Before this absurd presidential election is over and the chilling potentialities have faded, I want to urgently request something of our next president.
We are a great country with a wealth of resources, a rich culture that derives from its heritage of immigration and a government that has been carefully designed by some really smart people. We are greatest when we thrive to better ourselves based on the honorable principles that guided the best of our countries designers. As such, we have an immense responsibility to ourselves and to the world.
In recent months, I have also come to realize how fragile our country is — not because of a failure of resources, culture or even our government (surprise). It’s because we have forgotten what our country is about and the spirit behind its creation — and our education system deserves a large part of the blame. We endeavor to prepare our children for their future workplace, and rightly so. But we have increasingly worked toward this goal at the expense of preparing them to become knowledgeable and responsible citizens of a democratic society.
We have angrily express our dissatisfaction with how Congress, the President and the Supreme Court conduct governmental affairs. Yet, according to an Annenberg Public Policy Center study, only 36% of us could name all three branches of government. 35% could not name a single one. Only 27% knew that two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate could overturn a Presidential Veto. 21% believe that a 5-4 Supreme Court Decision is sent back to Congress.* Yet the constitution we apparently know so little about grants us the power to select those who will fill our offices of leadership.
Therefore, I earnestly beseech our next president to use his or her Department of Education to enact a complete overhaul of Social Studies education in America. We need to understand the history and heritage of our country, both our successes and our blunders. ..And, additionally, we will not be able to accomplish this without escaping the tyranny of high stakes testing and the multiple choice knowledge that it precipitates.
The United States has an exciting history that folds into an even more exciting world history, and it all influences nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Learning about that history and its social, cultural and economic implications should be just as exciting — and it can be.
It should be.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana
..or worse, have it rewritten for them!
* Annenberg Public Policy Center. (2014). Americans know surprisingly little about their government, survey finds. Retrieved from http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/americans-know-surprisingly-little-about-their-government-survey-finds/