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We are a nation in crisis
The Washington Post recently published an article pointing out that trust in institutions – government, media, the law – has plummeted, and is having a measurable effect on Americans, especially young Americans. For many close observers, the Post reported, “a direct line can be drawn from today’s civics crises to a long-standing failure to adequately teach American government, history and civic responsibility.” Maybe – but even though a diverse collection of academics, historians, teachers and education leaders subscribe to that premise, I think the problem extends much further and far deeper.
In an interview in 1908, Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931, a U.S. inventor) stated that “the most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think.” To paraphrase Edison, he believed the mind of a child is naturally active and develops through exercise. That then, he declared, should be the primary purpose of our public schools, to encourage original thought, reasoning and observation, and rely less on memory.
For a long, long time the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (through local PTA’s) clearly endeavored to achieve that outcome. The specific aims of the NCPT were to: Promote the welfare of children and youth in home, school, church, and community; To raise the standards of home life; To secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth; To bring into closer relation the home and the school, that parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the training of the child and (lastly); To develop between educators and the general public such united efforts as will secure for every child the highest advantages in physical, mental, social, and spiritual education. That will seem hopelessly passe’ to some citizens, so 1940’s.
Contemporary thinking insists that, as children skip kindergarten, because of the pandemic, the learning gap widens. Kindergarten didn’t exist when and where I became of school age. We began 1st grade late in our 5th year, or early in our 6th, with basic skills common to the era. We knew the alphabet, could print and write in cursive, we knew the colors and knew how to play (never having heard of a play therapist). We also knew the numbers well enough to make change for a dollar. We had toy cash registers which required you to distinguish between coins in order to use it. Approximately 10 years ago I made a 74 cent purchase in a convenience store during a power outage. Imagine my surprise when, after handing the clerk a dollar bill (a girl I knew to be a high school graduate), she handed me back four quarters, four dimes and several pennies. She had no clue what the value of our coins were after 12 years of school. I could make change for a dollar (all of us could) before starting school. Let that sink in.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I entered 1st grade (1945), graduated high school (1957), retired from the Navy (1980), and finished college (1986). All sorts of political, psychological, social and medical theories have been postulated over the decades to justify what people simply choose to do. The reasons for these classy cop-outs are many: political agendas (oppression as an excuse encourages shifts in political power structures); good business (make something a disease and you can collect insurance for treating in or sell tapes and run workshops about how to recover from it); a need to disavow evil intent (we have no control over evil therefore fear it out of helplessness). Physicians and therapists often use the “disease” classification to charge for treatment – the burden for any personal responsibility therefore – is removed.
The do-gooder, politically correct mentality teaches you never to hold anyone accountable for their behavior, immoral conduct, or mistakes. It means never make anyone feel bad about anything they do no matter how harmful it might be to others. Advocates of this dogma assume all actions are a response to conditions, never a lack of character, courage, conscience, morality, values, lifestyle or (Heaven forbid) choices. They’re wrong.
The truth is, people choose their actions and can alter them at will. Nothing negates one’s responsibility for or requirement to act with integrity. It’s as simple as that. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) observed that “children don’t heed the life experiences of their parents, and nations ignore history. Bad lessons have to be learned anew.”
Throughout recorded history (some 4,000 years of it anyway) the greatest civilizations bequeathed to their posterity concrete faith supported by a tangible belief that the young would carry on the traditions and customs of their ancestors. In ancient Athens, upon reaching the age of 17, young men took an oath known as “The Athenian Oath.” ” We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the City both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the City’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them of naught. We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City, not only and not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”
Once upon a time, America was a prosperous, magnificent federation of states and, like young Athens, had an incomparable sense of character, courage, eloquence and honor. We were a healthy, well-constructed sovereign nation and we were united and strong in a very large part because a lot was expected of our children. I really don’t need to finish that thought for you – do I?
David Snell – Franklin, N.C.
Same old stuff
Well, I see that for the last few weeks the opinion letters were fresher and then the staleness returned.
Same old stuff shoveled out that this person is the smartest, brightest, most moral, holiest, and insightful person to ever walk this earth. Hmm…
Along those lines did you know:
That President Lyndon Johnson was absolutely wrong in signing the Civil Rights Act. I mean why allow blacks to vote when they need to be out in the fields picking cotton?
That all hippies in the 60’s and 70’s were full of all types of drugs and never did anything positive and were all atheists. Darn those long-haired types and that drug-fueled acid rock music they listed to like Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. Just dreadful! Give me some polkas any day.
That anyone, and I’m dead serious about this, that is NOT a Republican and goes to church on a regular basis is a Commie-loving, morally depraved, pedophile anti-Christ who should be thwarted and extinguished. There is no in between, you are either with the right wing or you are no wing. If you want to try out your gun, you know the variety that has absolutely no use in hunting, then line up a Democrat in your gun sights for Pete’s sake. Why are you waiting?
That only certain people in this world, like some that write opinions to this paper, are correct and should be headed without question or hesitation. We should bow down to their wisdom and advice and do everything we are told…pronto! How dare that you should ever doubt!
Now if you believe all of the above that is your perogative. Of course I will offer you some swamp land to purchase if this fits.
Am I a know at all? Hardly. Let’s put it this way…In the highway of life I get in the right lane to allow the scores of people that are way smarter, progressive and creative to pass by me to try and create things that help us all like medicines and labor saving inventions that benefit us all. I do that instead of hanging in the passing lane and inhibit and obstruct those that need it to do much greater things than I will every do.
Yep, there’s a lot of people like me in this world. Not the brightest, but smart enough to smell what other people are shoveling and know what the source is.
Robert Wilson – Franklin, N.C.
Earth Day what can we do to help
ISince last Earth Day the Atlantic hurricane season saw a record number of storms and the rapid intensification of storms. Dry conditions and record temperatures in the West produced one of the worst fire seasons ever. Sea level rises and entire villages have to relocate. So, what can we do as individuals? First, become informed about the reality of climate change and actions to combat it. Second, get involved personally. The websites of these nonprofits fighting to save our planet provide information and means for involvement: Citizens Climate Lobby, League of Conservation Voters, 350.org, Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, and others. Citizens Climate Lobby is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization that seeks to build political support for climate action through the work of 594 chapters worldwide. We have a chapter here in Sylva (check it out on Facebook at wncccl.weebly.com) and consider joining. Our goal is passage of HR 2307: “ To create a Carbon Dividend Trust Fund for the American people in order to encourage market-driven innovation of clean energy technology and market efficiencies which will reduce harmful pollution and leave a healthier, more stable, and more prosperous nation for future generations.” The tax on carbon emissions is returned to citizens as a dividend. This bill has 35 co-sponsors in the House but no Republican! The survival of our planet shouldn’t be a political issue! In addition to joining a climate advocacy organization there are other specific things we can do as concerned citizens. Plant trees on your land. Do you know that trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen into the air? Another reason we must protect our forests! Do you know that methane gas traps 28 times more heat than carbon dioxide and that the 1.4 billion cattle and other grazers produce methane. Consider using an alternative to dairy milk like Silk – almond, oat, soy, or coconut milk. These products use 80% less water to make than dairy milk and are healthy. Do you know that 18 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the oceans each year, that some of the marine life we eat ingests it, and we do by eating them? More than 40% of the plastic items we use are used just once and less than 10% is recycled. We all can practice the 3 Rs – Reuse, Refuse, Recycle. Take your own tote to the grocery store! Ingles plans to eliminate plastic bags. Refuse plastic straws! Recycle all the plastic that you must use! This Earth Day pledge to make every day an earth day by doing something to protect the only home we’ve got: learn, sign petitions, recycle, call/write/email Senators Burr and Tillis and Rep. Cawthorn asking them to support HR 2307, join an organization that fights climate change, elect candidates that are pro-environment, plant trees, etc. Together we can win the climate war!
Gene Tunnell – Franklin, N.C.