The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the simple fact that lack of knowledge about the U.S. Constitution lead to outrage and violence. Most American high school student are not required to take a civics class in order to graduate. This has been the norm for many years. Now America is paying the price for the lack of education in civics with protests and riots.
Greg Corombos posted an essay recently that addressed this issue in his article “Americans `Ignorant’ of Constitution`Wanting to Turn to Violence.” He referenced a new survey released by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that “shows huge swaths of the American public don’t know the most basic tenets of their government.” The survey shows that a “third of Americans could not name a single branch of government. Another 27 percent could only name one. Only 26 percent could list the legislative, executive and judicial branches.”
Corombos quotes Adam Carrington, a Politics Professor at Hillsdale College who has seen similar figures over the years.
Polls have shown this consistently. This is not an anomaly. This is a consistent lack of knowledge of that by which we are supposed to govern ourselves [the Constitution]. So it’s a fundamental and massive problem….
If we were in a monarchy, I would say it doesn’t matter at all; but we’re a republic, where people rule through laws, and they particularly rule through the Constitution. For those who exercise the people’s rule to be held accountable, you actually have to know the standard by which you’ve established to hold them accountable….
People believe that what’s constitutional is what I like and what’s unconstitutional is what I don’t like, and that’s just not the way that our system of government works….
I think when people are ignorant of how those things work, they basically get frustrated with the system and reject the very things that make it effective. I think that’s why you see some people wanting to turn to violence, some people not understanding the way the system is supposed to work.
The problem of an uneducated citizenry was foreseen by Thomas Jefferson. He obviously understood that the people have to know how the government is supposed to work.
[E]xperience hath shown, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large….”
If the lack of knowledge about civics is the cause of the riots and violence in our nation – and I believe it is, then the obvious solution to the problem is to teach the rising generation about the U.S. Constitution and how the government is supposed to work. The youth and young adults among us will be the leaders of tomorrow. They must understand basic civics in order to protect and preserve the constitutional way of American life.