We have complained over the years that young people are missing out on education in civics, but we must admit Ashley Roar’s second-grade class at Campbell Elementary School in Raceland got the best civics lesson possible recently: a visit from a top official.
Raceland Mayor Talmadge McPeek visited the class this week, the culmination of students’ unit about communities and government, to talk about upcoming city projects, such as expansions and accessibility to the local park. He also told students about his daily duties as mayor and plans for improving the city’s infrastructure. He even explained the process of becoming mayor.
Other topics included taxes, mask wearing and the salary for the mayor, all of which McPeek was candid about.
Our complaints about the lack of civics knowledge among the public are valid. The Annenberg Public Policy Center found only 26% of Americans can name all three branches of government. It found only 23% of eighth-graders performed at or above proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam. Not surprisingly, trust in government is at only 18% and voter participation continues to be low.
In the case of civics education and government trust, ignorance seems to breed distrust. We have long known we fear what we don’t understand. It would be a terrible shame for ignorance of civics to continue, further distancing us from our government, which is an entity we pay for via taxes.
We applaud the teaching of civics, but we giving a standing ovation to Ms. Roar’s idea to bring in an actual elected official to put into a real-life context what he job is like and how city government works. We also are grateful for Mayor McPeek’s willingness to be open with students about their government. We hope it’s not only a lesson in civics, but sufficient encouragement for students to take part.