Understanding civics strengthens our democracy

Understanding civics strengthens our democracy

The Issue: By definition, a democracy cannot survive without the public’s participation.

Our View: Carlinville High School has embraced the challenge of preparing students for civic engagement.

CARLINVILLE (Oct. 26, 2017) – As Americans, most of us have been able to live our lives with blissful unawareness of our rights as citizens of this country. That sounds odd until one considers rights aren’t usually spotlighted until people believe them to be threatened.

There are a lot of people out there who act as if their primary role in government is to protect their rights. While rights are definitely important, every citizen in this country has a duty to do what is necessary to keep our democracy alive and thriving and that cannot happen if people lack an understanding of our government and how it works and don’t want to play an active role in it.

A democracy cannot properly function when its people aren’t informed and participating in it, literally. This is something that has nothing to do with party affiliation. According to Merriam-Webster, a democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

When citizens no longer have an understanding of how a democracy works and no longer participate in it, democracy ceases to exist.

Carlinville High School was recently one of 13 schools state wide to be named a Democracy School.

The Illinois Democracy School initiative is a program supporting a network of high schools across the state committed to reversing the troubling trend of a lack of civics education in our schools. The purpose of this initiative is to support high schools that are dedicated to expanding and improving civic learning experiences across the curriculum.

We commend CHS for stepping up its commitment to civic learning and for implementing this sort of education across the curriculum. The individual’s role as a citizen is something each of us has in common, but is certainly something we must not take for granted.

We believe participation in this initiative will create a foundation on which Carlinville will benefit Carlinville for many years to come. It will be refreshing to have young people wanting to play a role on our city council, school board and county board. No city of village can expect to survive without knowledgeable people participating in its governance.

Right now, this country’s political climate is sharply partisan. So much so, it’s difficult to think about any form of government in a non-partisan way. The perception of the public and, unfortunately, many politicians, is that one side or the other is in control rather than an atmosphere of compromise and cooperation. The Illinois Democracy School initiative and the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, through which it’s supported, is a non-partisan method designed to achieve the mission of “strengthening democracy one classroom at a time.”

By making a commitment to civics, students will have an understanding of government at all levels. There are many levels of government in Illinois — village, city, township, county and state. Even public bodies such as school districts, library district, park districts, EMS service districts and fire districts are governed by elected boards of directors. All of the seats on these boards are important. Those who serve hold the responsibility of managing tax payers’ money and providing a high level of service to the public that funds these districts.

Serving the public in this way should not be something that is learned solely through on-the-job training. Part of becoming an adult is having an understanding of how government is meant to function. Such information is needed now more than ever and we are thankful the Carlinville School District recognized the need for this sort of education and took the action necessary to provide it to our students.