Our society is sometimes simply shocking to me. I just watched a YouTube video where a man was soliciting people on a sidewalk with a fake petition to remove our Bill of Rights, several of which without hesitation signed the fake petition. I am sure many of you have seen this video as it has had over 380,000 views. What I find alarming is the simple fact that so many of us are lacking knowledge or even the simple understanding of how things work in our country and government. I know I just used the word “things” in that last sentence, but honestly, it fits this situation. Things, small to large, from how the Electoral College actually elects the president and vice president, not the votes you and I cast during the general election; to how the Federal Reserve, which is not a government agency, sets economic policies that can directly impact our country and even the world’s marketplace, to simply reciting all the presidents of the United States.
It amazes me that we, as citizens of the United States, have such a lack of understanding for the basic operations of the nation under which we live. I honestly can’t say if it is because technology has made us have shorter attention spans or if there is a large percentage of the population that just don’t care as long as they have access to their Starbucks, iPhone, and McDonalds seven days a week.
I remember a long time ago that I had to learn where all the fifty states were on the map of the United States of America. I remember that I was complaining to my parents about it, which honestly, was a big mistake considering they were both professional educators. I can still remember the conversation with my dad that happened more than twenty-five years ago, where he said, “you are lucky, you only have to learn where the fifty states are on a map.” When I inquired why, he said, “well, son, when I was in school, we had to remember a lot more, such as The Gettysburg Address, and name all the presidents starting with George Washington.” I should have known immediately that I was being setup by my father, because I responded with, “yeah, but can you still repeat them?” And of course, he stood there, starting with George Washington, and counting off the presidents until he got to the current leader, which I think was either Carter or Reagan, then without pause started off with those so famous and eloquent words, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation.”
Today, I know that I could not repeat all the presidents from George Washington to our current president, nor could I rattle off the Gettysburg Address, which only took President Lincoln two minutes to deliver on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863. Yet, as I write this article, I took a break for a few minutes to call my father asking him if he, at age 75 could still recite all forty-four presidents. He laughed when I explained why I wanted to know, and then proceeded to run backwards while I was looking at the list on Wikipedia. It is amazes me that it has been more than 60 years since he had to sit down as a student to memorize them, yet he only missed three.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how do we educate our society? I whole-heartedly believe that if the general population of the United States had a better awareness on how “things” worked within our government, we, as a nation would be in such a better place, economically and figuratively speaking. Does this effort to provide better insight and understanding start in our schools, or do we work at creating more awareness now before it is potentially too late for us as a nation? That is the real question, so as you sit down tonight, instead of grabbing the iPad or your cell phone when eating dinner with your children, I want to challenge you to instead, start a simple conversation with your kids. See what they know, see how much you know, perhaps we can all start together to bring back what has been apparently lost.