The Evidence Keeps Accumulating…

Periodically, I use this blog to indulge a rant about Americans’ lack of civic literacy. (Regular readers are probably getting tired of my preoccupation with civic education–or more accurately, the lack thereof.) Be warned– I’m going to beat that dead horse again today.

A column written by Colbert King from the Washington Post has highlighted still another research project confirming Americans’ low levels of civic knowledge. 

King introduced the topic by noting what we might call “constitutional challenges” in Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

He proposed a religious test on immigration, promised to “open up” U.S. libel laws and revoked press credentials of critical reporters. He called for killing family members of terrorists, said he would do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” terrorism suspects and suggested that a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican heritage couldn’t be neutral because of his ethnicity. He whipped up animosity against Muslims and immigrants from Mexico, branding the latter as “rapists.”

When protesters interrupted his rallies, he cheered violence against them. He told a political opponent that if he won, he would “get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” adding “you’d be in jail.” He threatened not to respect election results if he didn’t win and, in Idi Amin fashion, made the claims of a strongman: “I alone can fix it.” He publicly expressed admiration for authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cherished notions of religious freedom, a free press, an independent judiciary and the rights of minorities took a beating from him. The prospect of mob violence in his defense and imprisoning of political opponents found favor.

An electorate with even a basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution would have found these assaults on foundational American principles reprehensible. And in fairness, civically- educated Americans did recoil.

The problem is, we don’t have enough civically-educated Americans.

How did a pluralistic nation that propounds democratic values and practices come to this?

“This” not being the authoritarian in the White House who dismisses basic constitutional principles as if they were annoying gnats, but “this” — an electorate that looks past the disrespect shown toward democratic ideals.

That haunting question has occupied the minds of Richard D. Kahlenberg and Clifford Janey, two education scholars and writers who began to take a hard look at this fundamental domestic challenge long before November’s results came in.

Kahlenberg and Janey addressed the scope of the problem in a joint Century Foundation report released in November, “Putting Democracy Back into Public Education.” The report was also discussed in an article in the Atlantic, “Is Trump’s Victory the Jump-Start Civics Education Needed?”

Janey and Kahlenberg argue that our “schools are failing at what the nation’s founders saw as education’s most basic purpose: preparing young people to be reflective citizens who would value liberty and democracy and resist the appeals of demagogues.”

They said today’s schools turn themselves inside out trying to prepare “college-and-career ready” students who can contend with economic globalization and economic competition and find a niche with private skills in the marketplace.

As for preparing them for American democracy? Raising civics literacy levels? Cultivating knowledge of democratic practices and beliefs with rigorous courses in history, literature and how democratic means have been used to improve the country? Not so much or maybe not at all, they suggest.

This has to change. And in Indiana, at least, a number of us are committed to changing it.

Women4Change Indiana is currently launching an effort to increase civic education; I am heading up a subcommittee that will encourage the formation of book clubs around the state focused upon the history and philosophy of America’s constitution. We will also be enlisting volunteers who will advocate in their local school systems for inclusion of the “We the People” curriculum, which is now entirely voluntary. Research has demonstrated that We the People has a salutary, lasting influence on students who have gone through it.

Citizens will not–cannot–protect what they don’t understand.


  1. I’m learning so much since Trump was elected. When one is terrified of the future, as many of us are these days, our retention of what we learn is much better. How long is spring break?

  2. Unless you get it on the ISTEP, it won’t be part of the curriculum. science isn’t on the 5th grade curriculum in our school district because it’s not on that year’s test. Good luck with civics. Know your target, and it’s the test, not the classroom.

  3. Excited to know about the efforts to increase civic education. Will email you to find out how I can help

  4. “Citizens will not–cannot–protect what they don’t understand.”

    This one sentence explains why teaching civics is vital to the survival of this country; is there a source for statistics regarding this as a required class in public education in Democratic vs. Republican states and at what grade level it is taught? My daughter-in-law home-schools her two teenage sons; one benefit is that they are allowed to further research and study classes they are most interested in. My 17 year old excels in all areas of history classes and American Civics; he has been more qualified to vote since age 15 due to his studies than the Electoral College members who put Trump in the White House. He, through his personal interest in gaining knowledge, listened to and read Trump’s campaign speeches and watched carefully who his supporters were and are. Tough job but he’s a tough young man; I go to him and my best friend since 1953 who has been a political activist for almost 60 years, for information due to my lack of knowledge of civics. I don’t remember being offered a Civics class at Tech high school in the mid-1950’s unless it was the dreary Government class I waded through. I am now self-educating via Google and other research sources; this blog provides information and education regarding civics and the law.

    I watched the results of the presidential election in France yesterday; thanks to what I have learned here and in my research I have an understanding of how vital the election of Emmanuel Macron is to all of Europe and the United States. I also understand the vital part it plays globally in the fight against President Putin and Russia. I consider President-elect Macron’s win to be a win, not only against Le Pen, but a win against Trump and Putin and gives me a glimmer of hope for America.

    It is all civics! You just keep beating that dead horse, Sheila and maybe, like Lazarus it will rise from the dead.

  5. Kudos to Shelia for her activist role in bringing civic literacy to those who will bring it to the masses as a counterweight to the authoritarian rant of Trump. I have been concerned for some time in state complicity in ignorance in this area as seen with the Texas State School Board’s removal of civics from the curriculum of high schoolers in that state. To not teach civics is to me an admission that democracy is not important enough to be given a place on the educational menu when there is nothing more important than our democracy without which this country is just another playground for the authoritarians and moneychangers, hardly what Madison and Jefferson had in mind.

  6. My concern with a “We the People” curriculum is who will write it? How will Women4Change defend what one can hope will be representative of ‘mainstream’ history and philosophy of the Constitution against an American Enterprise Institute slant, an Antonin Scalia bias? I’ll bet ALEC has already written their version, or Eagle Forum. Who is educating/has educated/will educate civics teachers in elementary and secondary schools? Are we too far down the road toward authoritarianism to turn us toward a rational curriculum?

  7. To cling to the only positive debris I can find at the moment, I assume that Women4Change Indiana in its effort to be consistent with the practice of civic literacy asked Indiana men to be a part of the movement to increase civic literacy…and were rebuffed. Perhaps the practice of addressing political policy as if women’s issues trumped all others, which was the flaw in Hillary Clinton’s campaign that got us all Trumped, has now morphed into the practice of addressing all issues as if only women can solve them. Why not expand this worthwhile mission to increase civic literacy by teaming up with a male organization? I do not want to make the next logical assumption in this train of thought–that underlying many of the policies advocated by women’s groups is the mission of driving all men into the Republican Party. That is a wrong assumption, right?

  8. Wayne- this curriculum exists and has been used and evaluated since the US Bicentennial. Google for details.

  9. I’m with Wayne on this question. We know the winners write the history books. We also know that the Texas Board of Education has more say over what gets taught in our public schools than any other group in America, since they approve the books that get published and sold to our schools. Any content changes they require are generally made without question. Those changes are not necessarily in line with reality.

    I happen to be a fan of Benedict Arnold. I know that will shock many of the readers of this blog. That’s because your history books only name one thing he did and that was negative. Should he only be remembered for that one thing? If not for his efforts, the revolution might not have lasted long enough for Cornwallis to be told to get back to England ASAP. History depends on who does the writing as well as who does the research.

  10. Why is it that all those who oppose Trump do so simply because they are /have been brain washed by the illuminati controlled POP CULTURE mainstream media.
    Only interested in white bread , butter , and sugar. Time to get out of your matrixes , and WAKE UP !
    Mr. Trump spoke the truth when he told us that elections ARE rigged , and he pointed out the illuminati when he pointed his finger at BUSH , and HILLARY.

  11. Our government/industry made a conscious decision to move away from a “civically-minded citizenry” in the 50’s because we couldn’t be trusted to make the right decisions. We’ve been socially engineered by the establishment ever since. Google, “Edward Bernays”.

    There is a great documentary out there called, “A Century of Self”. It’s worth watching…be prepared for “light bulb” moments!

  12. The Fort Wayne Area League of Women Voters has a page on our website about suggested reading and yesterday I met a history professor from Grace College whom I asked to add to add to the list. We’ll be contacting others to do the same. We’ve also asked IPFW political scientists to do some workshops on the different ways the Constitution has been interpreted. Several of us are We the People Volunteers. We want to start some civic education trainings here in Fort Wayne and are hopeful we can get an adult version of We the People scheduled for this fall. Please do keep us in the loop on this. It’s important and valuable work that needs to be done.

  13. Mark. I oppose most of what Trump proposes because most of it is divisive – emphasizing the point that he serves his voters – all others can go to hell; some of it is illegal or unconstitutional; much of it attacks the most vulnerable people who live in the US and helps those who least need help. And the big question: for what purpose? Some answers: to keep him in the media spotlight, to massage his delicate ego, to help himself and his wealthy friends to easier feeding at the public trough at the expense of public education, environmental and health protections, national land and landmarks, to name a few.
    Mr. Trump may be speaking about election rigging from his own experience.

  14. Greetings Mark. Show us the proof that the man in the White House spoke the truth , saying the elections are rigged. Don’t give us a bunch of jargon, give us factual proof. Is the proof of rigging in his so called victory?

  15. Greetings JoAnn. I taught those dreary government classes at Arlington H.S. from 1966 until 1985.
    History, Civics, Government, Economics, etc are/were book reading classes. I did not have a song and dance to make the subject exciting. It up to the student to participate and learn even though it may not be exciting. I realize that that was all a day or two ago. Irvin BAA 🙂

  16. At the end of President Obama’s speech last night to accept the “Profile in Courage” award at the JFK Library, he made the comments below. They are so apprpriate today.

    “I don’t know whether President Kennedy’s aide and friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was right when he wrote that history unfolds in cycles, but I do know that it doesn’t move in a straight line.
    I know that the values and the progress that we cherish are not inevitable, that they are fragile, in need of constant renewal.
    I’ve said before that I believe what 
Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” but I’ve also said it does not bend on its own. It bends because we bend it, because we put our hand on that arch, and we move it in the direction of justice and freedom and equality and kindness and generosity. It doesn’t happen on its own.
    And so we are constantly having to make a choice because progress is fragile. And it’s precisely that fragility, that impermanence, that is a precondition of the quality of character that we celebrate tonight.
    If the vitality of our democracy, if the gains of our long journey to freedom were assured, none of us would ever have to be courageous. None of us would have to risk anything to protect them. But it’s in its very precariousness that courage becomes possible and absolutely necessary.
    John F. Kennedy knew that our best hope and our most powerful answer to our doubts and to our fears lies inside each of us, in our willingness to joyfully embrace our responsibility as citizens, to stay true to our allegiance, to our highest and best ideals, to maintain our regard and concern for the poor and the aging and the marginalized, to put our personal or party interest aside when duty to our country calls or when conscience demands.
    That’s the spirit that has brought America so far and that’s the spirit that will always carry us to better days.”

  17. irvin; what little I remember from Government class is that it was about the structure of government, not how government related to me personally or what part I could play in the process. Is that the difference between Government and Civics classes? The phenomenal Biology teacher at Tech, Mr. G.K. Barr, taught us to make the connections; of course, he also treated his students like intelligent human beings with the potential to learn…and want to learn more. From your comments; I believe you were in that category of teaching staff. The same goes for Sheila; I have spent more time on Google since becoming active on this blog than ever before.

  18. PS: the two of you would probably have encouraged me and instilled in me the motivation to stay in school rather than becoming a member of the growing class of drop-outs. It was the encouragement from a friend who had been a teacher, who hired me as his Administrative Assistant, who thought I had attended college, who encourage me to get my GED when he learned otherwise.

  19. Democracy cannot exist without a vibrant, middle class with shared values. The growing bifurcations of our society is the greatest threat to democracy and this will grow on steroids with the proposed changes in the the AHCA/tax laws. Public education flows out of the presence of a middle class. In the past the middle class included a stable, working class (people who had good, stable factory jobs with benefits and annual raises) with not a radically different standard of living from small business owners, large farmers, teachers, cops, and other semi-professionals. They worshiped in the same churches and their kids went to the same schools and married each other. No more. The split now is huge and growing–as we all know. Important as it is, I don’t think education alone can address this. I’ve seen this coming for many years and it terrifies me.

  20. I think if students are going to get engaged with civic education that the teacher needs to know what he/she can use to get them excited about the class ie dramatic reenactments like the “mock trial of Susan B Anthony” , a project I led for Spirit and Place. There were a lot of home school students present at that event. We need to let them debate issues around democratic principles as well, I believe. Otherwise, it might be so dry, they won’t learn much. And then, of course, we need teach people how to best use their time and energy as individuals to create positive change in our government and country.

  21. You can teach all the Civics classes you want, about how the system is supposed to work. The “System” is pretty simple on paper. Now you have to add in the massive effect of the Koch Brothers types George Soros and others in the 1% class and the politicians that are selected by them via campaign contributions, Pacs and Super Pacs. Add in also those pieces of equation like the DNC, and Super Delegates.

    Trump was right in sense our elections and systems are rigged. A far different person, namely Howard Zinn in his book People’s History of the United States pointed this out over and over. Zinn said in so many words, the historic political boundaries is the protection of the American system, protecting corporate wealth and power, maintaining a huge military machine that drains the national wealth, allying the United States with right-wing tyrannies abroad.

    At the end of day because of our “system” 125 million people were given two choices to vote for that could possibly win the presidential elections in 2016. The system as it has been perverted only allows two viable choices.

  22. JoAnn,

    Copied from your post: “what little I remember from Government class is that it was about the structure of government, not how government related to me personally or what part I could play in the process”

    That is the exact same education I received in government class. No connection at all to how we, as citizens, could contribute to or have any control over government other than to vote for people who were running for office.

  23. Sorry, off topic a bit.

    I saw a tweet earlier that said, in so many words, “Who would have thought that the new President of France speaks better English than our own President.”

    Thank goodness Le Pen was wiped out in that election. She is the female tRump of France and they rejected her as I hoped they would. We were afraid that it could cause a global crisis if the EU dissolved.

    That’s education in a nutshell.

  24. Greetings JoAnn and Nancy. Very good. In order to realize how the topic/subject applied to you, you first had to know the content of the topic/subject. Irvin BAA 🙂

  25. You ‘get here’ by having Hillary Clinton and the DNC ‘fix’ the primary. You ‘get’ here when over 40% of people stayed home on election day because there WAS no real choice. You ‘get’ here when your politicians, who get in office pledging hope and change let Citibank pick their cabinet. You ‘get’ here when the banks and Wall Street are rewarded for their bad conduct while homeowners are thrown out of their homes and more than a generation of wealth building goes to the thieves and not ONE banker goes to jail. You ‘get’ here when Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court don’t even pretend anymore that there is one America. You do drugs they will ruin your life. You go to college you drown in student loan debt. You try to find a job with benefits and all that is there for you is the gig economy. You lose your job in middle age you won’t find another one. The lack of a civic education hardly rates a comment from where I stand.

  26. Thanks Nancy; glad to know I am not the only one who viewed those classes that way. It has been more than 62 years since I sat through them.

    Louie: copied from your comments, “You can teach all the Civics classes you want, about how the system is supposed to work. The “System” is pretty simple on paper.”

    I doubt you would get an argument from many people but…perhaps had more of us been taught civics the current system (not only today’s Trump disaster) would not have reached this point. Perhaps we would have had more insight and not elected presidents or members of Congress who would appoint and support the SCOTUS that enacted Citizens United, putting our government and this country on the auction block to the highest bidders. I can only use the term “perhaps” because; human nature being what it is, especially regarding greed, racism, bigotry and self-involvement, may have brought us to this end contrary to any amount of education and knowledge.

    Each day we begin at a new starting point; we can learn from our mistakes, we can give up and give up the battle to undo what has been done to and by us. Trump, whether he knows it or not, is living proof of W.C. Fields’ oft repeated quote, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” His supporters are still “dazzled” but we are not “baffled” which gives us an advantage…we can either use it or lose it.

  27. One certainly doesn’t have to work very hard to sell the fact of our failures in civic (or science) education when enough people in the electorate fall for the fake news that the Donald is qualified for any public office.

    We can talk all day about Putin’s role or Comey’s role or the NRA or Bannon but the bottom line is enough people fell for what they were peddling.

    “A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” (Benjamin Franklin)”

    Apparently it’s a struggle for us with serious doubt as to the outcome.

  28. As a participant of the class, “Constitution 101”, offered in Fishers this spring, I had the opportunity to experience the Fishers School Team during one of our class meetings. They ARE AWESOME, so glad to know that they placed number one in the “We The People” competition. This program was offered to adults through the City of Fishers paired with Robert Leming, of the We The People staff, to help adults with their civic literacy. It certainly was a gift to me. Highly recommend it. Check with Sheila about this.

  29. My grounding in Civics came in classes at Music & Art between 1957 and 1960, and principal among the teachers was the American History professor Ira Marienhoff. I can still recollect him talking about the French and Indian Wars, The American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War…and everything that followed, and making the connections of all these conflagrations to how the populace reacted to the strains they faced. I never heard about the Loyalists or Confederates or the anti-war factions as “enemies;” they had opinions that had to be disentangled from those who opposed them. That meant one could admire Benedict Arnold before his treason, and Henry Cabot Lodge for his thoughts on other than pacifism without denigrating the good that came from their other military and political actions. That is when I developed the habit of reading incessantly, something that is lacking among many individuals who are younger than I. Marienhoff had us reading outside the curriculum in high school, making sure that we knew where to look for diverse opinions…the New York Times Book Review was a start, and once the internet came about, I shifted to the new medium with alacrity. The idea of Civics at my age (73) in the Trump era rekindles a lust for contemporary non-fiction writing–about Politics, Wall Street, the Middle East (does anyone talk about the Levant these days?), but I wonder how many people in succeeding generations have the same inclinations? A lot is available on our IPhones and IPads, but are we reading what we need to read so that Santayana’s pronouncement (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – The Life of Reason, 1905), now simply referred to as an “aphorism,” does not lead us into the abyss? I think not.

  30. I attended Chatard H.S. in the 1960’s, and my government teacher was Ricardo Mendez, who later became an attorney. Anyway, Mr. Mendez kept in contact with former students who got drafted or volunteered, and who wrote to him about the atrocities they observed in Viet Nam, buddies who got killed or maimed, fears for their own death or dismemberment, etc.. He shared their letters with us, and used this as a discussion point regarding the powers of three branches of government, emphasizing the fact that the U.S. never formally declared war against Viet Nam, but yet young men were drafted anyway. To have a Catholic school teacher encourage students to think their government was doing something illegal was very avant garde at the time.

  31. As a political scientist by training, I am getting angry at my discipline/profession for neglecting civic education for esoteric ‘cutting edge’ research, which has yielded a pitiful corpus of information or theory beyond that of Aristotle. We spend our time trying to outdo each other for appearances in journals that nobody reads. The same is true for moral theory, a point Alasdair MacIntyre notes with some amusement and disappointment. We need to beef it up, teach our children to be citizens, how to use their powers as a citizen, to organize, to participate, to make collective decisions – or they will be made for them.

  32. Girlcousin highlights a major problem with our democracy at this point in our history. A large portion of the population of this Country no longer believes it makes any difference — whatsoever — which politician from which party is elected to run the National, State and Local governments. Based on what they have seen and experienced, it seems obvious to them that no matter which politician or which party is elected, they and others like them will be left out and get the short end of the stick while the wealthy and powerful get all the rewards. Hence, they don’t think it matters to them and others like them whether they vote or not. Thus, they don’t bother to vote — or as was the case for many in this past presidential election, vote for a demagogue.

    The examples that Girlcousin cites in her post, as well as those often pointed out by Todd and others here, make it clear there is a real basis for Girlcousin’s cynicism about our governments. At this point, unfortunately, I believe the vast majority of the citizens of this Country are at least somewhat cynical about our governments, not to speak of many of our politicians.

    Civics education, alone, of course can’t and won’t fix or cure the problems and the issues Girlcousin points out. But one has to know how something works — or is supposed to work — before one can figure out how to make it work the way it should. And that is where it seems to me that civics education can help.

    For example, the Washington Post article by Colbert King, which Professor Kennedy has excerpted in her blog today, begins by going through a laundry list of patently unconstitutional things Trump said or promised to do during his campaign and has actually tried to do since taking office. King then asks how: “an electorate . . . looks past the disrespect shown toward democratic ideals [?]”

    One possible answer, as I believe Professor Kennedy has often blogged about, is that study after study has found that a large percentage of the citizens of this Country have no idea what’s in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights — other than perhaps some vague notions about the freedom of religion and speech and the right to arm themselves to the teeth with guns. Or worse, many when asked if they’d be in favor of a right — that is contained in the Bill of Rights — say they don’t think it should be a “right.” Thus, they, along with willfully ignorant Trump, have no idea that what he bloviates or tweets would be patently unconstitutional, and should rightly found to be so by the Judiciary Branch of our government.

    So it’s at least possible that many in the electorate didn’t look past Trump’s “disrespect” for the Constitution and how our government is supposed to work, but rather they lacked basic civic knowledge that what Trump ignorantly proposed to do, and now in many cases is trying to do, is unconstitutional. Therefore, it’s also possible, at least when it comes to many citizens (unlikely not so much for Trump), having some basic knowledge about what’s in the Constitution, and how and what each branch of our Federal government is responsible for could make a difference. Certainly worth a try.

  33. David F; “A large portion of the population of this Country no longer believes it makes any difference — whatsoever — which politician from which party is elected to run the National, State and Local governments.”

    I am related to and know many of that population; their belief is like thinking there is no difference between a mosquito bite and poison ivy…because they both itch. Trying to convince them otherwise is like telling that mosquito not to bite you.

  34. Evidence Sean Spicer is an idiot, speaking for Trump as his court jester. Regarding the Senate Hearing, questioning Sally Yates, Spicer just stated that she did not warn President Trump about Mike Flynn. “She didn’t say there is an issue, she said there is some information…”

    For some reason, I felt the need to share this NOW, before the much delayed Senate Hearing questioning of Sally Yates happens. It is scheduled to start soon.

  35. girlcousin @ 11:09, I totally agree. I think of our political system as garden – only corporately approved flowers are allowed to flourish. If a non-corporate approved flower attempts to take root it is categorized as weed pruned out of the garden or sprayed with some corporate herbicide.

    Single Payer Health Care – No way- Protecting the Corporations Profits is first and second, no matter how twisted it must be, with high premiums, high deductibles, co-pays and subsidies to the insurance companies.

  36. Step 1 in this process is to aggressively dismantle the Republican’s highly
    successful “Dumbing Down of America” program started by Reagan in the 1980s. Here in my retirement state of South Carolina, many are proud of their ignorance because it prevents them from questioning why politicians have made them 49th in so many important state measurements. SC, for example, rejected Common Core because it contained a critical-thinking component, the thing that frightens our politicians the most. Another example? A huge percentage of our state revenue is paid by tourists visiting our Atlantic beaches. Politicians whose palms are being greased by the American Petroleum Institute want to drill for oil off those beaches and have convinced our dumbed-down citizens that killing the golden goose by drilling is the way to go from rags to riches without having to pay. Nothing, of course, can go wrong, go wrong.

    On the other hand, there are activist groups, mostly of women, whom Trump has inspired to act and who are determined to compel the federal government to support the interests of the voters. They are ripe for instituting the civic education plans you suggest. Contact me if you would like specifics.

  37. A good example here in Indiana of how the Government “Works” vs what it should do, is the Corporate Welfare we have for the Colts and Pacers. The Governors, Legislature, Mayors here in Indianapolis and the City-County Council happily approved of Hotel-Motel, Food and Beverage, and Rental Car taxes to fund the building, maintenance of stadiums and other subsidies for the Colts and Pacers through the Capital Improvement Board (C.I.B.).

    A Civics Class could describe this corporate welfare all in great detail. What is interesting to me and I could be wrong, I have yet to hear or read where any elected official has spoken out forcefully against this Corporate Welfare Program for the Colts and Pacers. We have a Republicrat Party when Corporate Welfare is concerned. The primary goal here being the financial assistance via taxes to benefit private industry.

    People, myself included understand how all this works – but the critical point to be made is we are powerless to intervene against it. You can put in differently, the deck is stacked, the cards are marked, or the table is tilted. We have an Everest size mountain to be moved and we the people have teaspoons.

  38. Half of France’s young voters voted for Le Pen. It was the over 65 voter who saved France from the right-wing.

  39. I agree completely with your rant and wish someone would have been seriously discussing this topic 30 – 50 years ago when I suspect a majority of Trump voters were actually in school.

    I also agree the playing field has tilted dramatically in favor of large corporate interests since Reagan. At the time the Chicago School of Economics thought seemed like a reasonable path. It was till suddenly it’s not.

    Kind of like the story of the Thanksgiving turkey.

  40. well, again, we should thank Donald Trump for being, perhaps, one of our best presidents. Barack, Hillary, and to a lesser extent, others, have been eagerly warping the US government to help them “cut corners”, using the executive to end run around Congress, amassing huge amounts of power where it was unaccountable, etc. They were slick enough that many people were happy to keep their civil rights in a White House safe, to be taken out only in emergency, during regular business hours, if the President has the time, and if someone can find the key. Now they find that when you ignore the Constitution, debate policy based on fawning “court jesters” on the late, late, late show, and trust your country to “occupant”, you get a guy that went to the White House to take the tour and stayed for the show, with no idea that he would get a job there, or even that they were hiring. If that inspires people to regain interest in America, Hurrah! Better late than never.

  41. Is anyone else of the opinion that, contrary to holding a lengthy presidential campaign and election (with questionable results decided by the Electoral College rather than the voters), that we have no active president in office? He is not responding to the Pentagon meetings regarding “more boots on the ground” in Afghanistan (ONE of the wars he wanted to increase to its previous level), he has bombed Syria and Afghanistan and accomplished little other than the most expensive fireworks display in the history of the world. I’m still confused as to the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll action, he did not attend the White House Correspondent’s Annual Dinner, he refused to hold the White House Cinco de Mayo Annual Dinner, his daughter is attending meetings in his stead with leading foreign dignitaries and will attend the Paris Climate Summit and as yet unnamed future presidential meetings to protect peace throughout the world. We have no First Lady, the First Family is not living in the White House but we are paying for three White House locations while the man with the title improves his amateur golf score and his Tweeting ability. His son-in-law’s family has now established a business in China selling visas and green cards allowing documented status in America to anyone with $500,000 to invest in a new Trump enterprise in Jersey City, New Jersey, using his familiar face to sucker in investors.

    Exactly what our shadow Vice President does is still to be determined but who is to determine this is also still to be determined, maybe Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway if Ivanka is otherwise engaged? No one is in charge, the kids are being seen AND heard throughout this land and foreign countries. The number of questionable acts, broken laws, signed and executed Executive Orders are mounting, the start-and-stop investigation(s) of possible treasonous actions by Trump and an undetermined number of others, are months long and nothing has been established as evidence – pro or con. Our tax base is dwindling as the entire Trump Klan mixes and mingles, they all take frequent vacations, and make money as they flit around. How many of them will we be required to pay retirement benefits to and secret service for if-or-when they are gone? Is all of this a diversionary tactic and we will wake up one morning soon as one of Russia’s satellite countries?

    What will be written in history books about this first less than five month lack of administration of this presidential administration?

  42. Let me comment in layers.

    Layer 1. What is required in the curriculum boy Indiana law.

    The “hit and miss” Constitution Day lesson(s). By federal law, 17 September is Constitution day. Any school receiving federal funds must teach the constitution on that day.

    Fourth, fifth, ad Eighth-grade social studies have units on the US and Indiana Constitutions. Units.

    Eleventh-grade reviews US History to 1870 where the standards then start with the second industrial revolution. US history (in theory, but seldom practice) then continues to the current date.

    In 12th-grade there is the official “government” course. I can only suggest that you go to the IDOE website, download, and slowly review the standards.

    Social studies is tested in 5th and 7th-grades. That’s all.

    PERSONAL COMMENTARY regarding this level.

    A study just being finished by the Ackerman Center at Purdue shown that the average time spent teaching social studies in elementary schools is 20 or less minutes PER WEEK. I stop with the statement there can’t be much learning going on under such conditions. I’ll add, as the one time Director of Scocal Studies & World Languages, I know for a fact that a large number of principles ORDERED teachers not to teach any social studies and use all that time for more reading instruction.

    Even if students learn what they should at the elementary school level, it inadequate. Students in elementary level usually only think in a binary way. Black or white. Civic life is very nuanced. In middle school, students minds are now able to hold two ideas at one time. That’s the foundation of sophisticated analysis and synthesis. Time to seriously deal with issues. Let’s take one from the US history class: Is the original treatment of slavery in the Constitution still influencing the way American society act in areas other than the law? (This question is appropriate for history as one of the main categories of questions historians ask and investigate is: HOW DOES THE PAST HELP US UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT.)

    However, there is how something is SUPPOSED to operate and how it ACTUALLY operates. What I suggested as an inquiry question for 8th-graders is NOT directly reflected in the standards for 8th-grade. Teacher evaluations are done by principals and asst/vice principals. And suppose that principal is a music or physical education teacher. To them, you are not teaching the standards. You get dinged big time. Now to me, the Director, you are teaching the standards in a way a professional historical might approach matters associated with the Constitutional Convention. And I would expect this question to be revisited when we study abolitionism. Question to you dear reader, would you have been an abolitionist activist in the 1850s? Please consider the prevailing morals, taboos, and social constrictions before committing yourself. (In fact, my test question on abolitionism for 8th-graders would be an essay. Q: Whould you have been an abolition activist, an opponent of abolitionism, or just not concerned about abolition had you life through the 1850s. Explain you reasons for your choice and exactly what you would have done with your choice.

    Level two. What can I teach in a class on politics?

    Come on. Teaching government is EXAMINING politics and particularly politics in America. Now look at what are the so called “culture wars”. Groups spend months of time pushing to have this or that taught their way in a social studies curriculum. One only has to look at the groups sculpting Texas social studies.

    Teachers in Texas are expected per the state to teach that the Civil War was NOT caused by slavery. Really. Have they read Alexander Stephen’s famous cornerstone speech? Stephens says the problem with the US constitution is that it DOESN’T make clear that blacks are not inherently equal to whites. Then read the declarations of secession. They say in simple declarative sentences the states secede because they must ensure perpetual black slavery.

    With test scores the be all and end all, with administraters likely ignorant of social studies evaluating them, with two hours of bureaucratic paper work or meeting per day, with requirements for elaborate written lesson plans per district template, and then that leftist or rightist parent ready to complain on the “culture war” or “political spectrum” level, is it any surprise teachers stick to the “sanitized” textbook and state standards equally cleansed of anything that could create controversy?

    Here I must also add that politicians (men and women who have made it their career vs the citizen office holder) regardless of party have little if not self interest in having students receive ANY civic education. Oh, they can’t say that in public. They can quietly vote that sentiment on the floor of a legislative body or kick the can off to a state board of education. The rage for STEM education (for example see former governor Mitch Daniels’ attempt to make Purdue University into STEM University) demonstrate the subtle way in which the removal of civic education occurs. STEM is a curriculum of Science, Technology, English, and Math. English is the step child in this family. As used in STEM, English is no more than effective English language communications. At Purdue, Mitch wants communications classes (including public relations classes) to meet or replace those stolid academic English classes especially literature classes. This is in line with the new governors in America line that student need only learn what is necessary to make the average or above average income taxpayers. (Cha-Ching!).

    So, let’s face it! There are many POWERFUL forces, interests, groups, and individuals pushing back against meaningful and effective civic education.

    Again, a thought experiment. What would be the responses (please note the plural) to my starting my government semester with the following. The author Gore Vidal once said “There is only one political party in the United States: the Money Party”. Our quest during this semester is to see if Mr. Vidal is right, partially right, vaguely right, or wrong.

    NOTE: were I in AZ, this would violate AZ law! Why? It might be claimed it pitted one class of people against another. No instruction in AZ school can do that, hence no ethnic studies. And where has IN got many of its legislative “ideas”? AZ!

    I might add, this type of knocking down “real” study of critical issues in American history and American government has occurred again and again in the 20th century. The New Social Studies of the 1970s is an example. While exhibit A was the anthropology course in which students learned the FACT that some northern indigenous people would expose their elderly and let them die, there were many more concerns.

    In high school, I lived north of Pittsburgh, PA. I remember the furor about the US history unit that had students studying the Carnegie Steel Works, the Homestead Strike, the use of the PA militia to subdue workers (both in the great railway strike in 1870s and Homestead in1890s). Companies in Pittsburg attacked this curriculum as anti-capitalist and proto socialist. (Remember a socialist paramour of a famous socialist tried and nearly succeeded in assassinating Henry Clay Frick). But many students in Pittsburgh Schools were grandchildren or great grandchildren of east European workers involved in these strikes. They really drilled into this unit on the Second Industrial Revolution.

    Oh, and the constitution? We looked at how the Supreme Court expanded/created a new due process. Of course there is also the SCOTUS decision saying a corporation is a person under the Constitution — the foundation of Citizens United decision rendered just recently.

    Level Three. You can’t test social studies with conventional tests.

    ISTEP+ and no doubt its successor are objective tests. Great for testing knowledge of facts. Not even in the ball park for testing civil education attainment.

    Let me demonstrate. What’s the biggest constitutional question looming on the horizon?

    How can people of religious conviction act on their convictions? I should saw how far can they go with their religious convictions?

    The obvious first issue is can those with a true religious conviction dismiss LGBT citizens? In housing? In service at a privately family owned enterprise? Can they refuse to deal with them as medical personnel in an ER? As a potential surgeon in a hospital? As a waitress in a diner? As a patron in a diner? What if they believe the salvation of their souls and those of their children require liquidating LBGT people? The last is just to show there some limites to freedom of religion allowing one to follow through with action should the courts decide in favor or religion over equal protection.

    What’s the real question above? In a conflict of rights, does religious freedom or equal protection take priority? And just how far does that priority go before it obliterates the secondary right?

    Two important things to understand here. One, there can be legislation addressing the issue. States have created religious freedom laws. Second, the final arbiter or such matters (I.e. What the constitution means) are the courts. They must, and they will, make the determinations when it comes close to one right obliterating another.

    Let’s stick with the last two things mentioned. These can be turned into objective questions of process, but never of substance. The issue of whether any given religious freedom bill is good public policy is given to difference of opinion in good faith. What needs to be tested is how well the student as a prospective citizen can advocate for her/his perspective with rational argumentation and persuasion What is the procedure for testing that? Perhaps an authentic product (speech, advertisement, letter to the editor) or perhaps an essay. Students hate essays. Teachers say no essays because kids can’t really write. (But if they don’t have to write essays how will they learn to write essays?). Nobody likes to grade essays.

    No requiring a great deal of “testing” be written answer and essay has played a major role in killing government and then history classes.

    I took a course as an undergrad in college — The history of England. My prof was a blessing. He asked me on my first blue book exam if I wanted to do better. I said yes. After each class meeting he set me a question upon which I had to write an essay answer. And at the end of the next class after setting the next question, we settled down in his office to review sentence by sentence the answer I had turned in for him to read. Thanks to him, I learned to write history well.

    Here’s one of his blue book questions. Was Elizabeth the Great a Catholic or a Protestant? Explain and defend your answer.

    Think of mass testing students across the state in that manner. The state will not pay the cost. So when you say, if it’s not tested, it’s not taught you’re right to a degree. But remember the test determines what administrators will demand taught. Objective test? Teach piles of dull boring facts.

  43. MaryJo,

    I’ve tried to send a private email in response to your offer of help, but it keeps bouncing back. Can you send me your contact information?

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