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Why study US history, government, and civics?

John Dickerson shares his views about the importance of studying US history, government, and civics with Sal. John Dickerson is co-host of CBS This Morning. He was previously CBS News' Chief Washington Correspondent, Political Director and anchor of Face The Nation. Dickerson is also a contributor to Slate's Political Gabfest and to The Atlantic. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Dickerson moderated CBS News' two presidential debates. Prior to CBS, Dickerson was Slate Magazine's Chief Political correspondent and covered politics for twelve years for Time magazine.

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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Ben McCuskey
    Does the current environment (I'm writing this in 2020) within social media encourage or discourage greater individual involvement in the social and political conversation and national identity writ large? Does it encourage greater inquiry and diversity of thought and an evolution of a new and evolving set of common values or does it merely serve as an instrument toward tribalism and division?

    I suspect that social media is an instrument with the potential for both greater interaction and creativity and diversity of thoughts and ideas as well as possibly becoming a vehicle that solidifies already entrenched attitudes and hardens barriers between groups who consider themselves on "one side or the other" - dividing rather than uniting . What do people think?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • stelly blue style avatar for user .꧁𝓝𝓸𝓿𝓪꧂.
      It really depends on how we use it. Social Media has indeed brought people together, sharing memories and great times. But, during these times of unrest and the activities of a global pandemic, social media has become a platform of division and negative verbal attacks.

      The influence of SM on our lives has greatly divided us. Especially with the people in the middle who have no pick. Many people have removed these platforms because it's just too much. I don't want to have to do anything with politics or any political groups. I still use Instagram, but just to talk with people, I no longer scroll through my feed much.

      Until we can fix these problem, which is unlikely, due to the fact that we're all human, then we'll still be on different paths. I fear that we are heading down a path to a deep hole of our own making.
      (3 votes)

Video transcript

- So John, if I'm a student studying American history or U.S. government, why should I care? - Well first, there are great stories. The characters in American history, all the way through, are fascinating, just, human beings. They would make great movie characters, period: heroes, villains, people who rise to courage when they were otherwise pretty boring people. Look at Abraham Lincoln, for example. He failed miserably repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. Then he becomes the greatest President. And when he's almost at the end of his, well, he doesn't know it's the end of his life, but later in life, after he's had his greatness, he says, "I confess that I was like a cork in a stream." Well, if you're a regular person and you think, "My life feels kinda without a purpose," you can think, well, the greatest President in America felt like his life was kind of bouncing around. And so, that is an incredibly human connection to greatness, and we all need connections to greatness of whatever kind to inspire us. Because the questions today that America faces about freedom and liberty and what it means to be an American, and how the power is distributed throughout our governments and our lives that affect us today were discussed and talked about and wrestled over all throughout American history. And it is a continuing experiment. And when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he said, "This new country that we're creating "has to constantly refresh, each new generation "has to refresh their contact "with the original ideals that the country was founded on. "Otherwise, the country will fail." And so, it's not only important to know what's going on around us by studying history, but it is, according to Thomas Jefferson, your duty to stay engaged with the ideas of America so that those ideas don't get lost in the kind of flurry and craziness of a current moment.