Though they may keep an eye on the headlines, most ordinary voters do not understand national issues. Little of substance can be learned from the news, and searching elsewhere would take far too much effort, with little reason to hope for a payoff.
It is not that citizens don't want to understand the issues. They want their government to take care of business, and many are turned off by the bullshit. Not understanding the underlying problems produces anxiety in them. But it is very difficult to find pertinent information and assess its objectivity. And information that is accessible is unsuitable for helping them learn, because it is too advanced, too dull, or lacks context.
Today, though, we have the means within our grasp to change that, using e-learning techniques that make complex topics easy to understand. Not merely by putting information out on the web. But rather, by applying modern, professional instructional design methods, and creating a trusted, organized location where voters know they can very easily and quickly get facts and substantive understanding.
Making a Direct Impact
Know The System is developing a powerful new citizen education resource. We are looking for partners in the Public Policy world to step forward and use their knowledge to make a large, direct impact on our struggling polity.
What we are doing is not easy: teaching busy, ordinary citizens—of all backgrounds—about societal issues and realities. But it will generate the popular will needed to solve our nation's problems.
Know The System is also seeking Academic Advisors who will help shape the educational content. Interested professors and political experts are invited to think about the following question: “Given my expertise, my policy concerns, and my observations of today’s public dialogue... what is the one thing that I would like all voters to understand, that most currently do not?”
Contact Us. Let us tell you about our plan and show you a demonstration of our approach.
Big Picture: The World Today is Changing
Navigating these challenges has been difficult because of increasing political polarization. Each side publicly vilifies the other and makes reasonable discussion impossible.
Poisonous discourse prevails in the public sphere because ordinary citizens have difficulty evaluating it. They lack basic concepts about their government, economics, and the tricks of political rhetoric. Aside from some basic terminology and slogans, the Civics classes from their school days are forgotten, and anyway were never much help with the tough issues.
Meanwhile in our society, though, other changes and innovations have occurred, bringing fundamentally new possibilities. In particular, innovations in:
If these innovations are fully harnessed, it can transform the mentality of ordinary voters. When we give them "meat," and rapidly increase their understanding and discernment, the character of public dialogue will change. Many voters, certainly, will be skeptical or reluctant to participate, but their inertia will be overcome by making the experience fun, no-effort, and so personally satisfying that they'll want to show their friends.
Contact Us. Know The System is developing a new citizen education site. We are searching for partners in this endeavor who are educators and scholars in fields such as Political Science, Public Policy, Journalism, Economics, and Sociology. People who are interested in making a tangible difference, who feel it should be possible to explain deep issues to any voter, and who share our vision of a United States that provides opportunity for all, and that knows how to get the job done.
David Foster is the Executive Director of Know The System, Inc. Prior to Know The System, David was Chief Academic Officer at ExecOnline, a New York based provider of online education. He earned an MBA from U.C. Berkeley in 1986, and a Ph.D. in learning technology and cognitive science from Northwestern University in 1996. He subsequently led e-learning development at companies including Accenture, UNext, DeVry Online, and 2U.