Some prominent people continue to accuse the alleged failure of civic education in our schools of the guerrilla crisis and riots that are increasingly paralyzing our federal government and spreading to many states, including Texas.
The last to raise the issue is Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense, CIA director and president of the University of Texas A&M. At a recent virtual conference and follow-up interview with Politico Gates, he suggested that if students learn more about how our system of government was designed to work, they may be less partisan as voters and elected officials will rediscover the need for compromise.
“It seems to me that if people do not understand how our system of government works – and the role of Congress and the role of the president – we can get out of the way,” Gates said.
But the main problem is not in our education system. The greatest danger to our democracy right now is staged by educated politicians who know very well how our system of government should work, but undermine it by convincing disinformed and ill-informed voters that they cannot trust our elections. Belief in elections is the backbone of our democracy, but for them, the health of our democracy is less important than their own ideological or party advantage and their own political career.
After Donald Trump began the big lie that Joe Biden “stole” in last year’s election, Trump officials – including some high-ranking Texans – immediately began to help him believe the lies in the minds of his angry followers.
Just hours after the deadly riots in the Capitol, 17 of Texas Republicans in 25 voted against Congress to confirm Biden’s legitimate results in the White House. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tried to delay certification by demanding an “emergency audit” of the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. All of these voices and delays served to deepen Trump’s lies and fueled conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, even after numerous judges and Trump’s own attorney general confirmed the election.
By the way, Cruz graduated with honors from Princeton with a bachelor’s degree in public policy and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. He has taught a lot of American civics.
Another educated Texan, Governor Greg Abbott, who perpetuated Trump’s lie, recently signed a so-called “electoral integrity” law, which was designed to make voting more difficult for many of his political opponents. And the redistribution of maps presented to Abbott’s educated allies in the legislature will deprive millions of Texans of the color of political influence they are entitled to because of their population growth, according to a recent federal census.
This will further undermine democracy and has nothing to do with how many hours of civic education someone has completed at school.
Robert Gates: How Civic Education Became a Topic of National Security