tv Washington Journal Kathleen Hall Jamieson CSPAN September 17, 2021 11:59am-12:31pm EDT
house 8:00 p.m. southeastern r eastern on c-span. c-span is your unfiltered view government funded by television companies and more including buckeye broad band. buck x-ray broadband supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers. giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> on day, a focus on civics education. kathleen hall jamieson is director of the annenberg public policy center at the university of pennsylvania. the headlight on this year's
survey is america's civics knowledge increases during a stress filled year. explain. guest: if you do not understand we have three branches of government, it is difficult for you to understand what is happening in the news on a day-to-day basis. one question we ask is, can you name three branches of government? this year, the number of people who could went up. we are surmising the jump was in part because all three branches were in the news this last year. the bad news is they were in the news because this was a stress test year of our system of government. you have the branches contesting with each other, you had an election, the end product of an impeachment process that did not yield a conviction. all of that -- we have an increase in the foundational knowledge about the constitution. the good news is more people can name the branches. i wish we had gotten there
through civics education and not a difficult year. host: more people could name the freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment. guest: those other things we learned across time, the number of people who can answer these questions differs from year-to-year. you can predict that whether a constitutional element of issue is in the news. we have a foundational background we get from having learned civics in high school. it does increase the likelihood that we remember the basics of our system of government. sometimes you begin to see issues, what does it mean to peaceably assemble? you begin to see that knowledge goes up because people are reminded about it and they get context for seeing it. host: how long have you been doing this survey and why did you start? guest: we have been doing it for more than 20 years. we realize the number of courses
offered in civics and high schools had dropped across time. we realized there were debates happening in public in which people in the exchanges did not appear to understand some of our basic constitutional protections. people would be railing against the president who did not do with the president promised, etc., not realizing the president was constrained because congress was not united behind his party. you had divided government. what happened to the campaign structure is the candidate said if i am elected, i will -- they had not reminded that presidents do not get to do a lot -- it has to be a process. unless you have a democratic president, democratic congress, republican president and republican congress, those promises will be thwarted by the other party. perhaps people did not understand that presidents
cannot unilaterally do some of those things. we decided to address some of that with the survey. host: how do you find your participants? guest: we do a national probability sample every year? we standardized our questions. this is not complicated stuff. can you name three branches? can you name rights protected by the first amendment? if there is a constitutional issue and the president and the supreme court disagreed, who has the final word about what the constitution says about something? it is a basic understanding. if the court rules 5-4, what does that mean? does it go back to congress or is it the law? things that would be basic to understanding what is happening in the news. also things that are a basic understanding of what u.s. citizen has for rights and responsibilities. we do not think people will
protect rights if they do not understand what they are. we think it is important people understand what the first amendment says. congress shall make no law. this is not a blanket statement about everything in life. i remember one of our children at a fairly young age stopping his foot and sing mom, you are infringing my right to free speech. i was pleased he said infringing . host: civics understanding, civics education, that is our topic in this segment of the "washington journal." join the conversation. phone lines split up as usual. democrats, (202) 748-8000. republicans, (202) 748-8001. independents, (202) 748-8002. we are joined by kathleen hall jamieson of the university of pennsylvania, the director of the annenberg public policy center until 9:15. maybe we will get some high
school civics teachers or college professors to opine. the idea of the first amendment and understanding what the first amendment does and what it does not do, an interesting question in your survey they share, having to do with social media. 61% of respondents incorrectly believed it is accurate to say the first amendment, protection of freedom of speech, means facebook must permit all americans to freely express themselves on that platform. the first amendment protects citizens from government censorship, social media companies are private companies, and the court have rolled that private companies are not covered by findings from your survey. understanding that difference. guest: the first is, there are two parts to that. the first is, what does the first amendment say? the second is, if we disagree, how do we decide what the interpretations are? literally, the first amendment
is what congress shall not do. if there is a dispute, how do we settle that? that is why we have courts. it is about understanding there are three branches in the courts help us understand what the constitution means. that is where we considered to be foundational knowledge. when someone says i have a dispute about this and they make a constitutional claim, we have set aside a branch that is independent of the other branches that has the authority to make those kinds of decisions . if our system is working, when the supreme court says that is what it means, we say we agree if it is about the constitution. if it is about a statute, congress can change the statute. host: understanding the three branches and noting the names of all three branches, you can see the results over the years and the time the annenberg center has done the survey.
the number of americans who can name all three branches, 36% in 2006, dipped to all-time lows in 2016 and 2017, mid 20's. it is up to 56% they share. guest: it is a glass half full, half empty. that means roughly half cannot do it. you just have to understand these things to know how our system works. and to know how your rights and responsibilities are protected. he be able to at least name them. if you can name them, we can build an understanding of what roles they have. particular important, the prerogatives of congress. host: let's talk to a few caller s. robert, glenn bernie, maryland, democrat, good morning. caller: i want to say thank you to ms. jamieson. i believe that is the fundamental problem we have as a society.
people exclude information. if people would educate themselves on how our country functions -- a lot of people do not even know what type of system they live under. they really don't. once they can do that, they can see some of the wants and needs they have are selfish and not in line with what the constitution has outlined. i just want to say thank you because we need more of that. i appreciate her work and her team. guest: you used a word that is important. we have responsibilities as citizens. one thing we think is really important. you will see good learning materials on the network, a coalition of all the major organizations in the u.s. that provide no-cost civic materials. they are nonpartisan. one thing we have good material on, jury service.
why you are called to jury service you should go and not try to get out of it. there are some responsibilities to citizenship. we have opportunities, such as the opportunity to vote -- i would argue the responsibility to vote. citizen involvement in government is what protects the structure of government. and also, what is there to ensure that if government oversteps, there is accountability from the citizenry. i would encourage everyone who is interested in finding good materials to teach elementary and secondary students about civics, take a look at the civics renewal network. you will find tools from the library of congress, the national archives, from the constitution center. there are video games, films, learning exercises. this is basically a resource for
everyone who cares about increasing the civics capacity of the young inside the united states. host: wendy in san francisco, republican, good morning. caller: good morning. i have noticed concerning facebook and twitter, and the free speech, my understanding is cyber bullying, slander, libel, telling stories with a malice or reckless disregard for the truth, that that has been going on a lot and it has caused some miscommunication. we had teenagers that have committed suicide from being called names. host: let ms. jamieson jump in.
guest: we spent time studying misinformation, disinformation. you are right, there is a lot of content on social media that is problematic. there is also content that is very helpful. the question is, how to increase the likelihood that people go online and search out the material that is good and useful, and we avoid engaging in the kind of material that is problematic, particularly engaging in information that affects our behavior negatively? a separate question is, what does the first amendment say about government's ability to tell facebook what it should and should not do? ultimately, when the issue comes forward, firstly to ask -- it does not mean there are not other areas where someone would only be able to engage in illegal process because they have been defamed by something
said on a platform. the larger question is, do we have a means to determine what the boundaries of the first amendment are? that is what the courts are for. host: twitter, i am for actual civics education in schools, but not as a trojan horse for the -- the promotion of political agendas. guest: we have to be very careful as we talk about civics education to specify what exactly we mean. i am talking about civics education in a noncontroversial fashion. do we have three branches of government? yes we do. do we have a first amendment? yes we do. is there a constitution with a bill of rights? once you get beyond that, now you are getting into the area where people differ about what should be said and done inside of classrooms. do not think there is an ideological divide about whether we should teach the factual
underpinnings of what we have in the constitution, how we got there and what our system is for arbitrating what it means. host: james is in ohio, an independent, good morning. caller: good morning. there is a big gap in the discussion. i appreciate everything you are saying so far about the u.s. constitution, but civics is broader than that, or should be. we have state constitutions, county charters, townships. in ohio, we have municipalities . i have spoken at the city council and very often, or almost all the time, there is no one there except someone who is concerned with a specific topic. we have the city administration that will sometimes -- this is anecdotal, of course -- will pretty much ignore what city council does and go their own way.
we should not overlook the fact that civics also includes local jurisdictions and that young people, they not only need to know the three branches of government like we see diagram in textbooks, they also need to know what kind of a jurisdiction they are living in, what they should be doing, and whether gerrymandering should keep them from wanting to vote, and issues like that. host: do you think may be a bottom-up approach is better than a top-down approach? we will learn about local governments first and the things that impact you in your town or city, then state government and federal government, or start back at the beginning with the constitution? caller: i happen to have been a science teacher. in history, if you start with things happening today and how they got that way, you will do better than if you start back with discovery of north america.
also, what you just said about if you start at the local impact , let's say you have an animal control issue in your community and the government does not seem to be doing anything about it, that will impact a lot more people and get them involved in government. obviously, there is not a lot we can do about a 5-4 decision on the supreme court, whether we know what it means or not, but most of the issues that affect us on a day-to-day basis will be governed by our state constitutions, and the charters and so forth of our local jurisdictions. host: james, thank you for that. the all politics is local approach. guest: i agree so much, and thank you, caller, for making that point. what are the federal responsibilities? what are the state responsibilities? in that, to what extent if we were to teach the structure of the constitution would we also be teaching structures that are helpful in understanding the structures at the state and
local level? we have a model of government across the u.s. at all levels, we have an executive, legislative and judicial branch. how do you expect the various levels at the state and local level? what are the ways in which they interact inside the structures? basically, they interact in the same way, to appeal to the courts for the same purposes. once you understand that, you are able to understand the different levels. you cannot understand that at the federal level, it is less likely you will understand it all the way down. i agree if we start at the local level, you are more likely to have your capacity as a citizen to be expressed in ways in which -- we have a project we ran for 10 years. it is one of my favorite projects. it had high school students as part of a civics intervention engage in determining the issue agenda that was important to their neighborhoods.
it was called student voices. they would capture the issue agenda and ask what had already been done by the city government . what did they think could be done, who would have responsibility for doing that. they would create that issue after answering the question if there were any regulations, had somebody tried to address it. they would ask a candidate in the classroom what they would do about the problem that the students thought they had identified. in the process, the students were activating their own sense that you can hold government officials accountable. you can decide if you will vote for that were not, and some of these were high school seniors just turning 18. they were about to be able to vote. you can decide if you will vote for them or not based on what they said they would do and you could look at the channels they had to act on those promises, to see whether or not they can do it unilaterally or not. often, the answer is no. you could ask if this was a process that implicated the courts.
was there some recent and which the intervention would be different, and the student would want some action to be taken inside a court structure. what we found about the project was it increased the likelihood not only that those students understood local government, but they felt they could participate in it constructively and create outcomes that would benefit their own communities. there is a detachment from the federal level, i agree. the likelihood as an individual you make a difference at the federal level is extraordinarily small, but you can make a difference in your local community by understanding how government works. one more point. many states used to have courts inside the curriculum that would teach the state constitution. they would use it as the overlap. you could see the relationship between the two. when would you be in the state system, when would you be in the federal system, and when would you be working locally.
we are thinking about trying to put together a survey to figure out, as it gone somewhere else in the curriculum? we are thinking about asking those states that do not have it, are you finding it useful? bottom line, caller, i agree with you. understanding how local government is incredibly important. i think learning about them all in total will increase the likelihood you will be able to get all of your capacity as a citizen effectively. host: at this point, i would be remiss if i did not mentioned c-span's annual student documentary competition that encourages students to think critically about the issues that affect their communities and the nation. we have asked students in grades six through 12 to create a five to six minute video documentary on a topic that relates to this year's theme, how does the federal government impact your life? those submissions are due
january 20. back to the phone calls. this is jackie in alexandria. good morning. caller: good morning and thank you for taking my call. my question was, when did civics classes actually leave school? my son is in high school. january 6 happened. we did not received any word about anything. this was in a civics, government class on tv. i asked the school, do you teach government, you teach history? what happened to civics? you actually do rotc, which is training for the military. here was a live civics class and not one person spoke to my high schooler about what was going on. if they were teaching this, they would know what is happening is wrong and that is not how we deal with our government. guest: it is very difficult for
a high school teacher, middle school teacher, elementary school teacher who is tasked with teaching civics -- it needs to be taught in the order presented because that is the way it is structured to get all of the learning in. to stop when something unanticipated happens like january 6 and to find a way to integrate it. if the approach that teacher has to work civics is an approach that says, let's understand how our system works, what it is, how it is that we certify a presidential election, there is a process at the state, federal levels, you can see an environment in which you could ask, how is it supposed to work? what is the relationship among the branches and what is the role of the executive? then you could ask a question like, what does it mean to
peaceably assemble? ask the questions in the class. do you think that is an expression of the right or not? there are ways to take any moment in the context of teaching the fundamentals or the foundational element. i would worry if one expects a civics teacher to take a position on a national issue in real time and try to teach from that position. what the teacher is expected to do is create a foundational understanding of how a system works. i disagree with the premise that in that real time you would expect a teacher to do that. if a teacher is going to go there, it would require a great deal of care and preparation, probably not something you do in the exact moment it is happening with your class. stepping back to ask about the foundational issues, the bigger question is, how long have we stopped?
when i was a child, that was a long time ago, less the new the 1950's, 1960's, 1980's. host: this annual survey from the annenberg public policy center, if you worst want to find them, where should they go? guest: you go on the annenberg public policy center website. look for the university of pennsylvania, you will find that website and the breakdown of the questions in the appendix of the survey. host: they have been tweeting about it on twitter. guest: please look at the annenberg classroom. they offer civics material to help teachers and parents teach civics, actually engage students about civics. on the civics renewal website,
we have a constitution day toolkit. if you are thinking about something to honor constitution day and the kids have a few spare moments, if there is a chance to go to the toolkit, it might be a good idea to take a look at that. host: susie in georgia, republican. good morning. caller: thank you so much for taking my call. i feel i have a very good foundation on a civics education from the late 1950's and into the 1960's. when schoolhouse rock came out with how you could make a bill, i found young people around me are fascinated and fell in love with wanting to know. my question is, we have not seen that in right a while, are you reaching out to other areas of academia to help you promote and push this civics education, such as the arts?
and other areas other than just the political science department? guest: that is a wonderful question. that is part of the reason the civics renewal network is there. it has all of the major organizations in the country that produce learning materials. we put them all on one website so you can look across it and find anything you would like. you are asking a broader question, have we reached out into the popular culture? those who have a netflix subscription, see if you can find something called "we the people." this is an attempt to take schoolhouse rock into the 21st century with cartoons and rap music, teaching things such as we have three branches of government, here is how they relate to each other. could we do more? yes, we could. host: i remember that, as well.
if i could piggyback on one bar website for civics education, the c-span classroom website is also available at c-span.org. lesson plans, materials for social studies teachers, clips of events happening in real time on capitol hill and historic lesson plans. c-span classroom is where you can go. this is dan in michigan, an independent, good morning. caller: good morning. i would like to make a couple quick comments. i did not learn a lot about civics, i don't know the school problem, i was not the best student. i learned a lot about the constitution and general politics and government and so on from c-span, watching since 1981, watching the house sessions and the senate sessions, and laid at night, listening to the supreme court.
the other comment i would like to make is what i have noticed, especially in the last year and a half, two years, five years, quite often, the constitution is not specific enough, especially when it comes to nominating and approving the supreme court nominees, the dispute about you should not approve the justice in the last year of the president. they went back and forth on it because it is not specific in the constitution. i wonder what you might have to comment about that. thank you. guest: there is a lot of discretion hiding in the constitution. if people exercise it in different ways. one thing that is important is we understand as we are trying to teach about the constitution is much of the constitution offers us is based on assumed norms.
we assume if the supreme court makes a ruling, the president of united states will accept the constitutional ruling. we cannot necessarily assume that will actually happen. that is just simply a norm. what if the president of the united states said no? andrew jackson said no when the supreme court issued a ruling about the cherokee nation. andrew jackson refused to enforce the supreme court's decision. the fact that since then, presidents have accepted the ruling of the screen court and acted in a way consistent with the supreme court, it is because everyone declared that was the appropriate thing to do and the president granted it, as well. when you get into these areas where we have made an assumption about where the system should work, the question is what are the norms that act as a constraint? in the absence of the specificity, what do we do within our own system to put specificity in place, since we
have processes to make sure -- our system acknowledges to its process should be changed, how will they be changed? it comes back to understanding the fundamentals and how you can use those fundamentals. there is a lot of latitude inside all of the areas inside any doctrine. host: allendale, south carolina. pat, a democrat. good morning. caller: good morning and thank you for letting me speak. i have a question about the supreme court. even though, the same thing the gentleman before said, the republican said they would not elect someone in an election season, but they did it anyway. she was not qualified. she could not remember the three branches of government. please give me a comment on
that. guest: i think you are talking about justice coney barrett. under that kind of stress, would we have been able to? memory under stress is somewhat fallible. there is a larger question about the processes we engage in when we are deciding whether or not something is being handled well. when someone says i object to the fact the senate took up the coney barrett nomination but did not take up the merrick garland nomination, they can be viewed as hypocritical. our system says if you are unhappy with that and unhappy with the way the republicans acted, you should vote the republicans out of office. there are some accountability measures if you think the system is not behaving the way it should.