The Basics of Citizenship 101
By Tom Morrow
Within the next 20 years, our nation will be in serious trouble. The World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans and most of their families will be gone. Why is that important? They represent the last of our society who received a rounded civic education, witnessed the effects of geopolitics, and had an understanding of basic American citizenship.
For those in today’s society under 40 years old, most received no, or hardly any basics in American history, civics, and world geography. Ask any from this age group if they can answer simple questions immigrants get when they are going through their citizenship routine and you might be shocked at the answers or lack thereof you may receive.
Encinitas resident and actor Richard Dreyfus has been traveling throughout America, talking to anyone who’ll listen about the importance of teaching basic civics in our elementary and high schools. We have college students today who can’t name their representatives in Washington D.C., how many members make up the U.S. Senate, who’s the vice president, in what city is their state capital, where is the United Nations building, or name at least three of our founding fathers.
Late night owls who a few years back watched host Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show” will recall his “Jay Walking” routines where he stood out on the street asking young people basic questions about our society and government, receiving ridiculous and downright stupid answers. While Leno’s audience laughed, most of us were incredulous hearing how ignorant many young people of today really are.
Sadly, too many from our latest generations haven’t a clue. It isn’t their fault – it’s ours for allowing our educational systems to break down. Our university faculties are more concerned about providing “safe” space than making sure students understand our Bill of Rights, and what prompted Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. Why did we fight World War II – and more importantly – who won?
Now, you might think these are exaggerated questions, but try posing some of them to young people of today.
A few months back I had a short chat with Dreyfus. He is adamant about putting basic civics back into the curriculum of today’s elementary and high schools – details every college student should know. The Oscar-winning actor is a man on a mission to educate our youth about what makes America work.
It is surprising, maybe even shocking, the lack of civic education our schools fail to provide students about government and citizenship. Simple things like what is a “republic?” The difference between a democratic government and one that is a monarch or a fascist dictatorship. How many people in today’s society know what the “Electoral College” is and what importance it played in the elections of 2000 and 2016.
They don’t know what they don’t know.
Remember this: Young people today will be in charge of the nation’s purse strings of tomorrow. They will be, or already are, voting. Wouldn’t you like for them to know what they’re doing?
TEST YOURSELF — To test yourself and anyone else you might want to query, try the below – all are from the basic citizenship test given to immigrants before being naturalized U.S. citizens. Every voter should be able to answer at least half of these basic questions.
- Who is in charge of the executive branch?
- What is freedom of religion?
- How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
- If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
- What is the political party of the President now?
- Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
- What is an amendment?
- Who makes federal laws?
- What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
- Name one U.S. territory.
- Who was President during World War I?
- What did the Declaration of Independence do?
- Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
- How many states make up the United States?
- What is the supreme law of the land?
SCAG SEZ: A not-too-bright neighbor keeps complaining about being in debt over his head. I’d like to tell him it’s because he didn’t use it. – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features.
WHICH ONE? There was a rear-end traffic accident at a downtown intersection. The car driver who was hit jumped out of his vehicle and went back to confront the offending driver.
The first driver, who barely reached five-foot in height, angrily declared: “I’m not happy!”
“Okay, which one are you?” the second driver mused.