The Educated Citizenry
I will admit that I learned a bunch this morning, had some long-held beliefs smashed to bits, and had to totally shift my thinking. I started out thinking that somewhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, free public education was addressed. Turns out, it is not. However the 14th Amendment says that IF a public education is offered, every child must have equal access to it. Anyhow, I started off intending to remind you that one of the major reasons we have free public education in this country is so that we can be better citizens. That much is still true. We pay taxes to support public education so that every child may have the opportunity to learn what is needed to be a productive, self-suffcient citizen who can contribute to the good of the whole, and who can make well-informed choices, like with voting, for example.
In Texas, as the result of a court case regarding homeschooling, the basic requirements of an education were distilled down to five basic subjects: Reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. We learn to read so we do not have to trust someone else to read for us. We learn mathematics so we can handle numbers ourselves, rather than having to trust someone else to do it for us. We learn spelling and grammar so we can effectively communicate with others. The “good citizenship” part includes learning about history and government, both state and national.
There have been, and still are, hitches in this education plan. Historically, it was not equally accessible for everyone, and there are still some barriers here and there, especially in these pandemic times. The quality can vary considerably, too, but what varies even more is what individual students do with the opportunity to be educated—some do the bare minimum, and some take full advantage of everything they are offered.
That last bit brings me to what I really wanted to say today: We Americans have everything we need to be competent and self-suffcient. We have that free public education available to us as kids; then beyond that, we have basically unlimited amounts of information and tools available to us to aid us in the pursuit of competence and self-suffciency, should we choose to pursue those things. And there is my long-standing beef, that I see lots of people who choose not to pursue self-suffciency and competence. I know there are people in circumstances not within their control, but that is not the case for the vast majority of people. If we are to be good citizens of our democratic republic, we need to be competent, and we need to be self-suffcient.
By the time this column is published, early voting will have begun. Voting is one of the most important things we do as citizens. Since it is so important, we need to make sure we take it very seriously and apply our educated, competent minds to it. I hope you will do as I did this morning and look things up, fact check yourself, fact check the candidates, and by all means, fact check the media. Even a know-it-all like me regularly finds out that I have been wrong about things and have holes in my knowledge. The past several elections, I have looked up ahead of time what will be on my ballot so that I can research every candidate and item on the ballot before I go to vote. This will be especially important now that we will not have straight-ticket voting. You can find what will be on your ballot on the Texas secretary of state website, or on the website ballotpedia.org. There are others, I’m sure, but those are the two I use.
Just to be clear, I am not pressuring you toward one candidate or another, I am pressuring you to be well-informed and confidently competent before you mark your ballot. And I am pressuring you to be self-suffcient in getting your information and making your decision. It is too important to trust it to someone else, anyone else. SpringCreekArtsGuild@gmail.com