America added a significant event to her lifetime story on March 24, 2018 when hundreds of thousands of people gathered to “March for Our Lives.” While many shared feelings of desperation, anxiety, or eagerness stemming from tragedies experienced in their communities, most shared feelings of hope and excitement for the inspirational paths the emerging leaders and change seekers in those same communities are forging with resilience and powerful energy. The composition of protesters didn’t have to be ALL young people to know that people are inspired by the youth leaders we are seeing triumph through their pain.
What happens when students in America effectively learn about their Constitutional rights and the rules of law that govern America? If taught correctly, it encourages them to think about how their lives are improved or restricted by them, and what options are available to influence positive changes. What happens when students in America are not learning these important concepts? They miss out on understanding the power of their voice and their vote, and they don’t participate in government wisely.
Civics education in America is not nearly what it should be. Many students across the country are without opportunities to actively participate in frequent and relevant discussions about the Constitution, the rules of law, and the impact of both on their families, their friends, and their vision for their lives.
The March for Our Lives was not just a display of unity on a particular social or legal issue, it was a display of commitment and desire by America’s youth to actively participate in the structure of democracy that makes America amazing. Now is the time for us to commit to America’s students and help them stay aware and knowledgeable about important issues and the power they have to effectuate change in their communities, their cities, their states, and their nation.
Understanding why the United States education system is failing to provide these opportunities is less important than how we can improve the way things get done.
Lawyers are one group of people in a position to impress upon our education system creative ways to improve knowledge among students. An article in The Young Lawyer magazine published Winter 2018, “How You Can Help Engage Students in Civic Education” written by Erik Carlsen-Landy, briefly discusses a few ways lawyers can get involved. One suggestion is to volunteer in local schools by coaching debate teams or moot court teams. This option might have minimal impact on the entire problem as participation on these teams tends to be from students with an existing interest in civics. Another suggestion is to volunteer to teach about the U.S. Constitution or participate in Law Day two days out of the year, they limit learning to two specific days of the year, and the Constitution and rules of law are governing us every day. A third suggestion is to find local and national organizations that promote civics and legal education and volunteer. This is a broad suggestion that requires researching different groups, finding a perfect match, and having dedicated flexibility in scheduling based on the events promoted by the group selected.
In many communities, existing opportunities to volunteer on projects like these are non-existent which is why Carlsen-Landy’s final suggestion appears to be the most promising: create an opportunity if none exists. This is most promising because it encourages people to act on their ideas and bring them to fruition, no matter how big or small and all it takes is a focus on the demographic of young people who will inevitably become the face of our nation. We have the chance to empower our young people with the tools they need to make informed decisions and become wiser than preceding generations.
D. CARR LAW is building upon it’s Legal Literacy Initiative which focuses on free legal educational opportunities for youth to become informed, to respectfully discuss, to collaborate, and to share.
Students everywhere are ready to learn more and make a difference. But what opportunities will you create in your communities to help them do that?
Share your initiatives with us, invite us to join you, and don’t stop creating!