DICK BAYNTON: Civics & Civility

Dick Baynton

Here are some startling statistics about civics in the USA. A 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 26% of citizens can’t name the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial); only 18% of citizens ‘trust’ our government. Ten states have no high school requirements for teaching or learning about civics and 31 states (about 60% of states) require ½ year of learning about civics in general and how government operates. Students taking the AP (Advanced Placement) exam average 2.54 but most colleges require 3.0 or even 4.0.

Only 16 states require passing a civics exam for HS graduation (AL, AZ, AR, FL, ID, KY, LA, MN, MO, NH, ND, SC, TN, UT, WI & WY). Does that explain why voters don’t understand what they are voting for? Although these states require fundamental knowledge of how government works, there are questions regarding how students can become engaged in politics and government in their later years. With 18% of our citizens not trusting government and 67% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats feel news is biased, how do we determine who we are going to vote for?

Do we listen to neighbors, friends and relatives with little attention paid to proposed and active policies that affect our lives? Millions of people may vote for candidate’s attire, words of false wisdom, fake news and rumors of fiction and false narratives. When that concept becomes widespread, our government is at high risk of failure to follow Constitutional principles.

The story of all-around education begins at birth and is subject to the forces of family life, neighborhoods and culture. In many inner cities, a majority of births are to single mothers where there may be little discipline for children as they go to school and progress through elementary, middle school and into high school. It is here that the bar for teaching and learning becomes muddled when government dependence welfare outranks work and preparation for a constructive career. High school dropout rates nationally are 20%; in Washington D.C. schools the rate was about 58% in 2017.

While social scientists search for answers, the old axiom that, ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’ probably applies to teenagers who drop out of high school and turn to drug use and eventually to trade and distribution. The United States loses about $181 billion annually in the fight against illicit drug trade. In 2013, 330,000 prison guests were guilty of drug offenses; there were more than 22,000 drug-related offenses.

These statistics don’t reflect the true cost of high school dropouts who don’t learn a trade or skill and participate in protest and anti-protest groups. Examples include the ‘Occupy’ movement of several years ago where protesters hung out in city streets and parks and ‘Antifa’ who block traffic, enter the fray of counter-protest using clubs and other items to cause injury. These thugs usually cover their heads with black hoods and sometimes wear protective helmets; perhaps in an attempt to replicate ISIS terrorists.

One of the specialties of dropouts and para-military groups is ‘civic nonviolent disobedience.’ When civic disobedience causes injury, death and destruction, the actions become crimes. On Sunday, February 5th, Antifa members smashed windows at the USMC recruiting station on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, CA. In addition the group set fires to trash bins and a car while damaging 25 additional vehicles. What these criminal protesters don’t know and don’t care to know is that they are free in this country because of the bravery of servicemen who have fought for our freedom. In February 1945 72,000 Marines hit the beaches of Iwo Jima, fighting for 36 days sustaining 26,000 casualties including 6,000 dead while causing the deaths of 21,000 Japanese defenders of the island.

Loud-mouth liberal legislators have advocated confronting conservatives with hate remarks and insults. We will return to the days of fires, violence and destruction if we don’t allow civility to rule debates and political differences to replace what we should have learned from these outbreaks of tumultuous turbulence of our past.

The current and continuing ‘resist’ movement consisting of liberals and protest groups is against everything our current administration does . . . but being ‘against’ something is a one-way dead-end street. Being ‘for’ a cause usually culminates in glory.

Dick Baynton

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