The comment coming out of Gilmer County about the shift of the WV School Baord Association to line up with the WVBOE and the WVDOE is timely.
We challenge Dr. Barbara Parsons to allow an agenda item at the next open SBA meeting for an up or down vote by the membership for confidence or no confidence in the WVBOE, WVDOE, State Superintendent of Schols and his Deputy.
The bet is that the results would be a resounding vote of no confidence all the way around.
There is State-wide attention focused on how Gilmer County continues to be mistreated by the WVBOE and the WVDOE.
Dr. Cindy Daniel’s name comes up often. Don’t expect any help from her.
The WV Association of School Administrators, comprised of school system superintendents, will go after her to protect one of its own if she gets out of line.
The WV School Board Association won’t help Gilmer County because that organization is strapped for cash to make it increasingly dependent on WVDOE money.
That renders the WVSBA toothless as an effective advocate for intervened counties.
WV’s politicians sent to Charleston won’t help because they are afraid of their shadows and cutting off of oil and gas money to keep them in office.
Things have become so bad within the WVSBA that at a recent meeting one of its officers leaped over to the WVBOE’s side as if that individual is focusing on upward mobility opportunities.
Dr. Martirano referred to high minded morality and ethics when he was involved with the Boone County intervention threat, but what have you seen him doing in Gilmer County to indicate that he practices what he preaches?
With all the impediments going against Gilmer County something admirable has happened as a result of news getting out in WV.
It is that the WVBOE’s reputation has been severely damaged from adverse attention it has garnered from its dictatorial and inept intervention policies and practices.
The growing adverse publicity has long run potential to help remove the WVBOE’s destructive strangle hold on K-12 education in WV.
For all the State’s children, thank you Gilmer County for standing up to Goliath.
You don’t have to rely on a sling shot, but you have something more powerful.
It is effective use of social media and the Internet to get truthful information to WV’s people to influence public opinion.
My board including our highly respected superintendent uses Gilmer County’s taped meetings for instructional purposes to learn what to avoid in running our school system.
We see your State-appointed superintendent micro managing your meetings, giving orders to your elected president, interfering with delegations, and even cutting in when board members want to speak to limit what they are allowed to say.
We observe extreme censorship to result in what gets on agendas and what gets into your meeting minutes.
Our superintendent comes to meetings fully prepared. When he has a slot on an agenda he provides in-depth information we have complete confidence in, and he answers all our questions when asked.
Our superintendent serves as the secretary to document what occurs during board meetings and we have excellent minutes for later reference.
All of us work together as a highly dedicated and coordinated team while exhibiting mutual respect to one another while we do our County’s business.
In three years not one word of anger has occurred against our superintendent or any board member.
Do we have spirited discussions. You bet.
Through them we learn from one another to enable us to make better decisions we can support after votes are cast.
When we watch what happens in Gilmer County we abhor the repressive treatment of your board, and we attribute your obvious leadership deficiencies to the WVBOE and the WVDOE.
Have you thought about selling your video tapes for instructional purposes? Hard to tell how much money you could make for your school system.
Wow, a lot of us showed up at 4 o’clock to find out the meeting was changed to 6 o’clock. There was a football game if you remember. Had to get there for the kids, could not stay till 6. Glenville people showed up to support Normantown. What was wrong with that? Seems a lot of “meetings” are scheduled to conflict with other events these days.
It’s simple to solve. Go watch the 9-10-15 Normantown town hall meeting video to hear the superintendent change his tune and hear his transporation director not back that up.
Read the Charleston Gazette article September 24 posted on the GFP along with multiple discussions on the Hur and GFP reporting.
BTW, would not imply imagined gender of a poster. It doesn’t work.
The meeting that was supposed to start at 4 but was put off to after 6. Now Glenville people are rabble rousers too? Guess anybody who disagrees fits the description?
G Devono said there was only a little toilet paper on the floor at the Normantown School meeting. Even his Transpotation Director was unwilling to support that much of a fabrication.
Did it get in the minutes that the Cedar Creek project was recommended against to the WVBOE at no use because there was not enough money to complete it because of inept State planning, corruption, and mismanagement? No!
Did it get in the minutes who made money off the dropped Cedar Creek project and how much they got? No!
Did it get in the minutes how much money was wasted for everything leading up to dropping the Cedar Creek project? No!
Did it get in the minutes that the Leading Creek School was going to be overbuilt because of not enough students so scarce school money would be wasted? No!
Did it get in the minutes to disclose the total amount of the County’s money spent on the failed Leading Creek school project? No!
Did it get in the minutes that there were concerns about sweet heart no bid contracts? No!
Did it get in the minutes that there were concerns about constructing the new grade school in a flood zone vulnerable to destruction like WV had recently to wipe our Richwood? No!
Did it get in the minutes that the new County school did not have enough classrooms to handle all the students properly? No?
Did it get in the minutes to disclose what the WV fire marshal found out about arson prep at Normantown Elementary? No!
Did it get in the minutes to disclose names of the select few elites GD assigned to secretly determine the future of K-12 education in the County? No!
Did it get in the minutes those in the County’s central office who were singled out for hefty pay raises by GD and how much they got? No!
Many more examples could be cited as examples the State does not want to disclose. Enough said.
Educators know that the best way to get a point across is to make something simple as possible instead of making it more complicated than necessary.
What could possibly be more symbolic of the State’s dictatorial control over our school system than what goes on with meeting agendas and minutes for school board meetings?
It is evident that the County’s elected school board is not allowed to get important items on agendas and meeting minutes are heavily censored by the State.
There is even failure when someone is scheduled to speak to inform the public what the topic is with only a listing of a speaker’s name.
Looked at the agenda when Dr. Cindy Daniel was here as an example. Just her name and nothing more.
When something like that happens how would members of the community know if they want to attend a meeting?
The State does not want regular community members to attend meetings so it can say that citizens are not interested in what goes on and they had their chance to speak out.
When a citizen says somethings at meetings the State will not allow as little as a one sentence summary of what they said to go into minutes.
That shows that what regular citizens say is unworthy of consideration so the attitude is why waste time by going to meetings to speak out?
When something comes up the State does not like to hear, disliked speakers are shut down abruptly and those the State likes are allowed to ramble at length without being shut down.
Dr. Cindy Daniel knows what is happening.
Dr. Martirano knows what is happening.
Michael Green of the WVBOE knows.
Their failure to take corrective action for something as basic as meeting agendas and minutes proves in a nutshell their overall approval of the State’s dictatorial control of Gilmer County’s schools, and their obvious disrespect and contempt for our citizens.
What meeting were you at? What 20 people had a more important prior commitment than the safety of their children or grandchildren? From watching the video, it was clear that almost half of the participants were rabble rousers from Glenville.
Bill S has not told the truth for so long doubt he can even spell the word. He has castigated rural children and families as poverty stricken, drug addicted, ignorant and uninformed over and over. Does Devono really thinks Simmons supports him by saying if he (Simmons) had the job he could would clear out the BOE Central Office and run it from his front porch? By saying he wouldn’t read more than a one page finance report and voted for no one else to see it? Watch the videos. Simmons reported many times how Ted Mattern told Gilmer’s Board to just hold hands with the State Board and dance. Smiled when he said it. Man isn’t smart enough to understand while he is doing a poor imitation of two step the State is doing the twist with Gilmer County’s money.
Bill says if you tell a lie often enough the majority will believe it.
What meeting were you at? Did you attend the Normantown meeting where Devono denied the pictures and denied that it was a possible arson while letters from and conversations with the WV Fire Marshall say it was being investigated as an arson? Simmons didn’t say any different than the state appointed superintendent did. Don’t make up tales. Talk to the board members who did take the time to attend and ask questions and called both the local fire department and state fire marshall’s office if you want to know the truth. From what I saw there it was Carl Armour and Norma Hurley .
G. Devono tried to deny the citizens public access to that meeting. He changed the meeting time without notifying the public so the fire chief, prosecuting attorney and 20 more people who showed up and wanted to attend weren’t notified and could not stay and wait two more hours more for it to start because of prior committments.
Devono told anyone who wasn’t a parent of a child in that school they had to leave. Cindy Daniels did put a stop to that.
What about the fires at the career center and Sand Fork elementary.What about the break in and theft at Troy elementary? Some said there was an attempt at a fire there. Where was Simmons then? What happened to his and G Devono’s reports on those investigations?
We better figure out who tells us the facts whether we like it or not. Sugar coated lies are killing this county. Best thing ever happened was Simmons resigning. To bad he didn’t have the courage of his convictions to follow through.
Google—studies of police officers in grade schools to get information to use to make up your own minds.
For one example from studies, a nationally known criminologist at the U. of Maryland concluded from studies that it “increases the number of behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.“
The same expert concluded that there is no evidence that officers in schools improves safety.
The WVDOE’s push for law enforcement at our new grade school, as usual, is based on reliance on personal opinion and emotion instead of defensible facts.
You can take a look at the detailed data for each county in the table below by just clicking the county (numbers beside the name is the ranking in the state - the lower the number, the better the county):
Purple Beetle Traps Going Up in Ash Trees Statewide
Purple prism traps that resemble a three-sided box kite will again be seen in trees throughout the state as the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) continues surveillance for the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a non-native, wood-boring beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern United States and Canada.
EAB has been discovered in Fayette, Morgan, Roane, Calhoun, Nicholas and Raleigh Counties in West Virginia.
The goal of this year’s trapping program is to locate new infestations within the state for possible biological control agent releases.
“We strongly suspect that EAB entered the state on firewood brought by campers,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass. “Other pests can also be artificially transported by individuals moving firewood, so we are urging all visitors to buy their firewood near where they camp and not transport it from one area to another. If they do bring firewood with them it should all be burned before they leave for home.”
The entire state is under a Federal EAB Quarantine. This means that no firewood (except from evergreen trees), ash logs, ash seedlings, ash bark and other regulated articles can be moved outside the state without federal certification.
The purple traps are coated with an adhesive that captures insects when they land. The color is thought to be attractive to EAB, and is relatively easy for humans to spot among the foliage.
At times these traps can be blown out of the trees. To report a trap that is down or to get information on EAB, please contact the WVDA’s Plant Industries Division at 304.558.2212.
West Virginia Make It Shine Statewide Cleanup Begins Friday
More than 4,000 volunteers have signed up to complete 113 projects around the state in the annual West Virginia Make It Shine Statewide Cleanup.
The two-week program begins on Friday, April 01, and runs through April 15, 2011.
The annual event is jointly sponsored by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Division of Highways. Last year, more than 3,000 West Virginians participated in the cleanup and removed close to 190 tons of litter and over 3,000 discarded tires from our state’s landscape.
This year, at least one cleanup is scheduled in each of the state’s 55 counties, including: Berkeley, where more than 300 students at the Mountain Ridge Intermediate School in Gerrardstown will pick up litter on school grounds; Cabell and Wayne, where more than 100 volunteers will clean up the park and shoreline at Beech Fork State Park; and Boone, where more than 130 volunteers will pick up trash and litter on Lick Creek.
The Make It Shine program provides resources such as cleanup materials, waste hauling and landfill fees to community groups volunteering to conduct litter cleanups on state streams or public lands.
“This is the perfect opportunity for West Virginians to show their pride in their state and to do their part in helping to make West Virginia the cleanest and most beautiful state in the nation,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “The many volunteers who take time out of their busy schedules to pick up unsightly litter across West Virginia are one of a number of examples of how our citizens are committed to keeping our state beautiful for all to enjoy.”
For more information, contact Make It Shine Coordinator Travis Cooper at 1.800.322.5530 or by email at “Travis.L.Cooper@wv.gov”.
Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can hurt you.
That’s the message at the state Bullying and Suicide Prevention Conference held in Charleston Tuesday.
The West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide sponsored the event.
Seven hundred educators, social workers and medical professionals from around the state attended to learn more about bullying and how it can result in suicide.
Bob Musick, the CEO of the council, says the term ‘bully’ has taken on a whole new meaning.
“When I was a kid, if you had a fight at the playground, it stayed there. Everybody went home. But now with cyber bullying going on, it’s 24/7.“
Musick says in this age of technology, bullying has gone high tech.
“Kids are bullied at night through Twitter, through Facebook, through their cell phones,” he said. “It doesn’t leave them.“
That’s why Musick says it’s so important to reach out to adults to teach them the signs of bullying before it goes too far.
“Today bullying leads to kids beating up other kids, shooting other kids or kids killing themselves.“
During the past two legislative sessions, the council has been lobbying for lawmakers to pass the Jason Flatt Act.
The Jason Flatt Act would require teachers to do two-hours of in-service training at home by watching a video about bullying, its effect and ways to prevent it. The videos would be paid for by the Jason Flatt Foundation at no cost to the state. But Musick says both times it’s come before the Senate Finance Committee it’s failed to move on.
“We’re not going to go away,” he said.”We’re going to bring the bill back year after year.“
Musick says the training would go a long way toward stopping bullying behavior before it starts. He hopes the conference is the first step in educating the public and getting the word out about the dangers of a push, shove or unkind text.
Rockefeller Urges Regulators to Investigate Gas Price Spikes
Senator Jay Rockefeller sent a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to use its full authority to make sure that American consumers are paying a fair price for gas. Gas prices have spiked recently, hurting families from coast to coast and threatening economic recovery. Since the FTC received new authority in 2007, it now has the necessary tools to protect consumers from artificial gas price hikes caused by fraud or market manipulation.
“Even a small gas price increase translates to significant costs for consumers in West Virginia and across America, including higher costs for food and other essentials,” Rockefeller said. “When gas prices rise, many people struggle to make ends meet, and must make difficult decisions about family budgets. Recently, the rapid spike in gas prices has caused more financial strain for already struggling Americans. The FTC should aggressively use all of its authority to make sure people are paying a fair price for gas by reducing the risk of fraud or deceit in the petroleum market. We must work to address problems that could wreak havoc on working families.”
According to AAA, gas prices have reached $3.65 a gallon in West Virginia, 77 cents more than the price from a year ago.
This year, Rockefeller has already taken multiple steps to address the rising cost of gas. On March 3, Rockefeller sent a letter to President Obama asking him to be prepared to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, should further supply disruptions occur, in order to reduce the burden on struggling Americans, and help stabilize our oil and gas costs. On March 16, Rockefeller sent a letter to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, pressing them to use their new authority in the Wall Street reform law to rein in market speculation, protect consumers, and help even out gas prices.
The text of the letter from Senator Rockefeller and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) from March 25 is as follows:
Dear Chairman Leibowitz and Commissioners Kovacic, Rosch, Ramirez, and Brill:
We are writing to inquire whether the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is fully utilizing the regulatory authority granted to it by Congress to ensure American consumers are paying a fair price for gasoline. We urge you to use this authority aggressively to ensure that recent crude oil market price spikes and volatility are not the result of manipulative practices or anticompetitive behavior.
As you know, volatile oil prices have recently driven gasoline and diesel pump prices above $4 per gallon in some regions. High prices are leading our constituents to again question whether widely fluctuating prices can be explained by supply and demand fundamentals. For example, December crude oil prices have varied from $85 per barrel in 2007, to $31 in 2008, to $73 in 2009, to $86 in 2010, with peaks at $147 in June 2008 and around $104 today. Meanwhile, a 20 percent spike in oil prices since the unrest in Libya began in mid-February coincides with Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showing that as of March 1st there has been a 25 percent spike in the number of oil futures contracts created by traders without a commercial interest in oil delivery. This finding is supported by data released by CFTC Commission Bart Chilton on March 15th which showed that hedge funds and other speculators have increased their energy market positions 64 percent since June 2008 to the highest level on record. While many businesses are likely engaged in legitimate hedging decisions, the increased market participation must prompt rigorous FTC oversight to ensure that all activity is consistent with a competitive market.
While some oil speculators may be taking advantage of Middle East turmoil, hardworking American families and businesses are footing the bill with more pain at the pump, higher food costs, and inflationary fears, all of which jeopardize our nation’s fragile economic recovery. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reported to Congress recently that “sustained rises in the prices of oil or other commodities would represent a threat both to economic growth and to overall price stability, particularly if they were to cause inflation expectations to become less well anchored.” And according to IHS economist Chris Christopher, every 24-cent increase in gasoline for longer than two years lowers U.S. employment by 410,000.
To protect the integrity of energy markets, family pocketbooks, and our economic recovery, it is critical that the FTC aggressively use all of the tools at its disposal to investigate and prosecute market manipulation. Fortunately, unlike during the oil price spikes of 2008, the Commission has historic new tools to combat any manipulative or deceptive conduct that has a “sufficient nexus” to wholesale oil markets, including such conduct in oil futures markets.
Congress vested the Commission with new oil market anti-manipulation authority in Section 811 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. § 17301) to combat fraudulent and manipulative conduct in increasingly volatile oil markets. The Commission stated in its final Petroleum Market Manipulation Rule that went into effect on November 4, 2009 that its authority reaches manipulative or deceptive conduct that occurs ‘‘in connection with’’ the purchase or sale of petroleum at wholesale, including such conduct in the futures market “provided that there is a sufficient nexus between the prohibited conduct and the markets for these products.” Specifically, the Commission’s final rule states that:
“…the Commission declines to adopt a blanket safe harbor for futures markets activities. Nonetheless, consistent with its longstanding practice of coordinating its law enforcement efforts with other federal or state law enforcement agencies where it has overlapping or complementary jurisdiction … the Commission intends to work cooperatively with the CFTC to execute the Commission’s objective to prevent fraud or deceit in wholesale oil markets.”
The Commission modeled its market manipulation rule after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) market manipulation rule. Like the Commission, FERC was given nearly identical market manipulation authority in the 2005 energy bill, and to date it has conducted 93 investigations resulting in 45 settlements totaling over $150 million in penalties. FERC’s final market manipulation rule empowered it to look at futures market activities that affect wholesale energy markets within FERC’s jurisdiction and its robust market monitoring division set up after Enron’s manipulations monitors futures markets on a real-time basis in close coordination with the CFTC.
It is critical that the Commission enforce its market manipulation rule with the same proactive aggressiveness that FERC employs, to deter manipulative behavior, prosecute bad actors, and draw a bright line to distinguish legal from prohibited behavior. We request that you provide us a detailed description of the following:
• The FTC’s efforts to enforce the Petroleum Market Manipulation Rule since it was finalized in 2009;
• The steps the Commission is taking and plans to take in response to recent price volatility in the petroleum market; and
• The FTC’s current and planned efforts to work with the CFTC and other relevant agencies to prevent fraud or deceit in the petroleum market.
As Chairman Leibowitz stated when the Petroleum Market Manipulation Rule was finalized, “This new Rule will allow us to crack down on fraud and manipulation that can drive up prices at the pump. We will police the oil markets – and if we find companies that are manipulating the markets, we will go after them.” The high gas prices that are hurting American families and businesses today represent the first major test of FTC’s ability to protect consumers in this market. We urge you to use the authority of the Petroleum Market Manipulation Rule aggressively in order to protect consumers from unnecessarily high and volatile gas and diesel prices.
Opens Friday, April 01, 2011 | Runtime: 1 hr. 33 min. PG-13 - Some violence including disturbing images, and for language
When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any he’s ever known, he learns he’s part of a government experiment called the “Source Code,” a program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. With a second, much larger target threatening to kill millions in downtown Chicago, Colter re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind the bombs and prevent the next attack.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright Director: Duncan Jones Genres: Action ThrillerSci-Fi ActionThriller
Opens Friday, April 01, 2011 | Runtime: 1 hr. 30 min. PG - Some mild rude humor
The battle for Easter is on! In HOP, Despicable Me’s Russell Brand voices E.B., the teenage son of the Easter Bunny. On the eve of taking over the family business, E.B. leaves for Hollywood in pursuit of his dream of becoming a drummer. Once there, he encounters Fred (James Marsden), an unemployed slacker with his own lofty goals. Feigning injury, E.B. persuades Fred to take him in, and Fred finds himself living with the world’s worst houseguest. Back on Easter Island, a power-hungry chick who has lived in the shadows for far too long has been plotting a coup to take over one of the biggest jobs in the world. Now that E.B.’s gone, he’s got his chance. As E.B. discovers who he really wants to be and who he’s meant to become, everything will lead him and Fred to an epic showdown to try and save Easter.
Cast: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins Director: Tim Hill Genres: Children’s/Family
Opens Friday, April 01, 2011 | Runtime: 1 hr. 42 min. PG-13 - Violence, thematic material, terror, brief strong language and frightening images
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey Director: James Wan Genres: Haunted House FilmHorror
G-Comm: Into the Darkness: Where Constitutional Illiteracy Is Leading Us
“Unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable. You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”—Richard Dreyfuss, Oscar-winning actor and civics education activist, on The Bill Maher Show, Nov. 26, 2006.
When Newsweek recently asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29% of respondents couldn’t name the current vice president of the United States. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why America fought the Cold War. More critically, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6% couldn’t even circle Independence Day (the Fourth of July) on a calendar.
Of course, civic and constitutional ignorance are nothing new with Americans. In fact, it is something that the public education system has been fostering for a long time. For example, a study in Arizona found that only 3.5% of public high school students would be able to pass the U.S. Immigration Services’ citizenship exam, a figure not significantly exceeded by the passing rates of charter and private school students, at 7% and 14%, respectively.
A survey of American adults by the American Civic Literacy Program resulted in some equally disheartening findings. Seventy-one percent failed the test. Moreover, having a college education does very little to increase civic knowledge, as demonstrated by the abysmal 32% pass rate of people holding not just a bachelor’s degree but some sort of graduate-level degree.
It is little wonder that a 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that fewer than one percent of adults who responded to a national poll could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment—freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and the right to petition the government. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpson television family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.
In a culture infatuated with celebrity and consumed with entertainment, it should come as no surprise that the American people know virtually nothing about their rights. They are constitutionally illiterate. “There was a depth of confusion that we weren’t expecting,” noted Dave Anderson, executive director of the museum. “I think people take their freedoms for granted. Bottom line.”
But it gets worse. Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment. Think about this for a moment. How could James Madison, who depended on horses for transportation in his day, have placed the “right to drive a car” in the First Amendment?
Educators do not fare much better in understanding and implementing the Constitution in the classroom. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut found that while educators seem to support First Amendment rights in principle, they are reluctant to apply such rights in the schools. They support severe restrictions on freedom by forbidding student distribution of political and religious materials, thus endorsing a hypocritical double standard where belief and action collide. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the zero tolerance policies that expel children from school for innocent acts and speech without a hearing and regardless of circumstances. This obviously creates confusion for students when it comes time to learn about the Bill of Rights.
Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.
Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that all citizens had rights that no government could violate—such as the right to free speech, the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents, the right to an attorney, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, etc. And if any of these rights were violated, the Founders (as we call them) believed that the American people had the right and the authority to resist government encroachment of their rights. Abraham Lincoln’s famous declaration in the Emancipation Proclamation that we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” means exactly what it says. The government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.
It was with those ideas in mind that our forefathers gave us the Constitution. As the Preamble proclaims:
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.
It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people…” This, in effect, makes “the people” the guardians of America’s future.
Thomas Jefferson recognized that an educated citizenry is the only real assurance that freedom will survive—a citizenry educated on the basic freedoms. Jefferson wrote: “I know of no safe repository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.” Jefferson wrote that pre-university education was to “instruct the mass of our citizens in…their rights, interests, and duties as men and citizens.” As for university education, Jefferson said it was “to form the statesmen, legislators and judges on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend.” Furthermore, “The People are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” But that’s where the problem arises for us today. Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
So what’s the solution?
Instead of forcing children to become part of the machinery of society by an excessive emphasis on math and science in the schools, they should be prepared to experience the beauty of becoming responsible citizens. This will mean teaching them their rights and urging them to exercise their freedoms to the fullest.
Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.
Anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.
If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, I agree with Richard Dreyfuss that the miracle that was America will become a “fable.” And the darkness of an authoritarian government will be inevitable. In fact, we have already travelled far down that road.
Thus, ignorant of the very basis of citizenship and overwhelmed by the informational glut of modernity, it is little wonder that many, ostrich-like, are allowing an out-of-control government to move forward unimpeded. Yet while most may feel snug and secure in their technological wombs, they are only temporarily keeping the wolf at bay. Hiding from reality is not the solution. In fact, non-participation by the citizenry only makes matters worse. “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote,” the drama critic George Jean Nathan once remarked. I would add that bad officials will run roughshod over citizens who are clueless.