New course could promote citizenship

St. Edward’s University should create a new course that is required of any degree plan. St. Edward’s should institute a course called Applied Citizenship, which may sound benign or silly but really would make a change in our community, both local and national.

The 2008 presidential election was a high water mark in our national voting records as 64 percent of registered voters cast a vote. This unprecedented turnout was due largely to the excitement surrounding the candidacy of Barack Obama, which spurred the participation of many demographics that tend to turn out in lower percentages, such as minorities and young people.

People age 18-24 have the lowest voter turnout of any demographic. To continue prospering in the 21st century, it is more important than ever that young people participate.

In an Applied Citizenship course, students would learn to be informed adults, fully capable of participating in a modern democracy. The course would begin with local government. Students will get to know all of their local representatives from city and state government.

Also, voting statistics and demographics, policy proposals, and government initiatives would be studied so students know what is going on with our local elections, and how our vote counts in terms of the local populace. The goal of this portion of the class is an effective understanding of Austin politics.

The class will then move on to Congress and Federal elections. This portion of the class will spend a great deal of time studying how federal elections work and what it means to participate in them. This includes in-depth study of representatives’ policy positions and the demographics that support them as politicians.

This will lead into a very important area that I feel we are all far too uneducated about: funding. Time would be spent on studying exactly what the recent Supreme Court ruling means in terms of elected officials and their backers.

Money is king in American politics and without a functional knowledge of how money affects public policy we are incapable off making informed decisions on how we use our power to vote. 

By the end of the course, students would study money in politics and the history of social services. They would learn how to monitor where their tax dollars go, and understand the percentage breakdowns of the various social services and war funding, often discussed during party speeches and debates.

Hearing people talk about cutting Medicare funding, increasing aid or reducing the defense budget does not equate to comprehension. Students should be aware of the cost and history of these programs. Every citizen has a responsibility to know how their money is being spent and to use their powers as voters to have a say in that spending.

It is more important than ever for us to be highly informed participates in the democratic system. In the face of corporate interests that can now spend essentially unlimitedly and undisclosedly to elect individuals who are sympathetic to their causes and values, our only power as individuals is knowledge and organization. It is for these reasons that St. Edward’s should offer a course in Applied Citizenship.