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  1. Opinion

Let’s all learn the craft of citizenship through civics

Here’s what readers had to say in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
A simplified version of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution hangs prominently in Dawn Brown's classroom at Crews Lake Middle.  [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]
A simplified version of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution hangs prominently in Dawn Brown's classroom at Crews Lake Middle. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]
Published Dec. 11, 2019
Updated Dec. 11, 2019

Learning craft of citizenship

DeSantis: Add civics exam in high school | Dec. 11

As a retired educator who spent many years teaching U.S. history and social studies, I agree that there needs to be a robust curriculum focused on civics in high school. But how to structure it and how to measure its success? Relying on tests that ask questions about details of the Constitution or when the Declaration of Independence was signed do not create better citizens. They merely prove that the individual is good at memorizing information that can be found easily with a quick query to Alexa or Siri. Instead of names and dates, I always asked my students to learn how the Constitution impacts their lives and what they were expected to do as citizens. This approach kept them a bit more interested (as interested as a teenager can be in school), and they developed a deeper appreciation for how our democracy works and their place in that process. We discussed Supreme Court cases about rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights. We reviewed the legal system and how the rights of both the accused and the victim are protected. We even delved into the Electoral College and, years before the 2000 or the 2016 election, how it was that a president could lose the popular vote and still be elected president. Civics is vital for everyone, not just high school students. But if we can start with a captive audience, maybe we can begin to create a more engaged electorate who understand their role in protecting our democracy.

Jenni Casale, Palmetto

Practical courses in politics

DeSantis: Add civics exam in high school | Dec. 11

The Constitution of the United States of America [AP]

Of far more value to Florida’s future than a civics exam would be a high school course in “practical politics” covering such issues as, “How to gerrymander your way to a permanent majority,” “How to sound like a populist while you pick voters’ pockets,” “How to ignore constitutional amendments that you don’t like,” and “Who cares about municipalities? We can run everything from Tallahassee.” Our current officials have both the expertise and experience to create such a syllabus.

Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg

Teach good behavior

Lack of civility common before Twitter, Trump | Column, Dec. 11

Indeed, lack of civility predates Twitter and Trump. But the overwhelming majority of Americans have always disapproved of crude and bullying behavior. Someone smarter than I once said, “Behavior is either taught or allowed.” This applies to good behavior as well as bad. Rather than depending on luck as the author suggests, we should teach good behavior and not allow bad behavior.

Charles Gonzalez, St. Petersburg

Punishing kids for being poor

No child should be denied free lunch | Editorial, Dec. 11

Fresh salsa, produced by local farmers, is available for students at Challenger K-8 School. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

Under a federal plan, nearly 1 million children who now automatically qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches would be required to apply for them in the future. The change would not save a significant amount of money — $90-million at best, or far less than it costs to build a single F-22 Raptor fighter jet. There can be only two reasons for the change: to punish kids for being poor, and to make it look like the Trump administration is unraveling the social safety net. The plan is shameful, and Florida’s representatives should do everything they can to stop it.

Scott Barancik, St. Petersburg

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