When I was in civics class in the seventh grade at Beverly Hills Junior High School, I received a good dose of American studies, its history, current affairs and why we should love this country.

The teacher was Miss Virginia Lewis, and she drilled into us the basics of American government as well as American history and current events. The fact she asked for our name, address, parents’ names and whether we owned an encyclopedia on the first day of the class was a bit disturbing.

Later she showed up at Peyton Place to sell a World Book Encyclopedia to my dad (he didn’t buy). Besides all that, I knew enough about American government at the end of that class to be able to take pride in being a knowledgeable American.

I understand civics classes are not the norm in public schools these days. It shows.

A poll from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center a couple of years ago showed just how little people know about even the most basic elements of our government and the Constitution.

More than one in three people (37%) could not name a single right protected by the First Amendment. But I’ll bet most can tell you what the Second Amendment is about.

Only one in four (26%) could name all three branches of the government. (In 2011, 38% could name all three branches, so the percentage is going in the wrong direction.)

One in three (33%) can’t name any branch of government. Dry branch? Wet branch? Tree branch?

A majority (53%) believed the Constitution gives undocumented immigrants no rights. I suspect the immigrant haters love this. However, everyone in the U.S. is entitled to due process of law and the right to make their case before the courts, documented or undocumented. So says the Supreme Court.

And in case you don’t know, the First Amendment protects the rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, freedom of the press and the rights of people to peaceably assemble.

People all over are creating Second Amendment sanctuaries as if that amendment is under attack. What we need are a gaggle of First Amendment sanctuaries.

“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are,” said Annenberg Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson. “The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

Worrisome? Scary is more like it.

So now you may understand how President Trump can claim the Constitution’s Article 2 gives him the right to do anything he pleases and his people believe him.

They apparently believe everything he says about the basics of government because they don’t know any better. Why? Probably because they didn’t learn about their government in school.

And that may well be the cause of America’s ultimate downfall.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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