The Lost Knowledge of Citizenship

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Today- the day after yet another election- and the day I sit drinking coffee with a hint of vinegar from a descaling event that didn’t go as planned- I ponder last night’s historic events with wonder and amazement that, yet again, a nation has taken to the polls and individuals have made a difference. Today some celebrate as if we’ve just witnessed the second coming, while others hang their heads in defeat and await the rapture. Whether happy or sad, outraged or delighted, we can all applaud the system that gives power to the people.

As in every election, there were campaigns, speeches, flip flops, accusations, lies, general mud slinging and even some good ole’ fashioned carpet bagging (you know who you are, Mr. Brown). Sure, there were winners and losers, because, let’s face it, when more than 1 person comes together, there’s always winners and losers. The proverbial balance of power has tipped once again, and right or left, it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

But the real losers, as I awake to the varying TV media accounts of utter, impending doom versus the outright, childlike giddiness of victory, are our kids. Yes folks, our kids- the next generation, that intends to lead us all into retirement and beyond (just let that sink in for a minute).

Because here’s my truth, and many other parents’ reality too- I have three kids, aged 18, 16 and 12, and none of them have even an inkling about civic duty, citizenship and government. And, to be quite honest, I’d like to think that my kids have been exposed to politics and government more than the average kid in America. Heck, their dad’s name was on the local ballot. Bigger heck, their mom was a teacher of American History! We dragged them along to political fundraisers, candidate meet-and-greets and forced them to sit through an election debate that WE helped to organize for our community!

And yet, this morning, over vinegar-laced coffee and day-old cinnamon buns (ok, so I stayed up late last night- give a girl a break), our kids were fully clueless when we made comments like:

“So the Republicans took control of the Senate last night.”

“Republican power in the House is at historic highs.”

“I wonder how Obama will react to this shift in power?”

“I wonder what the next 2 years will look like, now that Congress is squarely in Republican control?”

It took us awhile to realize they were indeed oblivious to the election events that captivated us until midnight. So, without even knowing it, we started asking more palpable (surely they’ll make us proud) questions like:

“You do know there was an election last night, right?”

“You’re aware of what Congress does, right?”

“Please, for the love of God, tell me you know anything, one thing, about the Senate or the House of Representatives?”

And then, as crickets chirped behind the blank stares of our children, we had to face the reality of the situation. Our kids have no real knowledge of the one area that just might give them any sort of chance at making a difference for their future, for their country’s future, and let’s be honest here, the most important future of all- MINE.

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And so I write. I rant to this blog with some sort of belief that people are reading, and implore you, the reader, the parent, to join me in doing something about it.

Take time today, tomorrow and as often as possible, to teach your kids about civic duty, about government (the good, the bad, the ugly), about the voting process, about how bills become laws, about the three branches of government, how power is divided, what the Constitution says and doesn’t say, and ultimately, how each of us, every grain of sand in this desert of people we call America, can make a difference, just by knowing, and participating in something greater than ourselves, bigger than our little micro world, and far more important than our selfish needs and wants.

Yeah- it’s that important.

And yes, our schools, our community and each one of us are failing.

Need some help? Afraid you might not really understand government enough to teach your kids (it’s ok to admit it)? There’s this thing called the internet. It’s Satan in disguise, but there’s still some value tucked away in its dark corners. Check out these sites to give you some credibility:

http://bensguide.gpo.gov/

http://kids.usa.gov/parents/government/index.shtml

http://www.congressforkids.net/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/our-government

Now, go out there and start making a difference- one kid at a time!

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