Or Not

Civics – Or Not

In order to graduate from my public high school I was requried to take a course in civics and pass the exam. That education was required in nearly every public high school in those days. In the 1980s this course often became optional or, in many schools, civics classes weren’t available at all. We had switched to a more market oriented view of education and citizenship and we have suffered from that ever since.

The National Education Association recognizes the loss and its effect can be seen in the regular occurrence of students shouting down presenters offering differing views. That isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about temper tantrums and a refusal to learn.

Perhaps the shout-downs are a symptom of our increasing national incidence of mob brutality, as students see adults doing the same thing in school board meetings, at political rallies and in our Capitol Building on January 6. Maybe they are influenced by the non-stop torrent of lies, false accusations and online screeds that pollute our culture. Call it “Citizens Gone Wild.”

Lack of civics education hurts us all. It robs us of any sense of obligation to the commons and a respect for others. It robs us of our democratic principles.

None of us knows if education in our civil rights, responsibilities and limitations would affect any of the brutality that goes on daily. But in this era when a majority of Americans can’t name three presidents, don’t know the branches of our government and many think that enforcing our laws is “weaponizing” the Department of Justice, we have a problem.

From an essay by Debra Satz and focused on shout-downs on college campuses entitled By Abandoning Civics, Colleges Helped Create the Culture Wars:

It is our responsibility as educators to equip students to live in a democratic society whose members will inevitably disagree on many things. To strengthen free speech on campuses, we need to return civic education to the heart of our curriculum.

Jim Nathan is a long time friend, a former health system CEO, co-founder of Floridians For Democracy and Adjunct Professor of Health Services at Florida Gulf Coast University.* Here’s what he had to say after reading a draft of this post.

Sadly, students in my university classes have not seen or experienced national American unity and pride. Instead, their formative years have been influenced by two decades of unexplained wars; massively uncivil politics; the Great Recession; divisive and uncivil expressions and actions throughout society; degrading and marginalizing of racial, LGBTQ+, and ethnic diversity.

They have seen and experienced attacks on public education telling students what they are not allowed to learn about history.  They have been taught that the “other side are the worst people on earth!”

Their lives have been shaped by the near daily use of weapons of war in schools, churches, synagogues, groceries and they’ve done active shooter drills even as some honor people like murderer Kyle Rittenhouse.

They are presently witnessing American politicians revering autocratic leaders like Hungary’s Orbán and Turkey’s Erdoğan while stealing our freedoms under the guise of “freedom” and “liberty.”

In class, I share with these impressive students that the good news is they have learned to be resilient, that they have the opportunity to reverse these culture wars. We are beginning to see that young generation making the decision to speak up and speak out. They truly are our hope for the future.

Perhaps they will be the ones to restore civics education to our nation. Perhaps they will be the ones to take action on Thomas Jefferson’s words,

An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.

Fentanyl Treatment- Or Not

It appears that if any of the Republican candidates for president gets their hands on power that there won’t be much attention paid to treating those addicted to this killer. From STAT:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged to “use lethal force” by sending troops to attack cartel operations in Mexico. [That’s called an invasion of a sovereign nation. Of an ally. Our second largest trading partner. But it’s a splendid, brain-free chest thumping.]

Former President Donald Trump has called for convicted drug dealers to be sentenced to death. [That’s called unconstitutional.]

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina pledged to finish constructing Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. [That’s stupid.]

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suggested a different tack: Decriminalizing nearly all drugs, including ayahuasca and ketamine. [That’s called useless bombast.]

Note the total lack of any help at all for those who need it. Oddly, these self-puffers think they should be sitting at the Resolute Desk charged with promoting the general welfare. You know: that Preamble thing.

These schemes are how we typically “help” our addicted, with tough guy proclamations, preventionless preventions and cureless cures. Sometimes we paper over the issue with a blizzard of words, often sounding very fancy and scientific in multi-syllabic self-importance. However, there is no scientific or medical data indicating that a blizzard of words cures drug addictions.

Quote From Somewhere Else That Applies

From Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor in Chief of The Atlantic, referencing a proposed cage match between two high tech genius-idiots:

From the standpoint of being a human, the Musk-Zuck cage match is an offensive waste of time—the result of a broken media system that allows those with influence and shamelessness to commandeer our collective attention at will.

Wait – was that about two high tech egomaniacs, or about flamboyant, hypocritical, conspiracy addled, democracy hating politicians and a media addicted to “If it bleeds, it leads”?

A Terrible Anniversary

Friday was the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL that killed four little girls: Denise McNair; Cynthia Wesley; Carole Robertson; Addie Mae Collins; and severely injured Addie Mae’s sister, Sarah Collins. It took until 2002 to at last prosecute and convict three of the murderers. By then the fourth had already died. The three spent the rest of their lives in prison.

This is a terrible and heroic story that includes former Senator Doug Jones and former Attorney General of Alabama Bill Baxley, who put the murderers in prison. I urge you to watch the presentation they gave in 2017 telling the story of how justice was at last done. And there’s one other thing.

This story is one of virulent White supremacist hatred. What we know is that it didn’t go away after 1963. There’s yet another generation of haters now. As then, they are doing and threatening violence and are led by haters and power cravers. We can allow that to go on  .  .  .

.  .  .  or not.
Note the first 3 words of the Constitution:

We The People


* Jim teaches “History of the American Health System from Economic, Social and Political Perspectives.” The course is colloquially called, “How did the American Health System, with the best technology and best trained clinicians in the world become the most expensive, highly fragmented and under-performing for the overall investments made by the American public?”

Good question.

Today is a good day to be the light


  • Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
  • Fire the bastards!
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One Response to Or Not
  1. Frank Levy Reply

    Jack – a couple of thoughts.

    One, many, too many, of the right wing flame throwers, elected and unelected, are folks who were took the same kind of civics classes you and I took. I am not at all sure that the civics classes we took were all that valuable in teaching us to listen to different points of view or how to create a thoughtful, well reasoned debate on a topic of importance based on fact not fiction and emotion. Our civics classes, and I think they were typical of the time, taught us The Constitution, The Declaration, how a bill became a law, jingoism, about the “white man’s burden, and white American superiority. They certainly did not teach us to act justly, live with compassion, to walk humbly, or respect differences in cultures. Those ideas came from outside the classroom, or from a unique and special teacher. Lastly for point 1, if you take a look at the educational backgrounds of some of the most virulent and verbally toxic right wing flame throwers, people like Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis they went to the very best schools with, theoretically,
    the very best programs and faculties.

    Now for point two. Bringing back the kind of civics programs you are talking about terrifies me. Really terrifies me. The thought terrifies me because far too many states, either because of cost, laziness, ignorance, or ideology are relying on civics programs that profess to teach “traditional” American history, civics and values designed by PragerU and Hillsdale College. These are not civics programs, these are culture war manifestos created to train more angry, intolerant, misogynistic, racist, anti-immigrant, Christian nationalist ethno-fascist flame throwers. (Yes, I know Dennis Prager is Jewish, but he is still an fascist, racist, right wing flame thrower)