I have been a part of the educational system, teaching government and U.S.History. Most school systems wait until students are in their junior and senior years for these courses.
I looked through Ms O'Connor's website: Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools -Educating for Democracy. It appears that most of what is there is for students on their way to becoming adults. What I have found in my teaching experience is that students do not really take what they receive in the courses to heart. They are too busy with hormones, testing for college, graduation state testing, working, whatever. Most of the time they do not read the assignments and understand them.
What this blog is about, is the adult population that is out in the world, making a living, raising a family, trying to fit a little of the American Dream into their lives. Voting, elections, candidates, democratic principles, what are these things? The adult population needs to have "renewal" classes, new citizens need more than the naturalization test. They need coursework during the time they must be here to achieve naturalization and beyond.
In The Civic Mission of Schools report, it identifies six promising approaches to civic learning.
(Remember, these are directed towards students)
1. Formal instruction in government, history, law and democracy
2. Guided discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events.
3. Active learning experiences where students perform community service and/or service/learning.
4. Co-Curricular activities to foster engagement with schools and communities.
5. Student participation in school governance.
6. Student participation in simulations of democratic processes.
Why can't we apply these items, if in fact these can apply to the after-school and new citizen crowd, to the existing electorate? This would enhance the electorate in participation in the democratic process. But, does the government/political scene really want the electorate to be better informed/educated?
1. Governmental people know the ins and outs of the governmental process, for the most part unless people have been involved, they do not know correct procedures, when they can speak, where they can speak, etc. These little things stop most people. For instance, people attending a City Council meeting may be upset about a certain item, however, because they did not know that could not do more than request that they be put on the next meeting's agenda about the item, because the rules say the council people can only listen to what new items can say, but they can not speak, or act upon anything not already on the agenda. So these people that were upset and came to the meeting, may not come to the next meeting in any strength, because they aren't going to give anymore time to the item.
2. Elections. Parties control elections. Example: say a bond election comes up for citizen passage so a school can receive more funds to meet demand. The side that wants the election to succeed finds out how many people voted in the last bond election, that is their target number:
a)have their side get absentee ballots. One for each member and have each member give out 5 absentee ballots to people of like thinking. An absentee ballot will be sent to those people. What an easy way to vote, at home! The target number from the last bond election is usually low,,say 10% of the registered voters. The group ensures victory for their bond election in two ways.
b) they get the names and addresses of the registered voters who voted in the last election and they send their literature to ONLY them. They save money in a small mailing, and a more direct mailing to those who voted last time. They will receive a larger percentage from that mailing. At the election eve, there is no surprise that the bond election passed!! If you are not aware of this tactic, shame on you. This group just "burdened" the entire electorate for the new bond money, by using their heads, absentee ballots and voter apathy.
3, Congressmen do not want you to know too much. Watch the movie "Distinguished Gentleman "for a better understanding. Hallow Laws: these laws are like a log laying in the woods for a while. It becomes hollow on the inside, yet stable looking on the outside. Let's say that people live near a river. Upriver from them is a plant that is polluting the water that goes down stream. These downriver people find that many of their population are dying from the pollution. They become very angry, gather together fighting for their rights. They call their Congressman, he is very courteous and understanding. He tells them that he will get right on it. The downriver people are excited that they have their Congressman working for them. In fact the Congressman calls the manager of the plant, who's parent company has spent many dollars in the Congressman's campaign funding. They discuss the issue. The plant manager says he will write up a bill for the Congressman and in fact, does just that. The Congressman swiftly gets the bill passed and signed into law. Wow, the downriver people are elated, they used the system and the system worked for them, and oh, by the way, don't forget to vote for your"helpful" Congressman. Time passes, the downriver people see no depreciation in the number of sick people. They go to the Congressman and ask what is the deal, didn't he pass a bill stopping the plant from polluting. The Congressman comes back saying the upriver plant was exempted from the law. The law said any plant of 50,000 sq ft had to stop polluting, but the plant upriver is only 20,000 square feet, therefore exempt. A HOLLOW LAW, it looks good on the outside, but there is nothing on the inside.
The Congressman quelled the crowd by listening to them, therefore they broke apart and awaited action. When action was received, they THOUGHT their wishes had been put into action by the Congressman, however, because the Congressman was beholden of the parent company's lobby money into his campaign fund, his loyalty was in fact with the parent company, not his electorate.