It is a shameful statistic: In 2016 only a quarter of Americans could name all three branches of the national government! This is according to a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (Americans’ Knowledge of the Branches of Government Is Declining). This study and others go on to describe other statistics of the dire lack of knowledge of American government as well as American history. This leaves us with a very fundamental question. How can American citizens play a meaningful role in our democracy? It also suggests something even more troubling. If we don’t understand our government and our political processes, we are very vulnerable to those who would influence for their personal interests and potential gains. This includes politicians and corporations whose motivation is their own financial gain.
So how did we get into this sad state? The root cause has to be education. Do you remember your Civics class? The answer from most of us is probably not. Even if you graduated from a prestigious American university you probably are lacking in American history and civics. The fact is that education in the US has suffered when it comes to national priorities. There is a lot of evidence starting with what we are willing to pay our teachers. Education only gets the priority it deserves if we collectively are willing to take the long view. Unfortunately in today’s environment we seem to focus on the near term.
How do we change this? Tough question and clearly one that will take a lot of discussion, experimentation, patience and commitment. But his is another topic for another blog.
Photo by Muffet