The most important role for any American is not to be a winner on any game show nor a celebrity in either a sport or film or public life. The most important role for any American is simply to be that of citizen. While it sounds simple enough, it is not, because we all live in a democracy which requires participation in and knowledge of our government. Lately that participation has been lagging.
The recent May primary had a dismal voter turn out, even though there was a special election to replace an empty seat in the State Senate.
Participation was well below average for both political parties. As for knowledge of our representative democracy, the current political atmosphere has allowed for simplistic and ignorant interpretations of our constitution and ideals.
People cannot grasp that the Founding Fathers set up three separate but equal branches of government to protect us from any branch becoming tyrannical. Such ignorance is readily accepted. And yet our great nation requires our knowledge and understanding to keep American democracy viable.
One way to correct the problem is to ensure that our public schools are requiring the study of government and civics in the senior year of high school. Not only should the subject be taught during that time, but graduation requirements should include such study. Young men and women come of voting age most often in their senior year.
Recently, many schools, including the Indiana Area District, have dropped graduation requirements in the senior year. What a great disservice that is to our American ideals and values. We have learned throughout our young history that democracy only works when we work to preserve it.
Having taught government for years to ninth grade students, I realize how much can be lost between the freshman and senior year. To imply that other social sciences can make up for the loss of government based learning is folly.
Our freedoms rely on an educated and informed electorate. We all should embrace the idea that Thomas Jefferson continuously stressed that knowledge is power. We must continue to empower those who follow us and proudly call them citizen. Our very democracy depends on an enlightened electorate for challenges in the years to come.