Social studies teachers at a recent National Education Association conference in New Orleans expressed some concerns over the fact that too many students don't understand or appreciate civics.
Civics broadly encompasses the rights and duties of all citizens. For the most part, these rights and duties relate in some way to government at the local, state or federal level.
TV and radio talk-show hosts have reaped a good many chuckles by asking Americans civics-related questions. Example: Who's the vice president of the United States? (Answer: Dick Cheney, but you'd be surprised how many of us don't know that.)
A working knowledge of civics is important because our understanding of our responsibilities as citizens determines how we participate in decisions that affect our lives. Some sociologists would suggest that a breakdown in this basic knowledge is responsible for the fact that fewer and fewer Americans bother to vote -- even when the outcome of an election will affect their pocketbooks.
Many Americans hone their civics skills by keeping abreast of what's going on and by participating in their communities, their state and their nation. But many, many more do not. As the teachers meeting in New Orleans observed, schools have a major responsibility for not only teaching a basic foundation in civics, but also to instill a desire to be active, participating citizens.
To see how civics-minded you are, here is a short quiz. The answers are at the end of this editorial. If you answer all five questions correctly, you are a well-informed citizen. If you only got one or two questions right, you need to brush up.
1. If you're having a problem with your Social Security checks, you should contact (a) the mayor, (b) the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or (c) your U.S. representative.
2. Who is Missouri's lieutenant governor?
3. Name three members of the Cape Girardeau City Council.
4. If you lose the title to your car, you can get it replaced by contacting (a) the county clerk at the courthouse in Jackson, (b) the nearest motor vehicle and driver's license office or (c) the Department of Natural Resources.
5. If there's a dangerous pothole on your street, you should call (a) the city's public works department, (b) the state's public safety department or (c) the federal public defenders office.
1. (c). U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office staff in Cape Girardeau will attempt to assist with problems you are having with the federal government, and Social Security is a federal program.
2. Joe Maxwell of Mexico, Mo. He is in charge of 15 boards and commissions and would become governor if Gov. Bob Holden died or was unable to serve.
3. Evelyn Boardman, Ward 1; Charles Herbst, Ward 2; Jay Purcell, Ward 3; Hugh White, Ward 4; Matt Hopkins, Ward 5; Marcia Ritter, Ward 6.
4. (b). License offices in this area are in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Chaffee and Marble Hill.
5. (a). Problems with city streets should be reported the city's public works department. Problems with state and federal highways in Missouri should be reported to the Missouri Department of Transportation.