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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How does government touch your life?

If you were asked to list all the ways that government (any level) touches your life, how hard would it be for you to come up with at least a few examples? Not hard, right? You probably drove on public roads today, maybe while listening to NPR on the radio; you probably ate something that was approved at some level by the FDA or ate in a restaurant inspected by a county health inspector; maybe you dropped your kids off at a public school or bought something that required paying sales tax or pulled over to get out of the way of a speeding police car. Not hard, right? Certainly, a bunch of students sitting in a classroom at a state university should be able to come up with a long (or even short!) list of things the government does, right?

I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this... That's right: apparently, the answer is no, 300 students sitting in a state-subsidized classroom have no idea what the government does or how it might affect their lives. After mentioning taxes (which we talked about last week) and minimum wage (which we talked about earlier in the semester), they really seemed at a loss. I realize that they may not know about things like the FDA or other regulatory agencies, and maybe they just didn't understand the question (my students seem to think that anytime I ask them something easy, I must be trying to trick them), but I had to lead them into even the obvious answers like education! I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry...

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