Presidents Day: A Civics Lesson For All

It would be unusual for anyone with even a modest interest in sports and fitness to not understand the importance and benefits of learning the fundamentals. These building blocks serve as the framework for all future improvement and protect the individual from harm.

I'm unsure why we don't apply these same principles to our civic and political lives. We simply expect our citizens to understand our political system in some fashion. Sadly, sometimes that knowledge is lacking. That's why I'm making a bold suggestion supported by action.

Instead of treating Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 21, as just "another day off" with little activity, learn something about our presidents and founding fathers. If these leaders stumbled at times because of policies or imperfect personal beliefs, they provided the outline for our country. It should be a basic policy that we understand the philosophies, foundations and tenets which established our nation in the first place.

While I hope this Presidents Day will turn into a milestone for everyone to take a fresh look at our presidents and our democratic process, I've embarked on a more enduring effort. I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill No. 857, that would require a course on American government and civic engagement for all students enrolled in public institutions of higher education.

American government instruction serves a vital role in educating our young people in the fundamental values and principles of our American democracy. With this instruction, students develop political awareness and become more knowledgeable about local, regional, national, and even international issues that ultimately affect everyone. In addition, it provides them with the historical facts and an overview of topics that we share as a nation and their role in participatory democracy. In short, these lessons create an informed citizenship imbued with a more precise and meaningful sense of the democratic process.

That I introduced this bill for students in higher education is not an accident. This is a time in their lives when they begin to make crucial decisions on their own, and many already have the right to vote. There is no better time than now to ensure that they appreciate the importance of the democratic process and their participation in it. Further, this is the perfect compliment to the law I sponsored last year that requires civic education to be taught in our middle schools, as well.

And if you're not a student, become one on Presidents Day and spend a few minutes on an American history lesson. For example, you might consider reading (or rereading) the Bill of Rights in our constitution. It's still a good lesson in civics and citizenship.

That's my take, what's yours?