Making The Civics Case

Here’s hoping that the combination of Bob Graham, the former governor and U.S. senator, former Rep. Lou Frey and R. Fred Lewis, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, can make a difference. Here’s hoping somebody can. They all are working toward bringing meaningful civics education to Florida schools.

“It’s really incredible, the lack of knowledge in the state,” said Frey. “Not just kids, but adults.”

Graham and Frey want the state’s curriculum standards rewritten with more emphasis on civics. They want civics included on the FCAT to guarantee that it does, indeed, get taught. Justice Lewis has been urging and organizing lawyers (Florida has more than 70,000) and judges to get into state schools to talk about the U.S. Constitution. As in underscoring that we have one and then trying to explain it.

The need for remedial civics is as demonstrable as it is disgraceful.

A 2005 Florida Bar poll found that more than 40 percent of Florida residents did not know the three branches of government. A poll by the University of Central Florida found that only one respondent in three could name either of Florida’s U.S. senators. Relative to the rest of the country, Floridians don’t vote, which may be a mixed blessing given that an informed electorate is considered essential for a well-cast ballot.

And Florida is no isolated case – merely worse than most that also pay lip service to how this democracy of ours works.

And while we’re on the subject of relevant curricula, it wouldn’t hurt to also advocate for foreign languages as well as mandatory courses in world history, geography and contemporary cultures. The role of a super power in a world of globalized insurgency is that important.

Thomas Jefferson forewarned us 200 years ago.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

May it remain a warning – and not an epitaph.

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