As I type this, the mid-term elections are four days away, and it makes me think about the role of education in our system of government. Our ancestors had the foresight to establish public schools because they recognized the role an educated populace would play in our democratic system. Our first president George Washington saw educating the American public as a means to grow the country economically, but also to create a well-informed populace to participate in America’s newly founded democracy. Thomas Jefferson argued that democracy required all the citizens of a populace to have sufficient education so that they could be well informed and vote accordingly. Noted education proponent Horace Mann believed in the notion of a common school - one that was open to all classes of Americans and would serve to break down class distinctions. Mann argued that a system of common education was the best way to ensure social and national unity.
The theory that an educated populace is essential to sustaining our democratic form of government is all the more true today. Whether it is the documented Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential elections or entities who attempt to manipulate social media to further their cause, our system of democracy is under attack. We need a public education system that will provide a common education to all children so that they can be informed participants in our democratic society.
To participate in elections such as the one coming up on November 6th, people need to be able to discern fact from opinion, real news from fake news, and see through the political “spin” we are bombarded with daily. Everyone should take the time to research what each candidate stands for, and, in the cases of initiated measures or constitutional amendments, people should research the issue and see both sides of it. Only then can they make an informed decision on which way to vote that best fits their personal beliefs and values.
I am disappointed to say that our country seems very divided, and I believe public education can play an important role in healing that divide. We need to a strong system of public education open to all that will produce citizens who have the skills to fully understand both sides of an issue and make informed decisions. We also want to produce citizens who will be compassionate and accepting of those who think or look differently than they do. For that to happen, we adults need to be respectful of each other and model good citizenship beginning with voting on November 6th. Whatever the outcome of that election, we need to move forward and work together for the common good. Our future and the legacy we leave our children is too important to do otherwise.
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