Apparently, a lot of people skipped civics class
The following editorial appeared in The Springfield Republican on Sept. 15:
Ask someone to name the three branches of our federal government, and you might reasonably expect that most everyone in our nation would easily be able to answer such a simple question. Not so. Here was U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who served in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1999 and who is currently the Senate minority leader, speaking back in 2011:
"You know, we have three branches of government: we have a House, we have a Senate, we have a president." Well, not quite. But still, he was closer than so many folk.
A new survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that fully one person in three cannot name even one branch of the federal government. Really. Thirty-three percent of the people.
(For the record, the three branches are the legislative (made up of both the House and the Senate), the executive (the president), and the judicial (the federal courts).
These are detailed in the first three articles of our nation's Constitution.
And something so fundamental was once routinely taught in schools all across the land. In civics classes. Perhaps having given up on teaching the basics wasn't such a great idea after all?
Another finding from the annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey
Nearly four people in 10 cannot name even one single right protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. Really. Not one.
Fully 37 percent, asked to name the rights delineated in the First Amendment, the opening part of the Bill of Rights, drew a complete blank.
This is mind-boggling. People of all political leanings ought to be able to come together to fret and fume over such dismal results. How can we hope to protect and defend our fragile democracy when so many don't even know the basics?
(For the record, the First Amendment protects five rights. It reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.")
Freedom of religion. Of speech. Of the press. These are enshrined in our founding document, and used to be learned by school kids across the land.
How can the people be expected to make wise decisions regarding who will represent them in the Congress, or who should serve as president, when so many don't know much of anything at all about how our government works?
Ask a friend or a coworker how a bill becomes a law – and be prepared to cringe at the response.
Ask a friend or a coworker what he remembers from civics class, and get ready for a blank stare.
This annual survey must beget more than hand-wringing and eye-rolling. School boards across the land, take note.
And then take action.