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Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

Posted on Friday, January 5, 2024 at 12:45 pm

Could you pass a citizenship test? Really?

Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

Okay, maybe I’m approaching this from a position of privilege.

One of my earliest memories is of tagging along to my mother’s former grammar school when she voted. Social Studies was one of my favorite elementary school classes. Mr. Lowry’s junior high Civics class taught us about polling, current events and debate skills. I made straight A’s when I minored in Political Science in college.

So I’m a wee bit prejudiced when I applaud the arrival of the book “Restoring the City on a Hill: U.S. History & Civics in America’s Schools.”

The authors recommend a rebooted K-12 emphasis on the documents, historical figures, Supreme Court cases, core principles and sacred duties that used to bring us together as Americans.

(To their credit, the authors avoid divisiveness by relegating the easily misinterpreted phrase “dumb as a sack of wet rocks” to the appendix of a future edition.)

At least 9 out of 10 applicants for legal immigration routinely pass a rigorous citizenship test, but an alarmingly high percentage of native-born Americans experience difficulty listing the three branches of government (“Lather, rinse, repeat?”) or remembering the name of their state legislator. (“My letter to Mr. Free Beans and Barbecue got returned by the United States Postal Service, which I believe was founded as part of the space shuttle program!”)

We were more knowledgeable back in my day, but even then, civic awareness was on a downhill slide. It was a matter of priorities; many of my peers would’ve loved reading The Federalist Papers, but first they had to score some Zig-Zag papers.

Many school districts don’t really offer old-fashioned Civics instruction anymore, unless you count endless school-spirit “dress-up” days where students poke around in their parents’ closet and ask what happened to the powdered wigs they wore in school.

If we’re to find solutions to our apathy and ignorance, we have to ask ourselves if we’re part of the problem.

If you think that “the right to assemble” was put into the Bill of Rights because of bribes from IKEA…

If you think that “bicameral” has something to do with the spectrum of confections…

If you think the Electoral College should let its athletes profit from merchandising…

If you think the inscription beneath the Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…we’ll leave a light on for you…”

If you think that “civic engagement” is a step toward marrying your Honda…

…you just might need to get a refresher course.

If our graduates are going to maximize their performance in the Real World and serve as an inspiration for newly minted citizens, they need at least a working knowledge of eminent domain, filibusters, jury duty, petitions, referendums, trade deficits and the causes of inflation.

But let’s strive for neutrality. Some schools that do provide Civics courses encourage the teachers to use them as training grounds for misguided activism. (“Today we’re going to protest the inequity of the summer solstice. Everyone glue your hands to the sun. Ouch! Owie!”)

Yes, some educators yearn to indoctrinate their students into dissing our traditions and institutions. On the plus side, at least this uncovers other inadequacies.

“I’m not standing for the National Anthem. I’m taking a …bendy thing between the upper part of your leg and the lower part of your leg.”

*Sigh* Maybe it’s time to reevaluate biology as well.

©2023 Danny Tyree. Danny is a lifelong Middle Tennessean. His third book, “Tyree’s Tyrades!: 25 Years of Love and Laughter,” is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook.