Ever since Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected the next President of the United States the internet has been abuzz with speculation about how it could have happened. We think our colleagues at Generation Citizen, the civics nonprofit, summed it up in one sentence:
“If the recent presidential election taught us anything it’s that this country is in serious need of better civics education.”The folks at Generation Citizen believe the need for improved civic instruction has been apparent for years but was underscored by low voter turnout and the vitriolic tone of the recent presidential race. They define civics education as all the processes that affect people’s beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members or prospective members of communities.
CITIZENSCivics does not create Republicans, they point out. Civics does not create Democrats. What it should do, they say, is to create an ongoing citizenry that is engaged, involved, and eager to participate on their terms. They participate in our democratic process by being involved, valuing, and understanding our voting process. Civics is much more than voting; there is discourse, participation, and the basic understanding that people can disagree without being disagreeable.
LESSONSThe recent presidential election made it clear that:
1. Neither our politicians nor our citizenry know how to engage in civil discourse.
2. Protest marches are not a substitute for voting.
3. We are starved for unbiased information.
4. Unless you take civics education seriously, others will do your thinking for you.
UBER-CITIZENSIn a recent article in Nonprofit Quarterly the NAEP defined civic dispositions as “the traits of private and public character essential to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy”. It outlines five traits:
• Becoming an independent member of society
• Assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen
• Respecting individual worth and human dignity
• Participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful, and effective manner
• Promoting the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy