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Democracy is not a Spectator Sport
By Bonnie Boswell Contributing Writer
Published June 30, 2022

Bonnie Boswell (Courtesy photo)

 

Wandrea Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, were profiles in courage last Tuesday as they appeared before the January 6th committee.

Both women, former election officials in Georgia, told how Mr. Trump had falsely accused them of rigging the presidential election. They were forced into hiding because of threatening behavior from his supporters.

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Ms. Moss and Ms.Freeman were not alone in their determination to do their job. Republican Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and others held fast to their oaths and put country over party.

“Democratic norms are only as solid as the commitment of those in power. Elections and laws only have power because elites (lawmakers, judges, local officials, bureaucrats, et. al) wake up every morning and treat them as paramount,” Max Fisher wrote recently in the New York Times.

In other words, democracy works only to the extent that ordinary citizens like Ms. Moss, Ms. Ruby, Mr. Bowers, and Mr. Raffensperger agree that the tenets of democracy are to be protected. This is the power and strength of ordinary people.

Their heroism is even more remarkable since little attention is paid to civic education in America. The Annenberg Civics Knowledge Survey shows only about 40% of Americans can name all three branches of government, and 20% can’t name one. A national educational progress test revealed that only 23% of 8th graders are proficient in civics.

Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, noted that while the federal government has  focused its educational spending on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) ($54 per student),  spending on civics (5 cents per student) is disproportionately low. Education is not just about preparing students for jobs. It must also teach them how to protect democratic ideals.

This is where Generation Citizen (GC) comes in. The mission of GC is to give young people the tools that teach them how to become involved in civic life.  I spoke with CEO Elizabeth Clay Roy recently.

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Ms. Roy, a young African American woman said, “It is critical that our educational systems teach what it means to be engaged in civic life and to help create resilient communities. When young people participate in community-based action civics, they shift from feeling like they are observing politics from afar to recognizing that they are actual changemakers in their community at this moment.”

Generation Citizen notes that there is a “civic engagement gap” as well. Students from low income communities are half as likely to study how laws are made, less likely participate in debates and have necessary tools for advocacy.

The fight for democracy is now being played out before our eyes. But this is not a spectator sport. We must insure our young people have the conviction and means to save it. Find more information: www.generationcitizen.org

Watch Bonnie Boswell Reports on KCET or kcet.org/bonnie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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