March 2nd, 2006
Collegiate Times Editorial Board
E-MAIL PRINT Most Popular
Quick — name the five freedoms guaranteed to all U.S. citizens in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Now, name the five lovable members of the popular “The Simpsons” family.
A recent survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, but more than half can name at least two members of “The Simpsons” household.
The survey also found that more people could name the three “American Idol” judges than could identify three First Amendment rights. In addition, it showed that many people misidentified the rights contained within the First Amendment.
Come on, people — if we’re forking over thousands of dollars in tuition to go to college in this country, paying taxes to the government of this country and freely electing the leaders of this country, shouldn’t we understand the most basic principles that our country was founded upon?
The obligation to be an informed citizen carries an even greater weight since we are all part of the Virginia Tech community. For it is from this and other institutions of higher learning across the nation that America’s leaders emerge as well-rounded individuals prepared to take on a myriad of future challenges.
Yet, how much value do our college educations have if they fail to include such fundamental information as how our government works, who our leaders are (starting with university administrators and going all the way up to President Bush), and what major political and economic events are going on all over the world today, and who’s involved in them?
Many Americans ignorantly scoff at foreigners who become naturalized citizens because they have a different accent or a different skin color, or don’t seem as “American” as natural-born U.S. citizens. In truth, naturalized citizens know more about the country than almost all other Americans, the vast majority of whom could not complete the naturalization process due to the rigorous testing naturalized citizens must go through, and the extensive knowledge of our government and history they must possess beforehand.
The message our public schools and universities urgently need to ingrain into their students’ minds is that being a responsible citizen isn’t about Britney Spears’ baby or Angelina Jolie’s lips. It’s about actively caring about and taking part in the government that seems so invisible at times, yet is ever-present in all of our lives.
Oh, by the way: the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances. And, the five members of “The Simpsons” family are Bart, Homer, Maggie, Lisa and Marge, in case you didn’t know.