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Airplanes fly because the people who design them understand physics. They know how pressure changes as air flows over a curved surface. They understand lift and drag, and how force and mass relate to each other to determine acceleration. They’re experts in the science of materials, in finite element analysis, in instrumentation and control systems and combustion and ten thousand other arcane details of science and design and manufacture.
None of this means that they get it right every time, as Boeing’s recent travails remind us. But they get it right often enough to make air travel the safest means of transportation.
Imagine for a moment that all those aeronautical designers and engineers were hired by people who knew nothing about aeronautics, and who were neither competent to evaluate the resumes of their potential hires nor to evaluate the work done by them once they were hired; and, worse, that the candidates for the positions knew that their interviewers were clueless. How would that affect the quality of the men and women employed? How would it affect the viability of air travel once a generation or two of wholly unvetted “engineers” had been allowed to fiddle with the existing designs?
Our founders gave us a government. It is a complicated yet elegant machine composed of interlocking parts intended to work simultaneously in concert with and opposition to each other. It was created by men who were experts in the theory and practice of government, men who had diagnosed the failures of numerous prototypes and, based on those diagnoses, designed a new form of government, a constitutional democratic representative union of independent states: a republic with formal restraints on both the reach of the government and the whims of the people.
We the people are tasked with hiring the men and women who staff the critical positions in that government. If we know little of how our government was intended to function, we have no sound basis for evaluating the people we vote into office nor the policies they propose. Today there is ample evidence that we are a nation of civic ignoramuses. How many understand what the much-maligned electoral college is, how we got it and why it’s important? How many understand the damage done by the 17th Amendment to the carefully balanced tension between the House and Senate? How many are equipped to see the sheer lunacy of the Green New Deal’s call for a broad usurpation of our rights as citizens? How many understand even the idea of a constitutionally limited central government that is not merely prevented from performing certain tasks, but rather that is constitutionally authorized to perform only a small number of specific tasks?
We are failing to provide a competent civics education to our children, and have been for generations. We have a population ignorant of the most basic aspects of government but which we nonetheless exhort to vote, as if merely standing in the booth were the totality of civic duty. A large proportion of the electorate has the legal right to vote but lacks the moral standing to do so because it knows nothing about the thing for which it has a sacred duty of stewardship.
We can not blame the children for the failures of their teachers, who themselves know next to nothing about the nature of our government. I don’t know what it will take to trigger a rebirth of pride and interest in our nation’s history and in the framework on which it was built and the ideas behind it. But if we reach the point where we’re analyzing the wreckage following the crash, it will be too late.Published in