Civic Virtue: Teach Our Children
Of the approximately 225 million Americans eligible to vote in a presidential election, only about a quarter cast their ballots for Donald Trump. And almost half did not vote at all.
All eligible Americans have not only a fundamental right to vote, but a fundamental obligation as well. Is the Australian model--making voting a requirement of citizenship--something to consider? We don't know, but worth thinking about. We also know that any and all efforts to suppress or restrict voting are untenable and need to be resoundingly rejected by legislatures and, if necessary, the courts. The integrity of the vote is not the problem. Engagement is.
But don't our responsibilities as citizens go beyond voting?
Let's think about civics. It's not taught much anymore. The consequence is that immigrants applying for citizenship know more than our children about what it means to be an American citizen--not only the rights but also the responsibilities. Civics needs to be restored, urgently, to the curricula of our primary and secondary schools. Some people are trying to help. Justice O'Connor started iCivics to provide kids with an understanding of our government and encouraging engagement. Generation Citizen provides students, particularly in disadvantaged schools, with a drivers ed course for civic engagement, emphasizing the importance of getting involved at the local level. But that's not enough.
That made us think--what could we do? Housing, Education. Hunger. The problems are so large, and we are so small. But, like all politics, these issues are local and we need to start thinking more about what we can do to influence outcomes by actively supporting local politicians who are aligned with our views. Mayors, council people, representatives--we need to know more and do more. And we, all of us, need to vote.