Campaign Slogans and Civics Education

Guest Correspondence

BY JENNIFER VIGNE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 9, 2016

Having just celebrated Independence Day—a July 4th holiday filled with road trips, beach excursions, barbeques and fireworks displays—it caused me to reflect on the very essence of our great country. In the midst of this year’s presidential election, we continue to hear catchy phrases and slick buzzwords that are designed to instill hope and confidence in a brighter future for America.

So I Googled past presidential campaign slogans to see which ones garnered mass appeal. Whether it was hope, change, believe in America, compassionate conservatism, prosperity and progress, building a bridge to the 21st century, the stakes are too high to stay at home, for the future, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, return to normalcy and don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream, I found myself smiling (albeit a little cynically) at the countless attempts to give promise and hope for America’s future.

For many Americans, civic responsibility doesn’t go much deeper than media soundbites and slogans with sizzle. Yet as we prepare to vote for our next President and other elected officials, the value of a civics education becomes visibly important.  

According to the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, one in three Americans would fail the naturalization civics test that is administered to immigrants seeking American citizenship. The immigrants have a pass rate of more than 97 percent.

While most Americans can confidently answer elementary questions about basic geography and history (e.g. where is the capital of the United States located?), the struggles become evident on subjects covering the Constitution and the function of government. An astonishing 82 percent could not name two rights identified in the Declaration of Independence and 75 percent could not define the role of the judiciary branch.

America’s future lies in the hands of its people and the elected officials who represent us—it is not an either/or proposition. As such, it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves and our children as a means to create independent, critical thinkers who will be able to discern the difference between catchy campaign slogans and real meaningful change.  

Get involved. Equip the next generation in civic responsibility. Read, read and then read some more. Active, engaged citizenship is an outcome of an educated society and it is the fabric that keeps our country woven together. If we really want to make America great again, investing in education is the best investment one could ever make.

Jennifer Vigne is executive director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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