Recent historic political events have provided day-in, day-out civics lessons for citizens.
Election results have been contested in courts. Rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the Electoral College certification process. One president has been impeached, another inaugurated.
But “in all the turmoil, in all of the discouraging things that happened in the last two or three months, one thing we should be most encouraged about is that our Constitution worked,” according to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat.
Rendell, along with his ex-wife, senior federal Judge Marjorie Rendell, talked about current events and the classroom during “Civics Education in the 21st Century,” a virtual presentation hosted by The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on Monday.
Gov. Rendell addressed the legal challenges to the election made by President Donald Trump and his allies, who won only one of the more than 60 cases they filed on the state and federal levels.
“The balance of power means that no one branch can control the government,” Gov. Rendell said. “And we saw when the executive wanted to control the government that the legislature didn’t do anything to stop him. But the judiciary held. The judiciary performed to the best elements of the American democracy. Judges – whether they were appointed by Republican presidents or Democratic presidents – they did the right thing, universally denied these false claims of fraudulent elections.”
Events of the past few months made Judge Rendell “encouraged that we’ve learned about what the courts can do and what the courts do do.”
“They’re open to citizens,” she said. “They hear. They decide cases based on evidence. We have secretaries of states in the voting process who did their duties. A lot of our recent turmoil is also combined with a lot of recent examples of excellent civics lessons, if you will.”
Both recommended using current events as a way to teach children about government.
“We need to get them young,” Judge Rendell said. “We need to encourage them to use their voices. Too often they are taught to the test and they’re taught to a multiple choice. And we don’t listen to them. We need to tell them they can use their voices for good.”