A lesson I learned in college: civics should be a core subject.

College is filled with life lessons. 

You learn about yourself about other people and ideas, discover who you are going to be in society, and find out more about what interests you in an intellectual and professional capacity. Of the many lessons that I was able to learn, there is one that stands out the most, after recently graduating earlier this year.

“Ignorance of the law is dangerous for both those who govern and those who are governed.” 

The most important lesson I learned in college, was learned during my involvement in student government. Students didn’t know their bylaws—they had no knowledge of their rights and what they were paying for with their tuition. Students were unfamiliar with the laws that their student government, faculty, and administration were operating under. They didn’t know:

  • How their tuition was distributed and used.
  • What their rights were.
  • What resources they had access to.
  • How student government’s actions affected them.
  • How faculty made decisions regarding their curriculums.

And this is just 10% of the information that students should have known, but only a select few paid attention to. Only those who governed had access to this information. Information about what was going on at a macro level.

The challenges students faced could have been avoided.

I often think about the ideal scenarios that could have been designed if I were to go back and work with my team again. What problems could have been solved or avoided altogether? How could we have served our student body in a more efficient way? What steps could we have taken to affect the student body for the next 5, 10, 15 years?

The one thing I believe we could have done differently, the only thing I regret from my experience in student government, was setting up education the student body could have access to, about their bylaws. Whether it would have been easier using content marketing: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, even 15-minute videos about the operations of the college.

How do I operate after college with this information in mind?

I’ve taken these lessons as an indication that my responsibility as a citizen should be to know both federal and local laws that affect me. I should rely solely on my representatives to interpret and administer laws on my behalf and take matters into my hands in understanding them myself.

How I take these lessons and incorporate them into my life after college.

  • I made myself familiar with the constitution of our nation as well as, New York State’s constitution.
  • Civics have become a serious subject for me. As a direct result of this, I now conduct research on who represents me locally and what they stand for on a regular basis (monthly).
  • Even if it ‘s hard to keep up with current affairs, I try my best to at least know how those affairs are affected by current rules and regulations.

Law = code

I’ve come to associate laws to code that one would find in any app or website. If you don’t know how your ecosystem works (how it affects you as a user), how can you expect to improve it and adapt to its changes over time? I’ve come to understand a lot more about the way I interact and how I’m affected by the apps and websites that I use because I’ve learned more about how and why they were built.

Just as it’s important to know the basics of coding and how apps that you use are made, it’s just as—if not more—important to understand the laws that govern and affect you. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s a disadvantage we as individuals can’t afford <italics>. The price of not knowing how you’re affected by the actions of those who govern us is too steep, and it’s too expensive for my tastes.

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Two documents I recommend reading:

  1. Constitution of the United States of America.
  2. Constitution of the State of New York (for my friends who live here).