America's youth are failing at civics. You remember civics class. It was about government and who runs it and how it was established and who your representatives are and how a bill becomes law. I can never think of civics without hearing that schoolhouse rock song, "...I’m just a bill a lonely bill going up on Capitol Hill." Unfortunately, according to a new study, most of the youth of this nation are woefully lacking in knowledge about the workings of their government.
According to former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, we need to redouble our efforts at teaching government to our children. She says they can’t fully participate in this nation if they are ignorant of its beginnings and its functions and how they can influence its direction. I thought I would help Justice O’Connor and present you with my new curriculum for civics. Feel free to forward this to any middle or high school for their use.
One of the weakest areas of knowledge, according to a test, was knowledge of the Bill of Rights. Students didn’t know its origins nor what its importance is or why it was included with the Constitution to begin with. We need to teach them about the first amendment. The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech. We need to develop lesson plans which will stress how corporations are considered persons even though the founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew about this. These corporate "persons" have the right to inundate the political system with anonymous money so their voices can be heard. That this tsunami of money drowns out any ability of average citizens to have an impact on the political process is just an unintended consequence of enforcing corporate constitutional protections. The first amendment is cited constantly on regressive talk radio. They have to be free and unfettered to say anything they wish and any attempt to widen the debate smacks of censorship and totalitarianism. Students need to learn how one corporation can own 1,000 radio stations and newspapers and TV networks and how this lack of competition squeezed out any message other than the one Hanbaugh et. al. want you to hear. It's their first amendment right.
We need a PowerPoint presentation on the latest debate over the 2nd amendment. In states all over this nation, proposals are being put forth to permit students to carry guns on campus of colleges and universities. These are companion pieces to legislation allowing guns in churches, bars, sporting events and those guns can be concealed. Students need to know this latest iteration of the Supreme Court, which expanded first amendment rights for corporations, believes the founders wanted everyone, everywhere to have a gun and any attempt to register or control the supply is un-American and an affront to the Bill of Rights. We are a nation standing in gasoline up to our armpits and the 2nd amendment is designed to give everyone a book of matches.
One of the surprises our students will learn is there is no 4th amendment to the Constitution anymore. It has been rescinded in practice and soon in principle. It is supposed to protect Americans from unreasonable search and seizure of their person and property without probably cause and a warrant. Stop it; I can hear you laughing from here. Yes that is what it says. I know it was rendered moot by the Patriot Act. I know the government can listen to your phone, read your mail, mine your email and Internet activities and never have to ask you for permission or even ask a judge to rubberstamp their activities. I know your employer can make you prove you don’t use drugs with random tests and the police can set up checkpoints in which you are assumed to be guilty until you prove otherwise (actually this also renders the 5th amendment moot...well another chapter covered too). Justice O’Connor wants students to understand why the Bill of Rights is so important. She wants them to know it protects the minority from the majority...it protects the individual against the power of the government...it places limits on power...unfortunately what she wants them to know is as quaint as rumble seats and buggy whips.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has announced he wants to be president. He says his campaign will be based on the cornerstone of the 10th Amendment. It reserves for the states any powers not articulated by the Constitution for the federal government and gives them to the states. Gingrich used to call this "New Federalism". In his vision for America we would go back to the day when states were more powerful than the federal government. You remember that golden era don’t you? Jim Crow was alive and well in the South. Women had no voting rights. There were no child labor laws, no 8-hour day or 40-hour week. The world of Newt did not have equal access to education or medical care. Prayer and prejudice were comingled in public schools. Clean water, clean air and a healthy environment would be a thing of the past. Gingrich is the one who said if a school votes to establish prayer, it should be their right and the majority should rule. Perhaps Justice O’Connor could include him in her class.
We should all know more about the Bill of Rights. Like any endangered species, the only way to save it is to call attention to its possible demise. The death of Osama Bin Laden is a reminder of how much we have wrecked one of the great documents of all time in the name of safety and security and because true freedom scares the powerful elites to death.