This past week, we saw Parker Elks Youth Day. It was part of the national Elks’ organization’s efforts at helping young people understand democracy and how our American systems works.
From the looks of things, this is something we need as much now as ever.
A few years ago, Tim Edwards, who was Parker’s Public Works Director, gave the students who were serving as the Parker Town Council for the day an exercise: he gave them a list of streets that needed work in the town, and estimates of how much the work would cost. He then told them how much money that had to work with, which, of course, was far less than what was needed to repair all the streets. The students’ job was to prioritize which streets should receive repairs.
Obviously, there was no right or wrong answer here. Edwards wanted the students to understand the tough decisions elected officials have to make, and to get an idea of the process involved in making those decisions. The students had to work together to figure out the best way to spend their limited funds.
This could be described as a “hands-on” civics lesson. It gave the students an understanding of the system that they couldn’t get from school textbooks. It gave the students a better appreciation of our American system.
I think they began to understand one of the truths of politics: it’s much easier to run for public office than it is to serve in public office.
From what I’ve seen, the students who serve as the Town Council are still being given exercises like this.
We very much need this sort of education about our American system of politics and business today. We see many young people who know very little about the system, including some members of Congress. They don’t learn much about the system in high school, and what they learn in many colleges is very negative.
It’s appalling to think many American young people believe our nation was founded on white supremacy, racism and genocide. How can we expect our nation to have good leaders in the future if they’re getting such a bad education about our system in their youth?
Civics education is needed now as much as ever. Young people need to know the truth about our history as Americans, the good and the bad. However, they also need to learn how American ideals have made the world a better place. They need to understand how the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights made this the freest nation on Earth. They also need to learn America is one of the least racist, sexist, fascist or whatever “ist”–you-don’t-like nation on Earth.
We need to devote our nation to civics education again. If the schools won’t teach it, then it’s up to parents to do so.
As for the students at Parker High. I have seen so many wonderful students there I can’t list them all. I’m not worried about them at all.
It’s the rest of the country I’m worried about. A good education in civics could change all that.