JANUARY 05, 2018
Over the holidays, I went to see the new Star Wars movie – The Last Jedi. As I watched and recalled the earlier episodes of the Star Wars saga, I saw many lessons in civics, democracy, and government that a good teacher could use to stimulate kids to consider how people should govern themselves. Think of Queen Amidala/Padme and Anakin discussing the value of democracy in the first movie. Or, how the Republic fighting a revolt led by Count Dooku grants the Chancellor emergency powers – all to be led astray by the evil Syth forces. How fragile our institutions are! What balance of powers could have saved the Republic? What values should be reflected in a system of government? How is a Republic different from a democracy? All good questions. Even more interesting might be to consider the consequences of the decisions that the Jedi leadership made about Anakin and Kylo Ren. Was the Jedi Council right to train Anakin despite their reservations; and, were the roots of the destruction of the Republic a function of leadership that was distant and not sufficiently responsive? The movies are very powerful in explaining the systemic forces that contribute to the growth or downfall of governments. Yes, individual heroes are celebrated but over the series, it becomes clear that the desire for self-determination, economic prosperity all play an important role.
I will not be the first one to point out the civic dimensions of this series, they are fairly plain to see. I hope educators are using the movie to engage students about their role in a democracy. While there are some who remember every formula they ever learned, most of us remember surprisingly little from our formal education. That might include things we use in our everyday lives, a project that required effort, or something that interested us. There is not one way to get interested in civics, there are hundreds, and they will make all the difference. At iCivics, we look for those opportunities to connect with students through technology, gaming or hands-on activities. We also urge all educators to find as many ways as possible to get young minds thinking about how we should organize ourselves; how to engage meaningfully in the community; and how to get involved with government. May the force be with you in this New Year!
-iCivics Executive Director, Louise Dubé