In the last month or two, I’ve found myself in a position I really have no right to be in: an explainer for how our government works. In conversation with friends or family, whether talk turned to the purpose of the electoral college, the way our judicial branch operates, or our system of party primaries, I was suddenly self-elected to remind my peers how and why all this is what it is. Being in that place not only made me realize how little the general population understands about the way our country works but, with my own knowledge put to the test, how much I need to learn again.
We all need to take a civics class again (and some of us never took one in the first place). Looking back on the many pointless classes I was required to take in high school and for college prerequisites, that course on our government seems now like one of the most essential. Along with history (which I loved), civics might be more important than a majority of my education and there’s no doubt that I didn’t pay enough attention at the time. Still, how am I supposed to remember what I learned two decades ago? From these recent conversations, some of my peers remember even less. Some may argue that knowing how it works doesn’t matter but I’d counter that voting without knowing is a scary proposition, especially in an environment where media and politicians alike spread blatant lies.
So what could be the solution? Certainly we can’t count on our TV networks to adequately educate the population and even if they gave it an honest try, how many would really tune in for that kind of programming? In an ideal world, I would love to see a little civics quiz in the voting process. No, I’m not suggesting someone has to pass a test to vote but what would be the harm of a little quiz you had to take prior to casting your vote, one that showed you the right answer even if you gave the wrong one and therefore provided a tiny reminder of how the system works? It would be better than nothing, better than trying to remember what we all learned or didn’t learn in high school, and definitely better than having someone like myself try to explain it to you.