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On the Lighter Side


Why Study Civics?

by Donald A. Tevault


The author, listening to one of his antique radios. From Webster's New World Dictionary:
  • civics--the study of civic affairs and the duties and rights of citizenship
  • civic--of a city, citizens, or citizenship

As is the case with most every webmaster, I like to get a general idea of who visits my site, and how people find it. So, a few weeks ago, I noticed from my Hitbox statistics that someone had found my site by asking a search engine, "Why study civics?". That is a good question. And, I believe that it deserves a good answer. There are, after all, some fairly important reasons.

Let's start by breaking down the definition of "civics":

  • "the study of civic affairs. . . "--By studying civics, you will learn how our government, economic system and political system are supposed to operate. You will, for example, be better able to determine who is right in controversies over "big, active government" vs. "small, limited government". You'll understand why the founding fathers wanted the colonies to break away from the British crown, and why they set up the United States government as a republic instead of as a democracy. Things like the power shortage mess in California won't be near as mystifying to you, because you'll be able to understand just what went wrong. Debates over whether or not to raise the minimum wage, or whether or not to cut income tax rates will make more sense to you. And, if another fiasco like the presidential election of 2000 comes up, you'll be able to understand the issues.
  • ". . . the duties and rights of citizenship"--Most citizens of the United States are at least vaguely aware that they have certain rights. But, there is a certain amount of confusion over what those rights are. Take, for example, the First Amendment rights of free speech. In modern times, this amendment has been interpreted to also mean "free expression". So, when Congress tries to pass a law against burning the United States flag, the courts say, "No, you can't do that. You'll be violating the people's right to 'free expression'". There have also been cases where someone will want to set up a strip bar somewhere. But, the local government will say, "Wait a minute. A lot of people here would rather not have that type of business in our neighborhood." The prospective strip bar owner will reply, "Ah, but you have to let us in. If you don't allow young ladies to come to my bar and dance nude before a crowd of men, you'll be violating their First Amendment right of free expression." Of course, others will argue that the First Amendment was never meant to protect these kinds of activities, but was meant instead to protect a person who feels the need to criticize members of government. By studying civics, you'll be better able to determine who's right in these sorts of arguments.

    By the same token, it's also good to know just what your rights are as a U. S. citizen. Suppose, for example, that a pair of city or county social workers were to come to your door, and tell you that they'd heard reports that you and your spouse have been abusing your children. They don't have a search warrant, but they demand that you let them in so that they can undress your children and examine them for bruises. You are, of course, innocent; you have nothing to hide. So, you let them in because you believe that you would be disobeying the law to act otherwise. But, do you have to? This scenario does play itself out in these United States. But, by studying civics, you'll be better able to deal with this sort of situation should it arise.

    Notice, though, that there are also duties of citizenship. That doesn't mean that you have to exert yourself to become a great political leader, although you can if you want. But, if you're familiar with the basic principles of civics, you'll be a better informed voter. You'll be able to examine politicians' positions, and determine whether or not they'll be good for the country, or for the cause of liberty. You'll be able to determine if the candidates' positions are in line with the Constitution. As a result, you'll not only be helping to protect your own freedom, but also that of your fellow citizens.
  • "Now", you ask, "how does one get started in the studies of basic civics?" It's actually quite easy. Resources are readily available.

    The Declaration of Independence is probably the best thing to start with. It's short, written in plain language and is easy to understand. It outlines the grievances that the early Americans had against the British king. By reading this document first, you'll gain an understanding of why the founding fathers chose to risk their lives and well-being by defying the king and army of Great Britain. Then, you might want to read a book about early American history. That way, you'll have a better explanation of what the colonists' grievances were, and about their struggle to obtain liberty. You'll also get an idea of what to look out for with our own government, just in case our modern politicians try to emulate King George.

    Next, you'll want to study The United States Constitution, The Federalist Papers and a book on basic economics. The Constitution will tell you how the government is set up, and what your rights are. The Federalist will explain to you why the government was designed as it was. And, of course, a good book about economics will help you understand arguments over what should be the government's role in the economy.

    Most of all, though, an understanding of basic civics will help you learn to think for yourself. That way, you'll know if someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

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    2003 Truth In News Press