about what long-term impact such a statement has on our civic engagement and the civic education of our young people — our future leaders.
In his efforts to still disavow the results of the 2020 Presidential election, former President Trump recently tweeted that our founding and governing documents should be thrown out so he could achieve his personal desire, disregarding the will of the people.
A few Republican elected officials have expressed outrage. Most have been silent. Sadly, some have even joined his call.
No doubt, we all have an opinion about a former president of the United States calling for the Constitution to be rendered null and void.
But the real danger is just holding that opinion until the next Trump statement takes center stage and dominates media attention.
The lasting and more serious issue to consider is whether this is a wakeup call — a dire warning — for us to revisit our level of civic engagement and the quality of civic education that we are imparting to our young people.
What is their level of knowledge and understanding of the Constitution and other documents so critical to the governing and very survival of our nation? Are we imparting and instilling a sense of loyalty and patriotism so necessary to preserve and protect the country from those — foreign and domestic — who wish to cause harm?
Over the years, there has been a dangerous decline in civic knowledge among adults. That needs to change. There is no better way than to lead by example.
We need to pause and consider the slippery slope we have been on with the slow erosion of transferring the principles and practices of our democratic form of government to young people.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
There was a time students in grade school not only had to learn, but also recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Students in high school had to learn and recite the Preamble to the Constitution, study the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, even learning and reciting the Gettysburg Address.
What civic education, and to what extent, is being taught in our schools today?
It is a question whose answer is worth seeking, and to know for sure.
For example, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer required in many classrooms. With the growing controversy and objections to teaching accurate American history, the growing movement to ban certain books, how do we expect to teach and show our children what being an American citizen means?
Seeing our laws, principles and rights in action — the good and the ones that need improvement — is one of the best learning experiences we could provide.
If you bothered to ask young people in your orbit about our governing documents, do you have any idea if they will be able to provide a knowledgeable answer?
It might also be good to ask them what they think would happen if the Constitution and the many time-worn laws that have worked are ignored and destroyed. What will replace them?
Former President Trump has not bothered to provide any answers.
If your child or a future young leader should ask the question of you, what would be your answer?
Therein lies the problem. The silence and absence of discussion of what life would be like in America without its governing laws leaves a dangerous void to be potentially filled with a rule of order far more harmful.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Without knowledge and understanding of the importance of the rules and laws that allow and sustain our way of life, how can our children and young leaders evaluate such behavior from a former president?
Are we preparing them to be able to put it and other extreme views and actions in perspective?
There really is no excuse for anyone to remain ignorant about why and how our government should work, or become more informed about areas that need improvement.
There are many resources at our fingertips that can easily explain the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. They can be discussed at home, in our schools and other group gatherings.
The aspiring Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, in the aftermath of Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution, is vowing to open the new Congress in January with a reading of the Constitution, which has not been done in decades.
But just reading the Constitution will not be enough.
Perhaps, every legislative body should open their new session with a reading of the Constitution to remind them of the fundamental reasons why they are elected to do the jobs assigned to them.
It is time to move beyond being shocked by all the anti-American and anti-democratic pronouncements and actions by our leaders no matter who they are or what office they have held or continue to hold.
Realize when the headlines have faded that the negative effects might still linger in the minds of many.
We cannot afford to remain civically disengaged. There are so many ways we can model civic engagement for the young people in our lives.
There is no better strategy for us and future generations — than using education and example — to withstand the escalating onslaught of anti-democratic rhetoric and actions, fight against it, defend and protect America.
That could be among the best investments we could make.
The future of America is counting on us.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.