Civics 101: Averting Government Gridlock

When I was in the 10th grade I took a course called The Argumentation of Debate that taught us how to properly present and defend topics selected for classroom discussion and debate. This class was a wonderful lesson in understanding both sides of an argument but respectfully agreeing to either disagree or be converted by the other side. When the debate was over, we shook hands with our opponents and thanked them for the contest.

The year before I took a class called Civics 101 that taught us about the important branches of our government. This is the class where we had to memorize the names of all the presidents and vice presidents as well as the functions of the various branches of government. This class also taught us how citizens can access our government leaders from local politicians all the way up to the President of the U.S. We were taught that our government was of the people, by the people and for the people.

Recently, I watched the news about our proposed government shutdown and I was shocked at most of the behavior of our political leaders. And it seems the negativity never stops. I wondered if they had taken some of the same classes I had taken in school. Our teachers taught us to fully research our selected topics and be prepared to argue our positions when our time came. Rudely interrupting our opponent to make a point was not considered proper etiquette. Yet time and time again today we see our political leaders failing to follow these same simple rules. It seems these rules only apply to school kids and not to adults regardless of their political affiliation. Don’t they know our children are watching them and learning from them?

Sadly, all of the classes on Civics were eliminated from our public school systems sometime in the 1980s. I don’t know if that was by design but every since then Americans have become ignorant on the ways to gain access to our political leaders and our government. When was the last time you contacted your Congressman or your Senator? There has been an impenetrable wall built to separate the politicians from their constituents and the government no longer seems to be of the people, by the people and for the people. The lobbyists and other special interest groups have usurped the regular citizens by using their money to gain immediate access to the politicians. No money, no access it seems. Doesn’t that directly go against the reason why the U.S. Constitution was written in the first place?