“You don’t need fancy highbrow traditions or money to really learn. You just need people with the desire to better them.” – Adam Cooper and Bill Collage
There are a great many people in this country who could not answer simple questions about how our government works. Up until about a year ago, I was one of them. I began working in an environment where knowing about the government and having an opinion about it was essential, but I had no idea where to even begin. I could not afford to take a class; all I knew is that I had the Internet, television, and people surrounding me with something to say, so I began to utilize the resources available to me to teach myself a little something about this country. If you are someone who would like to know more but does not know how to begin, this is for you.
1. The Internet is good for more than just reading about the latest movie review. The Internet is an amazing resource for learning about any subject or person. Go to the Internet. Learn the basics. Refresh yourself on what makes a Republican a Republican and a Democrat a Democrat. Begin typing questions into Google and seeing what articles pop up. (Hint: Wikipedia is a good resource, but be careful. Anyone can go and make edits to this site; therefore, the information might not always be accurate. Cross check what you read with other articles to be sure it is factual.) What is the difference between the House and the Senate? Who is our current Speaker? You need to learn the basics before you start to fully delve into the government in the correct way. Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Do you know why you are? Many people believe they are a Republican or Democrat based on a certain issue, such as abortion or gay marriage, but the fundamental differences are more fiscal in nature. Once you begin to do some research, be open minded. The more you learn, the more your thoughts and opinions might change. If you do not have the internet, get a library card or visit a used book store. You would be amazed at these things they have there called BOOKS. For $5, you could buy a book, resell it, and buy another, and so on. What an education you could get for such a meager amount of money!
2. Once you begin to research the things you can think of off the top of your head, try spending one hour a day watching one political talk show. Try Fox News, C-Span, or MSNBC. If at this point you are not really sure if you are on one side or the other, you will figure it out pretty quickly. You will begin to notice that these shows or stations are incredibly biased one way or the other. Fox News, for example, is a right wing station. The people that host these shows are Republicans and biased towards Republican viewpoints. Do not get caught up just watching one show or one station. Once you begin watching these shows, it is easy to find things in common with one host and like the way he thinks and the things he says. Make sure you watch all shows, even when they make you mad enough to get up and punch a hole in the television, which I feel like doing on a nightly basis. This is the only way to be truly well rounded. Also, I really enjoy knowing what the other side thinks because it either strengthens my resolve or changes my mind. Being open minded, I like to know about other people’s viewpoints, a quality I wish more people in this world possessed. If you do not like watching these shows, read articles. Go to cnn.com, msnbc.com, any website that will have articles written by people with opinions. Listening to others with opinions really helps you form your own.
3. After you have familiarized yourself with current events, now is a good time to start learning about our past. Many people say this, but learning about our past helps us not to repeat it. History might not be all that interesting to some people, but I believe that is only because they have a predisposed opinion that it is boring. Well, perhaps in school, it is. I did not like for someone to stand in front of me and tell what to study. Now, I get to learn about whatever I want for as long as I want. Read about the Presidents. Watch the History Channel or the Biography Channel. They talk about leaders of the past; you would be surprised how similar they are to people now. Pay close attention to past Presidents. Once you start reading about them, you will be surprised to find out how our past Presidents were incredibly flawed, some very insecure, authority figures, despite the fact that we have idealized many of them and put them on very large pedestals.
4. In my case, the more I learned, the more I continued to want to learn. One of my favorite things to do is watch a program on television with my laptop on my lap. When they talk about someone I do not know or a bill I am unfamiliar with, I stop my program and look it up. It is amazing how much I have learned about subjects I would never have thought I would want to know about. I highly suggest it, even though it might be thought of as incredibly nerdy. Just do not do it on a Friday or Saturday night and your coolness points will not be affected that much.
I would hope that following these four easy steps, you would become someone who, at the very least, could have a productive discussion with people you come in contact with and feel secure that you know what you are talking about. My wish is that your excitement would cause others to be excited and learn more as well. The only way things are ever going to change for the better in this country is for the people who live in it to want to learn more and educate themselves on the things that matter. In honor of Presidents Day, I will give you something to think about: John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln, was a famous actor in his day. Could you imagine how interested you would be if something similar happened today? Think of it like that, and I think history and the government might become much more interesting to learn about.