Within the last eight years and the 2008 United States Presidential Elections, the results have been startling for the most part. There is pretty much an apparent lack of education in politics. Unless one is versed in the world of politics (whether it is formal or informal), many others are not really familiar with politics, political issues, political stances, political strategy, and so forth. When it comes to politics let alone elections, it is more about emotion than it is about logic.
I had taken an informal crash course in politics when I helped with the John Kerry campaign back in 2004. The Democratic Party sent people from Washington D.C., Boston, and San Francisco to help out. Unlike the other workers who usually went off to do their own thing afterward, I stayed around. I would quietly listen in on conversations between the different higher-ups and so forth. After the election was over, I learned quite a deal about political campaigning. It had helped strengthen my knowledge in politics. Some of the higher-ups had actually told me what I did was smart. They told me that I was smart to listen in and observe what was going on. In short, they told me to learn as much as I can whenever I can and wherever I can. Also, they told me to learn from whoever I can as well.
If I had not taken that informal crash course, I would not have been that aware of politics. Today, I am confident that I am well informed on a plethora of various political issues. However, I do not know everybody. I probably will not know everything there is to politics. Nobody will ever know everything. However, it is better to know something about politics than to know nothing.
In regards to school, the only time someone would probably know a lot about politics is if s/he is going into political science to do one of the following: lobbying, running for political office, working as a political consultant, working as a political analyst, working as a political strategist, or any other field associated with politics. Other than that, not many people would probably take political courses.
With everything said, American politics should be mandatory in public schools. Only a small aspect of politics is taught: the three main branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial). But, that is not really enough to grasp the important factors of politics.
There is a whole lot of ground to cover when it comes to American politics. In my own personal opinion, I would have to say it should start around eighth grade. However, the education should be light at first. One does not want to start overwhelming the students. Allow it to gradually build up and so forth. By senior year, the load should be increased within reason. During the high school senior year, many students are already or about to turn eighteen. Eighteen is the minimum legal voting age.
The 2008 United States Elections highlighted the importance of education let alone education in politics. However, in the case of the United States, further education is needed in state politics. Schools in Florida would need to learn about Florida state politics. Schools in Georgia would need to learn about Georgia state politics. One could ask: Is that not excessive or overkill? The answer would be: not at all. The United States is the union of many states. In this respect, each state is like an individual country.
This also plays on the importance of learning more about the two houses of the United States Congress (United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives). Senators and Representatives are elected from the different states. In that respect, they are elected by the people of those states as well. American politics on a federal level should be mandatory for all public schools. At the same time, American politics on a state level should be mandatory for the respective states.
However, I do believe that it should be mandatory for schools across the world as well. This is not to be arrogant. Within the last eight years, there has been international criticism of United States’ policy on many different issues. One simply needs to follow the news reports and so forth. There are many overseas quick to criticize the United States without looking into the inner-workings.
From what I have seen, the United States has one dynamic that will not be found in other countries across the world. The United States is very much the one true melting pot of cultures. While the United States can be a racially diverse country, it is at the same time a racially divisive country as well. The dynamic of the United States is complex because of the many different issues at hand. At the same time, the United States is comprised of fifty states which can be considered as mini-countries. Many of the states in the US tend to be larger than many countries across the world.
On a college level, American politics really need to be taught. Political majors should be supplemented with courses ranging from social issues to interpersonal communication. In my case, I supplemented my informal crash course on American politics with formal classes on journalism, media, psychology, and interpersonal communication. With all of these factors put together, American politics is quite diverse and complex. There is nothing simple about it. For these reasons, American politics courses should be mandatory in public schools.