Throwing In The Towel On Civics
I got to be a fly on the wall at a discussion of Supreme Court elections last night. Two groups of about 10 or 12. One men, the other women.
In a scene right out of one of Leno's "Jaywalking" segments, none of the men could name a single member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. One spoke of "that short lady" (presumably Shirley Abrahamson) in an unsuccessful attempt to jog the memories of his fellows. Another mentioned "the woman who works for the banks." (Ouch.) Nobody came up with Annette Ziegler's name either.
The women were better, but not much. Several talked about how horrible the last Supreme Court election was. When asked what was bad about it, one mentioned the "Loophole Louie" ad but couldn't remember much more. Another mentioned "that ad Gableman did." No one pointed out that the election in question was held in 2008. No one seemed to have a clue that there was a more recent election for Supreme Court held earlier this year.
In a speech I gave at this year's Fighting Bob Fest that was later turned into a newspaper commentary, I listed 12 essential nutrients every democracy needs. On my list, #7 is citizenship and #8 is civic education. Judging from what I saw last night, #7 is on thin ice. And judging from a recent column written by a journalist-turned-schoolteacher, so is #8. Among her observations is this:
"For a while, we skipped social studies every Monday while students took standardized tests. It got cut when school let out early for teachers' professional development. Then one day, after a school assembly ran long and I had to administer a math skills assessment, our social studies class was whittled down to just 15 minutes. I threw in the towel."
As I said a month ago on stage and in print, there can be a ruling class or there can be democracy, but there cannot be both. If we are partial to democracy, then preparing our nation's youth to be citizens needs to be as front and center as preparing them to be economically productive.
Any thoughts on the subject Tony Evers?