According to poll data from Vanity Fair (helpfully graphed by Ezra Klein), two thirds of Americans report they couldn't explain what "the public option" is.
The public option is an important component of the healthcare debate and it'd be great if people understood the issue clearly so they could put pressure on their representatives in government and hold them accountable for their votes. But at the same time, the issues aren't self-explanatory. Knowing what the public option is requires some study, and knowing enough to have a really well-informed opinion requires even more.The media is clearly dropping the ball when it comes to educating Americans on the basics. The cable news shows do a lot of "opinion" and "analysis," when it's old-fashioned explanation that we really need.But maybe we should consider that our schools start thinking about civics in a new way. Of course, many public schools use class time to explain how Congress works in broad strokes, but it would be great if high schools had dedicated classses with the educational goal of making students experts in current political issues like healthcare, climate change, or immigration. Disciplines like economics, math, history, and chemistry could all be incorporated; the students would feel the relevance of the material; and we'd reap the benefit of a more informed public.Obviously, our public schools face myriad challenges, and pulling off any kind of curriculum change in practice is no small feat. But we would really benefit from a formal solution to the problem that democracy depends on people understanding the issues at hand.