The Government Your Kids Will Know pt. 1


Hunting for clues about what havoc the NC General Assembly (NCGA) was up to today, I spent some time exploring their website. I’m sorry to say that it was the first time in 16 years as a Tarheel that I’d spent any time there. I discovered features like the audio streams of various meeting rooms in the building, including the floors of the Senate and House; the calendar links that get updated (eventually?) with the session agendas; and the bills being filed in near real time. All of which make me a much better North Carolina citizen for knowing about.

Of particular interest, under the About the Legislature tab, in a callout box of Educational Resources, was a hyperlink titled Kids’ Links. Seeing introductions to the NCGA for both Elementary School Ages and Middle School Ages, I opened the latter PDF, optimistically thinking the pre-teen version might include some explanation of how transparency or bipartisanship works on Jones Street.

It will come as no surprise that the 2.5 page synopsis of law making says nothing that suggests lawmakers should scurry like roaches in the dark to ram through bills that maybe only a couple hundred people knew were in the works for months. Perhaps we are supposed to take heart that “publicopinion” is one of the phrases you can circle in the SEARCH AND SEEK on page 16.

It goes without saying that filing 28 bills in a session that was ostensibly but not really called to help victims of Hurricane Matthew and western wildfires is especially sleazy. That it comes on the heels of an effort by Pat McCrory to discredit the democratic process in NC through allegations of voter fraud so that he could get an unearned second term shows that the GOP feels absolutely no accountability to citizens in the state.


But what’s gnawing at me tonight is the Kids’ Links. I’d never really thought about how the Schoolhouse Rock model of civic life that most of us probably learned doesn’t resemble this authoritarianism at all. It’s hard to imagine what my son’s civic education would look like in 15 years. Could our representative democracy ever look the same again?

My senior high school year in 1997, I remember Mr. Kennedy explaining the electoral college to us in our government class. I suggested incredulously that the system left open the possibility of having a president who hadn’t won the popular vote. He said that hadn’t happened in over a hundred years and that if it happened again, the system would immediately be dismantled. He also never told us about the cynicism, oppression, and moral depravity that were part of the lawmaking process today at the NCGA.

What kind of political reality will my 2 year old grow up knowing? One in which the right always wins because they are always willing to sink to more inhumane levels than their opponents? One in which facts don’t matter, just how loud or sneaky or fear-mongering you can be? One in which you can “surgically” gerrymander voting districts to oppress minorities? What will they teach him about being a citizen? Good luck with that?

The problem is not the Schoolhouse Rock model of government, it’s how that model has been subverted by scared and money-grubbing conservatives who would apparently be just as happy to live with authoritarianism than have to try to increase quality of life for the masses. Ironically, the question for progressives right now is “how can we make America great again” after social justice and civic participation have become so worthless?

The second part of this series will be about what I could do to help my son be a liberal-as-fuck president, if he is so inclined.