How much do you know about government? Can you name both of New Mexico’s US Senators? Do you know what bicameralism is? Do you know who wrote the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? Do you know which party controls our state House of Representatives?
Granted, since you’re an avid ProgressNow NM reader (and thereby an all-around awesome person), you probably do.
However, civic engagement (and it’s essential prerequisite, civic education) is sorely lacking in our state and country. Those might seem like basic questions about the history and functioning of our government above, but most people (and young people in particular) would have trouble with them.
Need proof? Watch this short video from Texas Tech in which everyday college students are asked basic questions about history and government. The results aren’t pretty:
Enter New Mexico state Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard. Her bill to create an interactive government literacy course for New Mexico students yesterday passed its second committee and is now on to the full House for a vote.
Rep. Garcia Richard’s HB 345 – Government Literacy as Elective and Dual Credit – would create a government literacy course to be adopted by New Mexico’s Public Education and Higher Education Departments as a course that’s eligible toward the requirements of a New Mexico Diploma of Excellence.
According to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report, that Texas Tech video above is not a fluke. The lack of education about government is prevalent and, if you extrapolate outwards slightly, is contributing to the ways in which misinformation spreads throughout society and is responsible for the lack of civic information among voters (and non-voters).
Here are some sobering statistics found in HB 345’s FIR:
Nationally, student awareness of concepts related to government and civics is deficient. According to Indiana University’s Center for Civic Literacy:
- Survey research indicates only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government.
- Fewer than half of 12th grade students can define federalism.
- Barely 35 percent of teenagers recognize “We the People” as the first three words of the Constitution.
- Only five percent of high school seniors can define America’s system of checks and balances.
Thankfully, Rep. Garcia Richard has identified this problem in our state and is taking pro-active steps to remedy it. Our state, our country, and our democracy will all be better off for it.