Putting civics lessons
to use is up to citizens
A recent Letter to the Editor suggested that Virginia’s K-12 curriculum should include mandatory instruction in civics, given the public’s lack of familiarity with important documents and principles of our system of government.
The good news is that such courses have long been a part of the required course load of public school students, with civics and economics taught in the eighth grade and U.S. and Virginia government taught in the 12th.
However, civic knowledge is like any other subject in that it must be practiced to be retained (how many of those reading this letter could reconstruct the geometry proofs or French conjugations of their high school days?).
Government teachers teach lifelong citizenship practices such as contacting elected officials, studying the state and U.S. Constitutions and applying them to current events, understanding checks and balances as described in the Federalist Papers, attending public meetings, interpreting polls, analyzing political ads, researching candidate platforms, investigating a variety of media sources and, of course, voting, in not only the general elections, but also any primary or caucus opportunities.
But this knowledge only contributes to civic engagement when it is practiced every year, all year. So those of us who teach civics humbly request of the rest of you: Model good citizenship by engaging in the above activities, and share your enthusiasm for them with your community. Democracy is not a spectator sport; yelling from the sidelines does little to advance our civic culture.