Forum, April 13: Civic Engagement Is the Solution

Friday, April 13, 2018
Civic Engagement Is the Solution

Let’s celebrate the March For Our Lives. It’s a wake-up call for us as adults to the limits of inaction and divisive politics with regard to gun control. Young people are telling us that sympathetic words no longer suffice. Only constructive action will do.

Many adults may agree with the statement, “These 17-year-olds should go back to civics class.” Pope Francis takes exception. At the start of Holy Week, he admonished the generation that will own the 21st century: “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he said in his homily. “It is up to you not to keep quiet.”

Civics teaching is often bound by the textbook with little connection with direct experience. Recent data indicate that it’s not making the grade. A 2017 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government; almost 40 percent are unable to cite a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The March For Our Lives reflects the empowerment of young people. Civic engagement will come from providing students learning experiences in the community. Having been a director of a community-based learning project some years ago, I know the power of this learning model. I’m excited about current projects around the U.S. and, closer to home, the City and Lake Semester program providing community-based learning opportunities at Burlington High School.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated, “No one is born a citizen. You have to be taught what that means.” Effective teaching of civics couples textbook and community-based learning. It reflects the words, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Engaging students by starting with concrete, hands-on, real-world problems is a great motivator. This educational model will help to insure that citizens learn requisite civic knowledge and skills for constructively engaging in our political system.

Bob Scobie


Kathy Griffin Has Learned Nothing

Apparently, comedian Kathy Griffin’s defense of the photo shoot of her holding a fake severed head of Donald Trump is now a First Amendment argument: “It could happen to you.” All this proves to me is that she has learned nothing in a year.

You cannot appear to suggest violence toward the president, regardless of your feeling toward his or (someday, her) politics, because you are suggesting violence toward the office of the president, which cannot ever, ever be allowed.

Talk all you want, Kathy Griffin. You’re still wrong. You want my respect again? One “I screwed up” would do it.

Barry Wenig


Founding Is Source of Our Ideals

I was saddened to detect the intemperate tone of Carolyn M. Bardos’ letter to the editor (“A Founding Based on Theft,” April 8). The production of 1776 has been designed to generate reflection and conversation. As a cast member, I am glad that it has succeeded in that mission. But Bardos’ letter leaves little room for discussion.

While the history of the founding of the United States is a patchwork of imperfections, hypocrisies and yes, outrages, it is also the source of those high ideals that Lincoln called future’s “last best hope.” We Americans ever fall short on realizing those ideals, and at times have made blind and costly choices in their pursuit, but there they are, ready always to be sharpened, improved and put to best use, perhaps especially in the political moment we find ourselves in today. My sense from Bardos’ letter is that this country is not deserving of that effort. I respectfully disagree.

Peter Tenney


Trump’s Key Weakness: Dishonesty

The “Business & Money” section of the April 8 Sunday Valley News featured a news analysis by Heather Long of The Washington Post headlined, “Trump Has Key Weakness on Trade.”

I’ll say he does: Donald Trump is fundamentally dishonest. That’s about as key a weakness as one can have. Whether our current president is aware that his thinking is grossly distorted or whether he is not, it clearly is. And the result is the same either way. Accurate information supports progress, while inaccurate information undermines it.

Those in favor of undermining progress — not lobbyist’s “progress” but human progress — say “aye.”

Chris Weinmann


Walls Don’t Work

Walls throughout history have been about futility. The walls of Troy fell out of vanity and a trophy. Sound familiar? Hadrian’s Wall (built by soldiers, incidentally) has virtually disappeared, mostly in pieces and for other uses. The Great Wall of China didn’t work either and now it’s a tourist trap. The Maginot Line? The Siegfried Line? Nope and nope. Their enemies simply went around them. All that remains is some concrete and weeds. The Atlantic Wall worked, I suppose, but only until June 6, 1944, when it was overrun by the Greatest Generation. How about the Iron Curtain? That was a sort of wall, wasn’t it? Now it doesn’t even rate a “curtain call.” The Berlin Wall? We have video of what happened to that one — and one successful, united Germany as a result. The only wall that works, at least partially, is the wall the Israelis built, but only because of the armed soldiers manning it. Is that what President Donald Trump has in mind?

If drug trafficking interdiction and terrorist control is the solution sought, we better start laying mines along Florida’s coasts, where a good deal of drugs come in, and installing electrified barbed wire from Halifax to Vancouver to stop those plane hijackers from another 9/11.

The only “working” wall I see in our future is the one between Trump’s intelligence and his mouth.

Charlie Green

Bath, N.H.