Civics, civility lessons needed

June 1, 2010
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IL Managing Editor Elizabeth Brockett wrote this post.

Many folks just enjoyed a three-day weekend off from work for Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, which is a day to remember those who have died in our nation’s service. It was first observed in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Why the history lesson? Apparently many people need a refresher civics course, as well as a reminder about civility.

Greenwood High School valedictorian Eric Workman successfully sued in federal court against having a school-sanctioned prayer at commencement. That caused more than a little debate about prayer, separation of church and state, and rights of those who wanted prayer vs. those who didn’t. And for the record, Workman is a Christian. Rumors and threats of planned protests at Greenwood High School’s graduation May 28 didn’t come to fruition. Instead, some people – students and adults – chose to cough and make other noises during Workman’s speech, while another student speaker’s references to God and faith were met with applause.

Ignorance also showed its ugly head. There were some people who spouted “no where in the Constitution does it say” separation of church and state. We all know the First Amendment pretty much covers it with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It also covers their right to complain.

Besides the civility/rudeness factor, this all got me thinking about how little people remember of our nation’s history and law of the land. Do you suppose all the people becoming naturalized citizens know more about this country than those who complained about the lack of a prayer at a public high school graduation? How well would you or people you know do taking the civics portion of the naturalization test? I’m pretty sure you’d get all the American government questions correct. But do you remember the authors of the Federalist Papers? And what was Benjamin Franklin famous for? No, the answer to that one does not include kite flying.

It always shocks and amazes me how people will rant about rights without really knowing their or others’ rights. But how to solve that problem …. By the way, for those who wanted prayer at graduation, I guarantee many churches offered special prayers or even services for those graduating. And who said you couldn’t pray quietly at graduation?
 

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