Zoeller said his own children are grown so he doesn’t know whether schools are doing enough.
“Certainly, it wouldn’t hurt to have required courses in civics,” he said. “I’d also like to see more elected officials go into the schools, including state representatives.”
Zoeller said more newspaper coverage of issues would help voters know the political leaders and where they stand.
Speaking in Concord in September 2012, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter the greatest problem facing the country was ignorance of civics.
“We know, with reliable evidence, that two-thirds of the people of the United States don’t know we have three separate branches of government,” Souter said at the time.
Donna Dube teaches social studies at Pelham High School. She said her students do know their political leaders from their studies.
But Dube acknowledges things change for some over time as they become adults.
“They lose interest,” Dube said. “All you have to do is look at the surveys. Only 11 percent have confidence in Congress, so, it’s apathy. They drop out rather than try to change things.”
Dube is troubled by other survey results.
“People don’t know we’re governed by a Constitution,” she said. “How can we sustain ourselves as a democracy if we don’t know how we are governed?”
Derry town historian Rick Holmes said one reason people may not recognize their leaders is they are doing a good job and staying out of trouble.
“They haven’t done anything to get the electorate angry,” Holmes said.
Once a political leader is caught up in scandal than changes, he said.
“There would be hell to pay and everyone would know their name,” he said.
Holmes said schools are so focused on science and math that social studies is emphasized less.
“This is a direct result,” he said.
State testing doesn’t include social studies, Holmes said.
“That means the state is viewing that as less important,” he said.
Holmes sees a potential danger in the results.
“To a degree, that means people are not taking ownership in their government,” he said. “That means anything can happen because they are not on watch. It would be very easy for unpopular things to happen.”