America is declining in civility, morality and patriotism. However, teaching Civics in high school alone won’t do much to correct that. What’s really needed is civic education. They are not the same.
Civics teaches about local, state and national government, but civic education teaches students how to become good citizens. We have local, state and national legislatures filled with corrupt, shameful politicians who are quite adept at civics but are not good citizens.
In a self-governing society such as ours, the first level of government is the home. That is where citizens first learn the fundamentals of self-government—that is, how to govern themselves. Parents teach their children how to get along in the family and, by extension, in society. The home is where children first learn self-control, morality, the work ethic, respect for others, respect for private property, respect for law and duly constituted authority, love of learning for lifelong education, respect for our nation’s ideals and heroes, and other civic virtues which have built our nation, such as rugged individualism, thriftiness, charitable giving, community volunteerism and exercising the right to vote.
Civics as training for good citizenship begins in the home and is continued in school in all classes at all grade levels. The schools, churches, temples and mosques reinforce what is learned in the home—or at least should.
In the 19th and early 20th century, the study of citizenship and government was taught as a single subject; it was called civics. Then it was divided into social studies, economics, geography, international affairs, the study of occupations and various other subjects, leaving civics simply as the study of government.
That narrowing of the meaning of civics is part of the dumbing down of America—not just intellectually, but socially and morally as well.
The purpose of civics is to teach civility. Civility is not just good manners and respectable behavior. Civility is the basis of civil-ization. “Civic” means “of or related to a citizen, city, citizenship or civil affairs.” A city often has a civic center for business and commerce, a civic arena for sports, a civic auditorium for entertainment, lectures and other public events. None of those are governmental entities per se. But they are central to the life of the community and hence have to do with the society. Moreover, they can be sources of what is called “civic pride,” or positive feeling toward one’s city or community. And, again, that has nothing to do with government per se.
Perhaps the most obvious form of civics are neighborhood groups called civic associations. They are formed by local people to protect and advance the quality of life in their neighborhood. Civic associations are grassroot expressions of concern for “the city.” They are local demonstrations of citizen involvement in the life of their part of the city in general and their local piece of it, the neighborhood. They display citizen pride and responsibility and volunteerism—all of which are not dependent on, or even connected with, government per se.
Civics, then, in its broad and best sense deals with the rights and responsibilities of citizens of the American republic, both locally and nationally.
In a self-governing society, the basic safeguard against crime and social breakdown is, quite simply, morality and religious values. Those are first learned at home in the process of parents rearing their children. The higher levels of government—the city, the state and the nation—come much later into the lives of young people learning to function well in society.
The home, as a two-parent, marriage-based family, is where young people first see role models for good citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities to oversee the governing of our nation. Without proper upbringing in a stable home and local community, young people become dysfunctional and lost to society. All too often they end up as incarcerated criminals or dead-end derelicts.
Two-parent, marriage-based families recognize the need to raise their children to understand and appreciate the great heritage called America. Without that, this country will descend into lawlessness and dishonor.
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