Looking through a recent edition of “The Review,” ReAnne Utemark’s editorial caught my eye. Utemark expressed a concern about students’ disdain for courses other than their majors, especially history classes. Along with other salient points, the editor showed concern for college student’s lack of interest in economics, history and government. Her fear was that by not fully appreciating these subjects the students would “(not be) prepared to participate in society and in their government.” She went on to say, “This is not acceptable. English, history, government and economics are cornerstones to citizenship.”
After reading this I thought, “Whoa!” Wait a minute; we all know that young people today are not REALLY interested in such things, right? They are too busy chatting on their iPhones while playing Halo 3. Why would this young editor be concerned about world affairs and her contemporaries being engaged citizens? A look at news headlines from around the world gives a good clue. The current unrest in Myanmar, where Buddhist priests have taken the lead in demanding freedoms, shows us that being uninterested in current events is not healthy for our republic. The monks live in a brutal military dictatorship with very few rights. Other dissidents have been arrested or silenced. One remaining right in Myanmar is prayer, so these holy men have stepped forward to carry their fellow citizens’ cause.
So, what does this have to do with World Civ. 101 you ask? More than you know. Throughout U.S. and world history, there have been a series of strikes, protests and revolts about just such issues – our right to demand what is fair, appropriate or, in some cases, what is NOT right for our own and other countries. Draft riots during the Civil War in the 19th century, workers rights protests in late 19th and early 20th century, along with the free speech, civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s proved that public opinion and, more importantly, public dissent are very powerful tools in our society. The recent brief strike by GM autoworkers showed that collective action and bargaining will produce results. The Iranian president’s visit to Columbia University this week brought out protestors both young and old, again giving voice to our concerns and fears.
In the recent past we have witnessed the creation of the Patriot Act and watched as loyal citizens and war veterans have been pilloried for simple disagreement with the current administration’s actions and policies. Here’s a reason to pay attention in that U.S. Government class and take notes during the history professor’s lecture on the Ludlow Mine massacre. If you aren’t familiar with the Ludlow event, I encourage you to do some searching about it; you’ll think, “This happened in America?”
I heartily agree with Ms. Utemark’s concerns. The Founding Fathers call for us to be “ever vigilant” means to also to be well-informed. Students able to converse with potential employers or grad school boards about the current state of the country and world have a HUGE advantage over the less engaged. As the presidential campaign marches closer to a conclusion, crack open that US Government text book and see what you can learn to help make you a better-informed and participant citizen.