You Need a License to Drive, Why Not to Vote?

The nation is falling behind in civics education
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2010 1:58 PM CST
A voting booth is shown Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 at a polling place in Tacoma, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(Newser) – We require drivers to take classes and test them on the rules of the road. Why? Because we believe that when the stakes are high, competence is essential. “Yet when it comes to voting, we let everyone participate once they turn 18,” complains Alexander Heffner of the Christian Science Monitor. As a result, our civics aptitude is woefully low: In one 2008 study, only 24% of college grads knew the Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion.

“This radical problem of civic illiteracy requires a radical solution,” Heffner argues. “We should amend the constitution to mandate Civics 101.” States would design a course with diverse reading, from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King to the daily newspaper. Implemented correctly in public schools, “this proposal will not hurt minorities and immigrants,” he argues. “It will only galvanize them to fulfill their full degree of citizenship.”

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