What Will It Take To Fix Our Dumb?

Reading time – 2:53; Viewing time – 4:14  .  .  .

It’s time for a break from today’s Strange Hysteria Involving Trump (you work on the acronym). Let’s focus on something important we can improve together.

The New York Times recently posted an editorial entitled “President Trump, Please Read The Constitution,” with the first 14 Amendments printed alongside the essay. Timothy Egan followed up with a scathing op-ed commentary “We’re With Stupid,” focused on the willful ignorance of our citizenry.

What Egan has written about our national cluelessness is appalling because he’s right. How many Americans could pass the test given to immigrants, a passing grade for which is required to become a new citizen? I suspect that many Americans not only don’t know the basics of citizenship, they don’t want to know. Instead, I’m guessing that a lot of us want to hunker down in the self-satisfaction of piss-off and rail against the machine with no concern for the consequences of our actions. I’m not always above that behavior either. Still, I don’t think tearing everything down Bannon-style is the answer.

When did we stop teaching civics to our children and more powerfully, through the conscious behavior of parents? If you’re of a certain demographic (say, Boomers), you were formally taught civics in high school and it’s quite likely that your parents voted. But now only about one-half of eligible voters (roughly 60% in Presidential years, 40% in off-year elections) bother to vote, leaving our elections to the extremists, who are angry and often clueless. Where did our sense of citizenship go?

Now and then some of my readers disagree with what I post and that’s good. We need the views of lots of people if we’re to make sense of our reality, if we’re to do something about our common refusal to respect one another and if we’re to make good choices.

Most of the people who read my screeds are living in the same bubble I am, but pretty much all of the readers of these posts have a sense of citizenship. They can name the branches of government and a dozen presidents and the oceans on our borders. They understand the establishment clause and they’re clear that the Civil War was about slavery, meaning money and power. How come so many millions of Americans (apparently including Gen. Kelly) don’t know that? We pay a terrible price for our self-applied blinders.

Sadly, I think that it will take a generation or two to clear our thick fog of ignorance. Where should we start?

The military draft used to connect citizens to the country and to a personal sense of duty, but it’s long gone. Should there be some mandatory public service for all so that we connect our citizens to our country?

Should voting be mandatory? It is in Australia.

Egan suggests that passing the immigrant test be required in order to get a high school diploma. How about a universal requirement to pass a semester of civics in order to get that diploma? Is it time to bring that back? (Check out your own state’s requirements here.)

Should we require that school books contain a respect for science? I mean, the theory of gravity is, indeed, a theory, but challenging it on that basis makes no sense. Sadly, that’s the kind of thing that is going on, as “intelligent design” or “creationism” is offered in some schools as an equal to “just the theory” of evolution. That kind of willful rejection of knowledge leads to all sorts of befuddlement, which suggests  .  .  .

What would you say to mandatory training of high school students in critical thinking and have it specifically focused on the concepts and duties of citizenship?

C’mon, you’re a thoughtful person. Help me out with this. Jot your ideas in the Comments section below.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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3 Responses to What Will It Take To Fix Our Dumb?
  1. Paris Pepoon Reply

    You GO Jack! First it drives me crazy the amount of ignorance in america about how government works, not voting, not knowing who your representatives are, etc. How can a man like Trump even be our president! I agree civics should be required to graduate HS. For that matter, 8th grade also!
    I am not sure I agree on making people vote. Sometimes lately, I have even thought for the first time in my life, some people should NOT be able to vote because of their ignorance…that’s how we got Trump.
    Science, without a doubt is a perfect example of people who should not be able to vote if they don’t believe in science. Is science wrong sometimes, yes, but as you wrote and stated, try to prove physics wrong that has already been established. Further more the people who believe every word of Trump are knuckheads. Trump berates people of all color, religion (except Christians), and ethnicity. He lies incessantly as does Sarah Sanders who today had the audacity to make remarks to Jim Acosta about the same thing.
    In closing, I have had enough of this horrible behavior, this president and all who follow him. Thank you for listening to me.

  2. dominickpalella Reply

    “What would you say to mandatory training of high school students in critical thinking and have it specifically focused on the concepts and duties of citizenship?”

    Jack, what exactly do you mean by the concepts and duties of citizenship for our children? Would these concepts include voting in elections based on the promises made by politicians? Would they be to march in the streets, sign petitions and call their elected officials when they don’t keep their promises, even though it is obvious that they don’t pay attention to them after elections? Would their duty be to learn how to be good patriots if they fight in wars to invade other countries and capture their resources for our military empire? That who to invade is now up to the President and a Congress taking money from military profiteers? That our Supreme Court decisions are left up to politicians deciding to enforce or ignore them, depending upon which one of our private political parties has majority power at any given time?

    If we adults know how and why politicians brazenly abuse us, yet keep repeating the same civic “duties” that preserve our roles as subservient citizens to them, how can we teach critical thinking to children that we don’t possess ourselves?


  3. John Calia Reply

    Should voting be mandatory? Certainly not! It’s a free country after all. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: how about passing the immigrant test in order to be able to vote?