Budget Cut Blues: America Needs More Informed Citizenry
America needs more citizens. Not more lawyers. Not more politicians. Not more lobbyists. America needs more people informed about current events, who think critically about issues and vote based on depth of knowledge, not impulse. Citizens.
But a national civics program that has proven to be an antidote to the civic illiteracy and disengagement of young people has lost its
The loss of funds had nothing to do with the program's merit, which has touched more than 30 million students and 90,000 teachers. The money disappeared when it was labeled an earmark and all earmarks became a political third rail.
The curriculum for We the People is as close to educational magic as it comes. Students are exposed to a full course of study that delves into the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the nation's founding ideas. They learn how the Constitution and Bill of Rights came to be and how our government has been shaped by the courts, the law and the polity ever since.
The course's textbook brings history to life, demonstrating how the very principles with which the nation's founders grappled are still part of today's raging political debates. Students are challenged to exercise their critical thinking muscle -- perhaps the most underutilized part of the American high schooler's brain.
Many students then apply this learning to an annual competition where they are questioned by judges during a simulated congressional hearing. Contests take place at the congressional district, state and national levels. And the entire class must compete as a single team, combining academically stronger students with those who struggle.
As a judge for this program since 1990, I can tell you about the amazing displays of clear, informed thinking. This year, the students I judged were asked to speak extemporaneously about how and why federalism was established and to apply federalist concepts to today's arguments over health care reform. They rocked.
The program's impact stays with students throughout their lives. Just ask
Coming full circle, Flores was herself a judge at the national competition this year (
Without federal funding, the future of We the People looks bleak. Money for textbooks, program coordinators and summer teacher training institutes is gone. The only reason there was a national competition at all is that, across the country, students, parents and schools raised
Think about what is spent for student athletic competitions at the state and national level. How is it possible that there's no money for an academic program that prepares students to be educated voters? To borrow an advertising slogan: The value of having more informed citizens? Priceless.
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Budget Cut Blues: America Needs More Informed Citizenry | Politics
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