Citizenship Deficit Disorder fully diagnosed

It’s a sad state of affairs when roughly one third of Americans don’t know the three branches of government, which are the executive, legislative and judicial, or have any idea how our system of checks and balances made America different from all other nations.

And I’ll venture there would be a lot less rancor in politics, on campuses and on the street if this civics illiteracy could be turned around. There would be a clear understanding of why we elect presidents through the electoral college rather than the popular vote. People might just understand the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcomes. They too would gain an appreciation for property rights and how they are tied to our liberty as a representation of our individual effort and work product.


If you have kids in public schools you probably already know that the curriculum is loaded with pop culture issues woven into every subject from social studies to math, but light on reading historic texts or having to learn historical events that shaped our country in the earliest days. But instead of going in the direction of civics literacy, our schools and universities are going the other direction.

George Washington University last year decided even history majors need not bother with North American, European or U.S. history. How on earth can one understand our history and unique form of representative government if it is not diligently studied and compared to other countries’ histories? Another tell of this trend expanding is that Ohio Wesleyan University recently instituted a degree program in Social Justice. According to, other schools such as the University of Colorado in Bolder will offer a “social justice living environment,” which they say will give students real-world experience with career-related skills like community organizing and mediating diverse social groups.

Call me naive, but from where I’m sitting and what I see, it is not so much not enough jobs for people as people not having the skills that employers need to fill those jobs. Somehow, I just don’t see how a major in social justice or attaining community organizing skills is going to make our graduates more enticing to the many, many employers who are screaming for qualified applicants.

Don’t misunderstand, college is not for everyone and may not even be necessary for most people to be gainfully employed with a pride in whatever work product they produce. But it has long been understood that civic knowledge is an important part for the foundation of democratic self-government. This civics information is not passed down in the gene pool to the next generation. Alexis de Tocqueville, author and a major observer and philosopher of democracy, believed that “each new generation is a new people that must acquire the knowledge, learn the skills and develop the dispositions or traits of private and public character that undergird a constitutional democracy.”

This civics knowledge problem, called by some a potentially fatal case of Citizenship Deficit Disorder, is responsible for the lack of participation in electoral politics. As our civics deficit grows the bureaucracy is getting bigger and bigger, the courts are getting more powerful and democracy is getting smaller and our individual rights are depreciated. The permanent, unelected administrative state, the swamp if you will, is engulfing us. And as the state grows, our liberty is diminished. This civics deficit needs to be fixed.


As citizens of a free republic it is our duty to preserve it. If you would like to take a free online course on the U. S. Constitution go to:

Mikie Kerr is a constitutional enthusiast who lives in Waikoloa and writes a monthly column for West Hawaii Today.