I recently wrote a blog post on the importance of training our next generation of political leaders. I suggested there are no standardized tests that measure how effectively we are preparing our students to be prudent and discerning voters and citizens eager to assume the mantle of leadership in any of the multiple layers of our participatory republic. So we need to ask ourselves how do we know our schools are doing what they should to prepare citizens for the democracy that is the United States?
Yes, reading, writing, and the other basics are imperative. The premise of public education was that it would serve as the bulwark of our democracy by preparing a literate electorate. But fundamental to this as well should be preparing our students to understand propaganda. Remember, the two nations with the highest literacy rates of the 1930's were Germany and Japan. Our youth must be educated to be critical thinkers, to recognize the ploys of advertising, and to think about how their own beliefs and consciences are reflected in the alternative that are offered to them.
Next, citizenship preparation is not just a civics class and a couple of history classes. Schools need to be modeling our republic form of government. Student council should be part of every secondary school. It should not be a superficial body where the popular kids are elected to get together and chat about what themes they want for the upcoming school dance. This should be a program that needs the serious attention and support of the school administration. The student council members need to be required to regularly solicit feedback from their constituents. They must involve the student body in serious issues regarding school governance. Finally, the faculty can recognize many students who will one day be leaders in our society. Leadership should be an essential component to every talented and gifted program. Get those students involved. Don't let their leadership training fall by the wayside simply because they cannot win the popular vote . . . today.
Although some of our political leaders today myopically cannot see this important function that schools serve, we must recognized this need and serve our students to provide for the future leadership of us all.