Why civics education matters


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On the roster: Why civics education matters - House readies resolution to end national emergency - Harris calls for new election in NC House race - Biden considers his family ahead of 2020 decision - Girl scout of the year

WHY CIVICS EDUCATION MATTERS

You no doubt heard the news. Americans don’t know bupkis about our history and system of government.

The survey from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found appallingly low percentages of Americans were conversant even in the basic facts of our system and past.

In order to pass a U.S. citizenship test, an applicant must get at least 60 percent of the questions on a civics and history test correct. You can take a sample test here but knowing you, dear readers, 60 percent will seem like a rock-bottom grade.

If you have been reading us for any length of time you will also know that civics and history education is something of a hobbyhorse for us, so we were certainly happy to see attention brought to the subject. What concerns us, however, is that very few people seem to be discussing why this is a problem.

Knowing civics and history isn’t something that is an abstract good like knowing how to play the clarinet, hit a one-handed backhand or tell the difference between Monet and Manet. It is a practical, vital knowledge the lack of which is creating a crisis for our country.

Civics education, where it still exists, is treated often as something obligatory. You make your bed, you shine your shoes for church, you say “please” and you know how many justices are on the Supreme Court.

If we expect students to care and schools to emphasize the subject, we had better make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake. Without a working knowledge of what this country is and how our system works, each generation becomes less able to operate this miracle that has proven to be a light into the world.

The most significant problems facing our government today aren’t really ideological, they’re systemic.

For example, there are good debates to be had about how the federal government should allocate the nearly $3.5 trillion in tax revue it collects each year. Where should it be spent and in what increments? How much more money should the government borrow?

But politicians have essentially destroyed the system that allowed those questions to be addressed for the previous two centuries. Most of the money that’s being spent is doled out on schedules and rates set decades ago. 

Less than a third of federal spending is actually appropriated by the current Congress. The other 70 percent goes to entitlement programs, pensions, pre-programed welfare systems and interest on the $22 trillion national debt. It’s that way because previous generations of lawmakers determined they and their successors were too irresponsible to allocate money anymore.  

While most federal outlays cruise on like a deep space probe zooming out past Pluto, what obviously will happen to the discussion over the ever-shrinking slice that Congress really does control? When there was plenty of money, the appropriations system allowed for an orderly, if greasy, means for allocating the money. Now, every time the bills come due at the end of the federal fiscal year, we start jumping off of fiscal cliffs.

We recently endured what was called the “Seinfeld shutdown,” the shutdown about nothing. Lawmakers and the president were at odds over a little flyspeck of spending – four hundredths of a percent of the deficit alone – and closed a substantial part of the government for more than a month only to come to what was an obvious compromise from the start.

However you feel about border barriers and “delayed action for childhood arrivals” and anything else about immigration, that’s not a sensible way to have discussions about spending priorities. That’s not liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic but rather systemic. The way the U.S. government handles its money is a rotten, chaotic mess.

But there’s little political advantage to be had in addressing that. In fact, there’s substantial political disadvantage. 

Listen to the president and his potential general election opponents as they talk about money. They sound like 1970s pornographic actress and disco star Andrea True. “How do you like it? More, more, more.” More tax cuts, more infrastructure spending, more entitlements, more welfare programs. More, more, more.

Spending is just one example. We could say the same of our legal, educational, medical and national security apparatuses. Deep problems continue to churn, but politicians across the spectrum tend to offer painless pabulum. 
    
Now, we should rightly blame the politicians who pander and deceive. But as the scorpion told the frog, we know it is their nature. As comedian Chris Rock once joked about sexual fidelity, “Men are only as faithful as their options.” A dim, if not entirely undeserved view. For politicians, the maxim would hold that they are only about as honest as they have to be.

And voters are letting them get away with murder.

We will not reinvent human nature in such a way that a new generation of selfless politicians rises up to save us from ourselves. But that is what Americans look for each successive election. What do we want each cycle? Change. And each cycle they deliver the kind of surficial change that temporarily gratifies the bloody-minded partisanship of one side but leaves most people with a deeper-still feeling of unease. Something is wrong, but we just can’t say what. 

So what will we choose next time? Why change, of course.

The purpose of an educated electorate – the crucial aim of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others – was as the ultimate guarantor of good government. If the people do not know what they have, they won’t know how to use it. They won’t know which demands are sensible to make. They will become easy prey for demagogues.

Welp.

The urgent work of educating the next generation in American history and civics isn’t just something that would be nice or to avoid national embarrassment. It is actually about rebuilding a bulwark against tyranny. As our government slips deeper and deeper into dysfunction and people come to have less and less faith in the American system, we become sitting ducks for the kind of authoritarianism that has ruled most of our species for most of our history. 

Civic classes are about nothing less than guaranteeing “the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”       

THE RULEBOOK: HOLD YOUR GROUND  
“Whatever efficacy the union may have had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed.” – Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 19

TIME OUT: THE PRICE OF COLLEGE SPORTS
Sports Illustrated: “UNC-Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium is typically a showcase for everything that's great about sports… But the story was [Zion Williamson’s injury]. He's the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and one of the biggest names in sports at the moment. … What happens when the biggest game in America becomes dominated by the player who left after 30 seconds? For one, after 48 hours of news stories about Duke-UNC ticket prices, there were natural conclusions drawn about the injustice of Zion performing as an unpaid amateur and suffering an injury while almost everyone else in the college sports ecosystem was able to get rich off the game. That argument makes some sense. … And why does Zion Williamson have to be in college at all? … If players are talented enough to be drafted into the NBA after high school, many around the sport think they should be able to make that transition as soon as they graduate.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change  
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 52% unapproved; CNN: 42% approve - 54% disapproval; IBD: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 57% disapprove.]

HOUSE READIES RESOLUTION TO END NATIONAL EMERGENCY
WaPo: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday night that the House will vote in the coming days on a resolution rejecting President Trump’s national emergency declaration, encouraging fellow Democrats to support the effort as they try to stop Trump’s push to expand efforts to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter, the California Democrat said Trump’s declaration ‘undermines the separation of powers and Congress’s power of the purse, a power exclusively reserved by the text of the Constitution to the first branch of government, the Legislative branch, a branch co-equal to the Executive.’ By invoking a national emergency, Trump is claiming authority to shift federal funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes to be spent instead on his border wall. Pelosi announced that the House would move ‘swiftly’ to pass a disapproval resolution authored by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), although she did not specify an exact date and indicated it would move through a House committee before coming to the floor.”

Sen. Collins backs lawsuit against national emergency - Portland Press Herald: “Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday that she supports the lawsuit filed by 16 states – including Maine – challenging President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a southern border wall. But Collins also signaled support for a straightforward congressional disapproval of an emergency declaration that she views as having ‘dubious constitutionality’ and setting a dangerous precedent. ‘It may be that the courts will stop what I believe to be a very unwise action, or it may come about through Congress,’ Collins said Wednesday. ‘If the House passes a resolution of disapproval and it is a clean resolution, I will support that.’ … The three other members of Maine’s congressional delegation – independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden – also have strongly criticized the president’s emergency declaration.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Trump's brazen overreach - This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains how the president’s national emergency is unconstitutional: “When the president acts pursuant to authority granted to him by the Congress in an area of government delegated to him by the Constitution, his authority is at its peak, and he is free to exercise it as he sees fit. When he acts in an area as to which the Congress has been silent, he acts in a twilight zone and can succeed only if the area of his behavior is delegated to him under the Constitution and if he enjoys broad public support. But when the president acts in an area that the Constitution gives exclusively to Congress -- such as spending money -- and when he acts in defiance of Congress, his acts are unconstitutional and are to be enjoined.” More here.

HARRIS CALLS FOR NEW ELECTION IN NC HOUSE RACE
Raleigh News & Observer: “In a startling statement, Republican candidate Mark Harris Thursday called for a new election in the 9th Congressional District ‘to restore the confidence of voters.’ Harris’ statement came after a break in a hearing after he had testified about his dealings with Bladen County operative McCrae Dowless. On the stand, Harris said he suffered two strokes in January while hospitalized for a severe infection and was ‘struggling’ to get through the hearing. After hearing the evidence of absentee ballot fraud, Harris said, ‘I believe a new election should be called.’ A member of North Carolina’s State Board of Elections had pressed Harris on why he didn’t heed warnings from his son about hiring Dowless to run an absentee ballot operation in his 2018 campaign for Congress. … ‘He raised concerns (about Dowless). I did not consider John’s (emails) to be a warning. I thought he was overreacting,’ [Harris said].”

BIDEN CONSIDERS HIS FAMILY AHEAD OF 2020 DECISION 
NBC News:Joe Biden wants to be president. And each day, he’s closer to being ready to run for the office. But even as he weighs a campaign to unseat President Donald Trump, Biden is carefully considering a key question — what happens when the president or his top allies try to make his family an issue? Conversations with aides to the former vice president and others who’ve spoken with him in recent weeks present the idea of a Biden candidacy as not if but when. … But Biden knows and expects the president to fight as hard to stay in the White House as he did to win it in the first place — and he’s already shown nothing is off limits. … No line of attack would be more reprehensible to the former vice president than one directed at his family, and he and his team have been forced to consider that even as they also weigh the political dynamics.”

Harris swipes at far-left Dems over open borders - Fox News: “Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said ‘We can't have open borders’ as she continues to disassociate from her party’s calls for unrestricted immigration and tearing down existing barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. senator from California, a leading 2020 hopeful for the White House on the Democratic side, has recently been overshadowed by the entry of Senate colleague Bernie Sanders -- the progressives’ likely first choice -- into the race, and the potential candidacy of Beto O’Rourke the former congressman from Texas who’s been making inroads and positioning himself as the anti-Trump candidate. This prompted Harris to come out against O’Rourke’s call to tear down the existing 700 miles of fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border during a Wednesday night appearance on Comedy Central's ‘The Daily Show.’”

Family matters: Kamala’s dad isn’t happy over her comments on weed - Fox News: “The father of Sen. Kamala Harris is trying to distance himself from the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful after she said her pot smoking in college stemmed from her Jamaican heritage. … Harris' father, Donald, disapproved of the comments, which he told the Jamaica Global Online constituted ‘identity politics.’ ‘My dear departed grandmothers ... as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics,’ he said. Donald Harris continued: ‘Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.’”

Williamson: ‘One last grift for Bernie Sanders’ - National Review: “Right-wing populists and left-wing populists may disagree about such world-changing issues as whether the phrase ‘a man with ovaries’ actually means anything, but on the fundamental policy questions they come down strikingly close to one another. That is because the enemy of populism isn’t the right wing or the left wing — the enemy of populism is liberalism, understood here not in the demented sense we use it in U.S. politics (where liberals are the people opposed to liberalism) but in its proper sense, meaning the classical-liberal regime of property rights, free enterprise, free trade, individual rights, and a worldview based on well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations.”

Disinformation cyber campaign begins against Dems - Politico: “A wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates is already underway on social media, with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity. The main targets appear to be Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), four of the most prominent announced or prospective candidates for president. A POLITICO review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms … suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions. But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hints at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary. The cyber propaganda … is being pushed across a variety of platforms…”

POMPEO RULES OUT ON KANSAS SENATE RUN
Politico: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that he has ruled out running for a soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat in his home state of Kansas next year in favor of remaining the nation's top diplomat. The former Kansas congressman and CIA director had dodged questions about whether he planned on running in 2020 to claim the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, fueling speculation that he might by attending certain events and meeting with GOP operatives in the state. But on NBC's ‘Today’ show on Thursday, the secretary of state threw cold water on the prospect, telling anchor Craig Melvin ‘it’s ruled out.’ ‘I love Kansas. I'm going to be the secretary of State as long as President Trump gives me the opportunity to serve as America’s senior diplomat,” Pompeo said. ‘I love doing what I'm doing and I have 75,000 great warriors out and around the world trying to deliver for the American people.’”

Poll: Joni Ernst's approval rating soars ahead of 2020 re-election - Des Moines Register: “U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s approval rating has hit its highest point ever as she prepares for a 2020 re-election campaign, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows. Fifty-seven percent of Iowans say they approve of the job she’s doing — a 10 percentage-point increase since September. She earns approval from a majority of Iowans in each of the state’s four congressional districts. That includes a high of 65 percent in the Republican-heavy 4th District, in northwest and north central Iowa, and a low of 51 percent in the Democratic-leaning 2nd District, in southeast Iowa. … Ernst, a military veteran from Red Oak, became the first woman in Iowa elected to either chamber of Congress in 2014. … She announced in December that she intends to seek re-election.”

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne announces 2020 Senate run - AL.com: “U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne became the first official Republican entrant into the 2020 U.S. Senate race announcing his intention to run in a race that could become one of the most expensive political contests in Alabama history. … Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones, who narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in that election, raised more than $24 million. … Byrne said he anticipates, similar to the 2017 special election, national attention paid to the Alabama Senate contest next year. The race is considered one of the few 2020 Senate contests in which a Democratic officeholder is seeking re-election against a Republican inside a state that has long been dominated by GOP leadership.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Neal Kaytal: What to expect from the Mueller report NYT

Poll shows Virginians aren’t demanding Ralph Northam’s resignation - Sabato’s Crystal Ball

AUDIBLE: NO ONE KNOWS
“I have read it and I have reread it and I asked Ed Markey… what in the heck is this?” – Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., discussing his struggle to understand the Green New Deal on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“It's midnight. And I'm listening to ITYW podcast and you mentioned a Pawpaw. I hope this finds you because 50 years ago in the movie Jungle Book a Pawpaw is mentioned in the lyrics of Bare Necessities. I sang it all the time and never knew what I was singing about. Now I do. And I love ice cream. So I'll have to [check] that out. Please share my note with Dana.” – Brian Keill, Pearl River, N.Y.

[Ed. note: The 1967 animated version was one of my favorites as a little boy. It’s scary enough to give you some bad dreams — that snake! — but funny enough and tender enough to make it beloved. But I hadn’t remembered that paw paws made an appearance. Makes it even *ahem* sweeter.]

“Yet another polling question, although I understand the ones you use and the methodologies behind them. What does confuse me is that some days you have a certain set of polls, other days you have a different set of polls. The average can go up or down significantly based solely on one poll being included and another one being removed. Any chance you could enlighten us on that piece?” – Mike Schlender, Minneapolis

[Ed. note: As they would say in the business world, Mr. Schlemder, “FIFO” or first in, first out. We cycle out the oldest polls when new one comes in.]

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GIRL SCOUT OF THE YEAR
WISN: “As if any of us needed any more of an incentive to buy even more boxes of Girl Scout cookies, a fifth-grade marketing genius just reinvented her Samoas packaging in the best way possible. The Colorado-based ‘Cookie CEO’ Charlotte Holmberg — who earned the title after selling more than 2,000 boxes in 2018 — is upping her game in a major way in the new year. Turning her Samoas into Momoas, the elementary schooler redesigned her packaging to include a shirtless Jason Momoa, and unsurprisingly, they're flying off the figurative shelves. Holmberg happened to have a marketing professional already on her sales team — her mom — and after spotting a few Momoa Samoa memes, she thought up the rebranding. The pair printed a shot of the ‘Aquaman’ star on the classic purple packaging, and suddenly, everyone was eager for a box.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Say it and sign it. To get, you have to give. That’s the art of the deal, is it not?” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Sept. 1, 2016.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.