Larry Bustetter | Civics for All

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Recently, I was encouraged to learn of our grandson’s civics education class in one of the junior high schools (eighth grade) here in Santa Clarita. Apparently, the class was designed to prepare students similar to U.S. citizenship expectations — it even included an exam! He was genuinely motivated by the experience and did very well on the exam. His civics learning opportunity, however, may not be available to all students in America. 

The president of Johns Hopkins University, Ronald Daniels, authored the best-selling book (2021), “What Universities Owe Democracy.” He cites that among the major functions of higher education is citizenship education (i.e., civics). He describes a JHU orientation program for entering freshmen that was launched as a result of free speech incidents in many of America’s colleges and universities. Most participants expressed appreciation for the experience in a course survey. Many indicated little or no civics education that focused on freedom of speech and expression in secondary education prior to JHU’s course. This cornerstone of citizenship was somehow overlooked or even expunged. Yet, these were students in the top 10% of high school graduates from every state in the USA. 

Clearly, students in secondary and higher education must experience ongoing civics education. Without this intensity, democracy in America is destined to fail. Democracy must be learned and practiced. It cannot be genetically passed on. Daniels emphasizes that if civics education is ignored, it is the equivalent to tossing out the owner’s manual of democracy. In contrast, with continuous training in all aspects of civics, Daniels’ research reveals dramatic increases in healthy civic engagement (e.g. voting, volunteering, public meeting attendance, etc.). Lastly, Daniels stresses the four pillars of democratic citizenship: 

Civic Knowledge: familiarity with history and theory of democracy and its institutions. 

Civic Skills: critical reasoning and bridging; discerning truth and translating it into action. 

Civic Values: commitment to ideals of equality, tolerance and policy accountability. 

Civic Aspirations: disposition directed toward cooperation and collective action. 

Mike Garcia manifests each of the above four pillars in his speeches, actions, town hall meetings, writings and demeanor toward a cooperative posture representing us in Congress in the 27th District (regardless of political interests). Keep Mike in Congress — vote for him Nov. 8. 

Want to ensure greater voter turnout and active interest in our wonderful democracy? Increase civics education in our schools, families and society. During a town hall (Sept. 6) at College of the Canyons, Congressman Garcia led the audience with the pledge of allegiance. Each time we recite that beautiful dedication to our great country, consider, at least in thought, the following closing emphasis: “with liberty and justice for all.” And civics for all! 

Larry Bustetter 


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