Have Americans Purposely Been Made Ignorant of Our Nation’s History and How Our Government Works?

Pawn Stars is one of the History Channel’s most watched shows. Each 30-minute segment takes you behind the scenes of what happens at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop located in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s family-owned business run by three generations of the Harrison family: Rick, his son ‘Big Hoss,’ and Rick’s dad, affectionately known as the ‘Old Man.’

People bring in items to sell. The most interesting items, naturally, make it on the show. For me, the objects that get my attention are historical in nature – from campaign buttons going back 150 years to everyday items that made our modern world. If Rick doesn’t know something about an item, he brings in an outside expert.

Rick loves history, and it shows in his enthusiasm for some of the bits and pieces of the past that people bring in. I’ve picked up quite a few historical tidbits when I watch the show.

I made a comment on Facebook people can learn more history by watching Pawn Stars than from sitting in a public (government) school classroom. This is especially true when it comes to our nation’s history and how our government works.

The reason our nation is a wreck is that people either don’t know our nation’s governing principles or they don’t care to honor them. Consider the latest statistics on people’s knowledge of the Supreme Court. Five votes on the Supreme Court can make a difference in the lives of 300 million Americans. To be ignorant of the Court and how it works can have disastrous results. A Pew Research Survey asked a series of questions about the Supreme Court. The results are embarrassing. Here are the results to the question “Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?”

Don’t Know: 53%

John Roberts 28%

Thurgood Marshall: 8%

John Paul Stevens: 6%

Harry Reid: 4%

Harry Reid is not and never has been a Supreme Court Justice, and Thurgood Marshall never served as Chief Justice and has been dead since 1993.

This all means that when people are asked about Court decisions, there’s good evidence that they are reacting to talking points and not to the logic of the decisions or their long-term implications, whether good or bad. How did we get into this situation? The Constitution is not taught. It’s considered an evolving document, so why study something that could change tomorrow?

A Washington Post article states, “Regular people are simply not engaged — they don’t know or care — about the intricacies of the government in a way that people who live inside the Beltway and spend their lives in politics are.” As a result, politicians take advantage of the ignorance of the electorate. Why not? It’s the way that many of them got elected, and they like it that way.

This is why presidential elections are so important. Presidents nominate Supreme Court Justices and only on rare occasions does the Senate fail to give its consent. Getting the right justices depends on getting the right president and members of the Senate. In addition, Senators need to have the guts to say no.