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CIVIC EDUCATION AND DEMOCRACY

December 29, 2019

Professor Kennedy in a recent blog lamented the loss of civil literacy among those who vote for Trump, a lament I share (at the cost of being labelled an elitist).  I responded to her blog, slightly edited, as follows.

Perhaps inadvertently, the First Amendment has given us the opportunity to personally decide to be dumb, to ourselves decide what is “truth” and subject our voting habits to whatever we want to believe irrespective of fact, especially scientific fact that has stood the test of replication. Thus, for instance, the idea of a Chinese hoax rather than global warming from the bully pulpit of a sick man is acceptable, since the idea of global warming as reality is fake news generated by elitist socialists who hate the fossil fuel industry and business in general. Big Brother (the sickie in the pulpit) will tell you to disbelieve what you can see and hear and read in favor of what he has decreed, as Smith ultimately learned to do in Orwell’s 1984.

Some of my fellow contributors today have suggested some form of commission to define and oversee what is true and what is not. Any such attempt, of course, would confirm in the eyes of the hoax believers that those pretending to bring truth to the fore are themselves Big Brother types, and I think any such attempt would have rough sledding in the Supreme Court given the language of the First Amendment and decided cases in any event.

It is going to take time and patience to come up with a civically informed citizenry, if ever we are to have one, and I think we are stuck till then with our present state of civic illiteracy and have no alternative other than to emphasize civic education in our schools  in order to prepare them in how to navigate this sea of economic and political misinformation surrounding us, and not just to inform their voting behavior; our democracy (or what is left of it) may depend upon our success in ending civic illiteracy.         GERALD           E

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