Here’s a good reason to start engaging students at a young age in how the electoral process works: more than 40 percent of young Americans don’t know key information about the voting process, according to a poll of young people’s view of the election conducted by the Youth Education Fund. The survey polled 1,695 youth (ages 18-29) in June/July and 1,109 of the same youth between October 12 and 23.

The more they know and the more opportunities they have for civic engagement, the more likely they’ll participate!

  • From what I understand, the Italian Renaissance in civic life originated with Florence’s commitment to cultivating an educated public as a bulwark against attacks by other city states. Civic humanism was primarily a campaign to teach the trivium: rhetoric, logic and grammar. More even than teaching how government works and the technicalities of voting, I think we need greater commitment to an updated version of civic humanism’s curriculum. Rhetoric and logic can be updated as an education in how to spin and unspin, much of the traditional curriculum remains valuable but updated through social psychology’s attention to “automaticity” or “the new unconscious,” research like Daniel Kahneman’s into the heuristics and biases that guide and misguide intuition. Grammar, I would replace with pragmatic moral philosophy. We need a novum trivium, an integrated three-part curriculum in how to spin, how to unspin and how to decide what to spin.

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