By Kevin Wright - Rosewel Daily Record

Please note the following column appeared in the June 23rd edition of the Roswell Daily Record and is republished with permission.

By Kevin Wright

On the last day of the Constitutional Convention, September 18, 1787, James McHenry recorded in his journal that a woman had approached Ben Franklin and asked, “What have we got a republic or a monarchy?” to which Franklin replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”

Franklin and the other Founding Fathers knew that our fledgling republic was fragile, a “great experiment,” as General George Washington described it at the time, with no guarantee of success. However, the architects of our nation’s founding knew the only way we would keep their new republic was to be educated and well-informed. There is no doubt that Thomas Jefferson understood this when he later wrote in a letter, “There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information.”

But teaching people how to read, write, add, and subtract isn’t all that Jefferson and others had in mind. I would argue that they also meant that a proper civics education is critical as it is the cornerstone of a well-functioning democracy, empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in civic life and actively hold government accountable. The role of civics education extends beyond mere knowledge acquisition; it promotes civic responsibility and active citizenship.

At its core, civics encourages citizens to actively participate in community activities, advocate for social change, and exercise their voting rights. In other words, civics education empowers individuals to become agents of positive societal transformation through informed engagement with governmental processes.

However, despite its fundamental importance, civics education in the United States has faced considerable challenges in recent decades. Educational priorities have increasingly prioritized subjects linked to standardized testing, often at the expense of social studies and civics. This shift has been exacerbated by policies like the No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, emphasizing testing in core subjects to measure academic proficiency. As a result, resources and instructional time for civics education have been reduced in many schools, undermining its comprehensive implementation.

Moreover, the decline in qualified civics educators and varying state standards for civics instruction further complicate efforts to provide consistent and effective civics education nationwide. These factors contribute to a concerning trend where many students graduate without a thorough understanding of governmental processes, civic rights, and responsibilities, potentially weakening the foundation of democratic participation. The National Assessment of Educational Progress measured civics knowledge and skills in 2022 and found only 25% of US students reached a “proficient” standard.

The lack of civics education and civic engagement helps explain our current state of affairs with little faith and trust in our government, partly due to the government working in secrecy, hiding information from the public. An informed and engaged citizenry is essential for maintaining transparency and accountability within government. Transparency, in particular, serves as a foundation of democratic governance, ensuring that governmental actions and decision-making processes are accessible to the public. When government operates transparently, it enhances public trust, facilitates informed decision-making, and fosters accountability among elected officials and public servants.

Conversely, government secrecy restricts public access to critical information regarding governmental actions, policies, and decisions, limiting citizens’ ability to hold their leaders accountable and participate meaningfully in civic affairs. This lack of transparency can lead to distrust in government institutions, apathy among citizens, and a diminished sense of civic engagement.

Civics education plays a pivotal role in addressing these challenges by equipping citizens with the knowledge and tools necessary to demand transparency and accountability from their government. Through civics education, individuals learn about their rights to access information, such as those protected by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the mechanisms available to challenge government secrecy. This knowledge empowers citizens, journalists, and advocacy groups to advocate for the release of information that is essential for informed decision-making and democratic oversight.

Furthermore, civics education cultivates a civic engagement and vigilance culture, encouraging citizens to question government actions and policies. In the context of issues such as Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), civics education enables the public to utilize legal avenues, including FOIA requests and public campaigns, to pressure the government to disclose relevant information. By leveraging their understanding of governmental transparency principles, citizens can advocate for greater openness on matters of significant public interest, ensuring that government operates in the public’s best interest and upholds democratic values.

This proactive engagement is crucial in addressing complex and controversial issues such as UAP, where public discourse and governmental transparency are essential for informed decision-making and societal trust.

Governmental secrecy regarding UAP raises significant concerns about transparency, accountability, and public trust. Secrecy limits public access to information necessary for understanding governmental actions and decisions related to UAP, thereby impeding informed public discourse and democratic oversight. This lack of transparency fosters skepticism, conspiracy theories, and mistrust in governmental institutions, undermining the principles of democratic governance and our republic as a whole.

The importance of civics education in safeguarding democratic principles is increasingly evident. By prioritizing comprehensive civics education programs, policymakers can ensure that future generations are equipped to navigate complex societal issues, uphold democratic values, and actively contribute to the betterment of society. Ultimately, investment in civics education serves as an educational imperative and a foundational pillar of democratic resilience and societal progress. As it relates to UAP, more significant investments in civics education are vital to unlocking the mystery of the phenomenon by engaging our government with the tools provided by proper civics education.