Sunday, March 24, 2024

Democracy depends on education

Part of an ongoing, occasional series looking at the state of democracy and the political process in the United States in light of the 2024 presidential election.

The power of education in keeping democracy healthy

To all the middle school students and high school students out there,

Imagine a world where everyone gets to have a say in how things are run, where everyone's voice matters, and where everyone has the chance to make a meaningful difference, a profound contribution. This is essentially what democracy is all about, or supposed to be about. These are the ideals it espouses. It's a precious gift we have, and it comes in a set of rights and responsibilities. But did you know that for democracy to work well, we all need to be educated and informed? Let's dive into why this is so important.

First off, what is democracy? Democracy, perhaps in its simplest explanation, is a system of government where the power belongs to the people. Think of it like a big decision-making club where everyone gets to have a say in, and perhaps even directly vote on, what they think is best for their community, city, state, and/or country. But here's the thing: for democracy to run smoothly, people need to understand how it works and what they're supporting and/or voting for. That's where education comes in.

Education is like the key that unlocks the door to democracy. When we're educated, we truly understand, and continue to learn about, subjects like history, government, economics, philosophy, how society works, and specific key issues affecting many. We understand our rights and responsibilities as citizens. We can think critically about the issues facing our communities and broader world, and make informed decisions when it's time to cast that vote.

But being educated isn't just about knowing facts and figures. It's also about learning how to think for ourselves and how to separate truth from fiction. In today's world, where information is everywhere, it's easy to get confused or even outright misled. That's why those critical thinking skills are so important. We need to be able to ask questions, research answers, and form our own conclusions based on evidence, not just what we see on social media or hear from friends.

When we're well-educated and well-informed, we become active participants, and even leaders, in democracy. We don't just sit back and let other people make decisions for us. That's a sad waste of talent and potential. Rather, we take responsibility for both our individual and collective futures, and we work together to cultivate opportunities and effect positive changes. We seek to grow in virtue and become civic-minded. We vote for leaders who represent our values, we speak out against injustice, and we advocate for policies that make our communities stronger and fairer for everyone.

But here's the thing: democracy isn't a one-time deal. It's like a garden that needs constant tending. We need to keep learning and stay informed throughout our lives to keep democracy healthy and thriving. That means following the news, staying curious and asking questions, engaging in productive dialogue with others, and being open to new ideas. It means listening to different perspectives and engaging in respectful debate. It means being willing to stand up for what's right, even when it's hard to do so.

So, to all the middle school students and high school students out there, remember this: your education matters. It's not just about getting good grades or getting into college, and it doesn't end after the school day or upon graduation. Your education is ongoing, for the rest of your life. It's about being an active, informed citizen who can help shape the future of our democracy. So keep learning, keep asking questions, and never underestimate the power of your potential and your voice. The health of our democracy depends on it.

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