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The Devaluation of Governmental Learning

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Marvin N. Pichla
October 20, 2023

If we were able to give all voting eligible citizens a generalized ten question quiz today about governmental principles, leaders, voting and priorities, how many would get the majority correct? Maybe half? Rather, how many would “fail” miserably? I believe that in this new age of high tech, high speed and high volume information sharing across all sectors of our day-to-day lives, “The Devaluation of Governmental Learning” has taken place and unfortunately has situated us in a state of non-progression.

Oftentimes when the term “devaluation” is used, it somehow refers to currency, cheaper money and/or a downward adjustment of the value of a country’s product or service. For the purpose of this article, “The Devaluation of Governmental Learning” refers specifically to the reduced value and importance of quality learning and knowledge on governmental operations and current leadership by the voting public. This devaluation is exemplified by the lower number of people voting, the high incidence of misinformation taken seriously during campaigns, the reduced trust of citizens in our elected officials and the growing number of separate citizen factions throughout the country.

Let’s begin our devaluation assessment by first considering the basic learning required when people identify themselves as a legal U.S. citizen. Initially, I think everyone would agree that the task of being a “solid” citizen has taken on a multitude of unforeseen responsibilities. Stop and measure governmental learning from the standpoint of obtaining and digesting quality information—twenty-four (24) hour news stations, the convenient reporting of world-wide occurrences, the almost instantaneous access to detail on events anywhere and the supplemental facts/data related to governmental actions available 24/7 via multiple venues! The devaluation of governmental learning has truly suffered as a result of this continuous and unfortunate information overload and the sensation of experiencing “too much too often”.

Now consider the specific incidence of low voting due to people believing their vote has no value. Do people take on a sense of high personal responsibility when thinking about voting? Or has the action of voting become a situation in which not voting is a vote? Or, I don’t like who is running for office, I don’t agree with the issues being voted on and therefore non-voting action takes precedence and becomes yet another example of the devaluation of governmental learning!

At this point, it is worthwhile to also consider the views of leaders from other countries regarding the value of United States governmental knowledge and learning. Would they give our citizen participation in government and politics a high mark? Would they favor our system of public decision-making and operation over what exists in their own country? In so many ways our rights of freedom of speech, choice and action may have unintentionally caused this devaluation of governmental learning to happen—and even grow! 

As we follow the incidence of this devaluation, it is important to review the status and perceptions of those elected to our highest public offices. I am aging myself at this point but there was a time when certain elected officials were revered by citizens. Some even rose to the level of “hero” to both young and old voters! In contrast I ask, when considering our governmental landscape of today, of the comprehensive learning it evokes is the term hero even faintly considered or utilized?

Given these challenging issues, how do we reverse the extreme void of quality United States governmental learning and rebuild the appropriate values of knowledge in every citizen? Maybe we start with a special, no cost “voter shadowing” opportunity. This voter shadowing action would allow up and coming young adults to accompany family members, teachers and/or other volunteers to the polling center and observe the entire vote casting process. The intent would be to clarify all necessary actions, eliminate any misunderstanding of the process and discuss with other caring voters the importance of being an informed, responsible citizen.

A second opportunity would be to offer “voter preparation” sessions approximately thirty (30) days before every voting/Election Day. The voter preparation sessions would provide non-political facts about each candidate and the short and long-term impacts of voting “yes or no” on specific issues. Good, pure intelligence would be the focus of all information shared. Plus, an unspoken intention of the voter preparation sessions would be to encourage all citizens to become life long “students of a better country philosophy”.

The final contribution to curbing the devaluation of governmental learning would be to support independent thinking. Times have changed and the responsibilities undertaken by governments at all levels have grown immensely. Voting on issues and candidates as an independent thinker must come first. Then one must place compromise as a critical next step when considering governmental actions.  Unequivocally, both of these factors must re-become high-priority citizen issues. Independent thinking and compromise are governmental practices that were a part of what made the United States special among all other countries—a true example of political teaming and leaders of prioritizing individual citizen participation.  

Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning.

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