It’s time to stop playing video games or binge-watching BBC shows. Instead, get out your history books and memorize pages 1861 through 1865. Next, we’ll be practicing our alphabet letters, as in, “Dear Congressman,” “Dear Senator,” or “Dear Governor.” Football season will be limited to just one game per week, unless we get our assignments in on time, because now, this is the only sport that matters.

America’s children are all of us, the inheritors of democracy. Unfortunately, we’re not particularly enthusiastic at participating. It’s as if we inherited Uncle Sam’s Tool and Die Factory, but have no interest in manufacturing the nuts and bolts of government. True, it can be boring and tedious to be an informed, active citizen. And due to the overflow of cat videos on the Internet, it’s especially difficult to stay connected to local and state-wide issues.

For example, take the 2018 “Amendment One” to the West Virginia State Constitution. Many people had never heard of it until they stepped into the voting booth. At least, that was the case for people who hadn’t been reading the local papers. If they got their news from Facebook, they definitely didn’t get the message, because Facebook, after monopolizing personal communication, now says it’s unable to locate enough “local news” to offer in its “News Feeds.” Sources for local news are going out of business for lack of local readers. But both of last year’s amendments were covered in the actual newspaper; antiquated, old-school objects that are still in print.

Like it or not, that’s the new textbook for your Current Events class. Fortunately, it’s not pricey—like the $150 tome you had to buy for Chemistry 101. Plus, there is an updated version every day. And it has to be an actual, daily newspaper—whether it bends conservative or liberal. Don’t let the editorial pages turn you off. It’s your job to stay focused on the events and issues, not what the editor or publisher thinks, or any of the syndicated columnists (who will infuriate you for the rest of the day if you torture yourselves by reading them).

Start Preparing Now

If you vote in West Virginia and you don’t read any West Virginia newspapers, you haven’t done your homework. You’ll be sent to detention, which is what we’re all having now, as we speak.

Since this can easily be completed over a quiet cup of coffee, it beats the other more rigorous assignments awaiting us next: town hall meetings, zoning meetings, party meetings, committee meetings, canvassing, phone banking, and envelope stuffing. Your children will need to give you time off from parenting duty, plus take on some of your chores, while you go out and save the world for them. Hopefully, they’ll understand, and also learn by your example.

Our first job will be to register people to vote. Our next job is to teach them how to discriminate between fact or falsehood, because “Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.” That’s from an 1856 speech by Lincoln. If we fail to do that, we risk “The Big Lie,” which happens because “… the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily.” That’s from a 1925 book called Mein Kampf.

By the way: once we finish this homework, there will be quizzes and tests. The Primary exam is on May 12, 2020, and the Final will be held six months later, on November 3.

We need to start preparing now, if we hope to pass them all.

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