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Another program on Civics and Social Education

While driving to Martinsburg today I was listening to the Midday Show on Maryland Public Radio and the discussion was on Civics and how it is taught in schools. Essentially the same topic Elly and I went to hear Richard Dreyfus speak about the other night.

This program focused more on the teaching of Social Studies in grade and high schools and how it is rapidly disappearing as we turn our education programs into nothing but verbal and math tests do to the badly named “No Child Left Behind Act” that Bush left us with.

Among the statistics covered today, from a very large National survey of students:

• 30% do not know the three branches of our government

• no children questioned knew the number of Supreme Court Judges

• a large percentage said Iraq caused the fall of the twin towers.

There are indications that kids don’t read newspapers… don’t watch the news… and even if they did, they have no backup knowledge to interpret it. The odds of them become active voters is very low (they also come from families with a 30% or so national rating of being voters).

Some school boards are trying to solve this problem with tying social information with English reading. Other programs to reinstate Social Studies in schools have some state support in places. Since this was Maryland Public Radio, they focused on Maryland’s state competition in civics and social studies which some school districts participate in (one school in Howard County achieving the highest score in the country based on all state tests.)

A caller to the show, a Turkish born man who had become an American Citizen, spoke of the hundred questions his group had to know the answers to (only a random half dozen were given on the test, but not knowing which half dozen made him learn the whole list). Needless to say, many of these would not be in the knowledge banks of many contemporary school children… or their parents.

When we start getting upset with the Corporate take-over of much of our governing bodies, or worry about Candidates who confuse religious belief with politics or don’t know much about American History, we probably can blame ourselves for becoming less and less civil. Our political parties do not create politicians that discuss their points of view and compromise to benefit the whole population (as they did from George Washington’s government right up to Ronald Reagan’s when everything started fracturing from right to left)… they are not grounded in civility, but in total winning no matter what the cost.

If this doesn’t change, we can look forward to a very dim future and very little to hold our Nation together.

Hearing Richard Dreyfus

Elly and I went to hear Richard Dreyfus speak at Shepherd last night on the subject of teaching civics in our schools… something for which he has founded a new organization, The Dreyfus Initiative, which is setting up a Center over in Charles Town.

We got there a half-hour before the speech and the Byrd Center auditorium was already full. We got shuffled into the second overflow room which filled in about ten minutes. We got to watch Dreyfus on a big screen television via C-Span, which was recording the speech for later broadcast. For those, even in the overflow rooms, who wanted to meet him, there was to be a very crowded reception afterward.

You can go here to listen to the speech: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Drey. I think you’ll be impressed… I was. I’d rather you heard the substance of his message, which closely relates to the major problems our country faces as we become a frozen left-right situation without the civility which was a part of America from its beginning.

Yesterday was Constitution Day, something I hadn’t realized. I guess this is just not promoted by our government or the press.