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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Challange to Civic Engagement

Porcupine has very much enjoyed the spirited discussion begun by David Kravitz, sere guru of Blue Mass Group, regarding his appointment to the Civic Engagement transition team by Gov. Elect Deval Patrick. The post HERE has generated over 100 comments so far, many of them full-length blog posts themselves.

The one idea that has received universal acclamation is to reintroduce Civics as a course of study in the Commonwealth’s high schools. Porcupine is a big fan of civics class, and has often bemoaned its demise. While there are ‘Rock the Vote’ type events, Porcupine cannot help but note that the decline of voter turnout and participation began when Civics was taken out of the curriculum. There is a trough of 20 to 40 year olds who are disengaged, and often are genuinely ignorant of the structure of government. They do not attend town meeting, even when their own interests and the interests of their children are affected. The 'celebritization' of politics, which has little to do with government, has hastened this decline of attention and engagement. Politics has become crass and harsh. A genius like Abraham Lincoln could not be elected in the era of the 30 second sound bite.

So – it is time to reintroduce the young to their amazing heritage as citizens of a Republic. We in Massachusetts have the Right of Free Petition, meaning that any citizen can file a bill before the legislature. Time’s a wastin’, as the deadline for all legislation for the 2007-2008 Session is December 6th (yes, one more trick – rookie legislators must know to file their bills BEFORE they are even sworn in!). How about this for language?

Notwithstanding any special or general law to the contrary, a requirement is hereby enacted that a condition for graduation from 12th grade shall be the completion of one full semester of instruction in Civics and Civic Engagement, with a course of study which shall include, but not be limited to, the separation of powers, the branches of government, the creation of legislation and laws, and the various forms of local government throughout the Commonwealth.

If the bill is filed by the deadline, it will be heard by the Education Committee in the upcoming session. While many legislators would be happy to co-sponsor such a bill, Porcupine would urge Mr. Kravitz to seek co-sponsors from the other members of his Transition Team, and from the interested and engaged public, and allow them all to be co-sponsors (all you need is their full name, and residential and mailing addresses). Legislators can testify and write letters of support, but let the sponsorship of this bill be made entirely by the public – as a form of Civic Engagement.


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