Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Heard America Singing...Slightly Off Key

Just when you wonder whether or not it makes sense to take out a second mortgage to send your kid to a private school, along comes a gem like we saw in Burlington Township just recently--a flock of uneasy elementary school students singing the praises of our sitting President as part of a celebration of Black History Month during February 2009.

It's great that we want kids to know who their President is--and to take pride in the fact that said President was elected courtesy of a democracy that has persevered through more than two centuries of change. There is nothing wrong with that--but I don't remember any paeans to Gerry Ford when I was growing up.

If you want to teach civics, teach the office, not the man. Let's try this same scenario in the opening days of the Clinton Administration--same schoolkids, same song. Now flash forward to that teacher, six years later, trying to teach that song while her students are asking her why the President was on TV last night saying he didn't have sex with somebody.

There's a reason you laud the office and not the man. The same democracy that gave us Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Adams also gave us Taft, Garfield, Pierce, and Harding--the latter four being as potent an argument for term limitations as you can find. The ideal of a presidency is pristine; the reality is that those who occupy the chair are human, and fallible.

Let's focus on the things that are going to make our kids leaders in the next generation: good values (taught at home), strong knowledge bases (built in schools), and the drive to creatively solve any problem they may encounter. It's a recipe that worked in 1809; surely it can succeed in 2009.