civil discourse

“Of our thinking it is but the upper surface that we shape into articulate thought;
underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse lies the region of meditation.”

Thomas Carlyle


(big sister Alice with her boy friend Sonny / Julie Cook / 2018)

Civil discourse…
two words…
the first-word meaning—courteous and polite
the other word meaning—a conversation

Put them together and you have a ‘courteous polite conversation.’

Yet that is not exactly what we are witnessing taking place across this society of ours.

Firstly let’s take a look at our current protests emanating from within our schools.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it’s a good thing that our kids are upset over the escalating violence
taking place from within our schools—of which are, in actuality, their schools.

But let us be specific here…this violence we’re speaking of would be gun violence
and gun violence only.

It has nothing to do with the fighting, the rampant profanity, the disrespect,
the brawls, the knives, the unwanted sexual advances, the thefts or the bullying
that continues taking place…
all of which continues to happen on a daily basis in many of our schools across this nation…
nor does it really address the fact that many of these kids who are coming to school with
these guns are known to and by other kids…that no one necessarily sees the coming storm or
acknowledges a hand in the making of the storm is both problematic and disconcerting.

And granted that is not always the case, as we have sadly seen at schools such as Sandy Hook…
that these are not necessarily known kids on anyone’s particular radar.
In the case of Sandy Hook, we had an older teenager coming into an unsuspecting elementary school…

So not each shoe obviously fits every foot.

We are on a case by case basis.

We are also talking about frustrated minors..aka adolescents.

Adolescents, as we all know, is a time of an emotional roller coaster full of angst
and hormones.
Emotions run high, deep and quick.

When I was a student in high school, Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement had just hit
their zenith.
Protests, sit-ins, love-ins, demonstrations had all become standard words within the
vocabulary of our Nation.
We had witnessed college kids “expressing” themselves…
so naturally, high school kids felt equally as strongly yet were perhaps frustrated by the
inability to truly take part in the sweeping discontent as seen on many college campuses.

At the turn of the decade from the 60’s to the 70’s, I was in the 8th grade—
which was a part of our 8-12 high school.
A beloved teacher was fired for supposedly moonlighting as a bartender.

There was a walkout.

The principal came out of the school with a bullhorn—he told the disgruntled student body
that if they, the students, didn’t immediately return to class, there would be
disciplinary actions against those students insisting on continuing with the walkout.

Naturally, I went right back inside.

I didn’t want to get in trouble—not with the school nor with my parents who would be livid
if I decided to show my “butt” by being defiant and disrespectful to the rules and authority
of our principal and the school.

A couple of years later, during my senior year, I remember very clearly when the senior
class had prepared for some sort of no-show day…
The principal had gotten word of the senior class opting for a massive skip day so
he called in the class officers—of which I just happened to be vice president.
He told us, in no uncertain terms, that if we participated in the skip day—
there would be serious repercussions.

Now if this sort of thing happened today…the idea of a principal “threatening” a
group of students with repercussions for participating in a skip day…
well, there would be undoubtedly parents up in arms as lawyers would be circling
the wagons salivating to get involved…
Least of which would be the ACLU, who mind you, would be jumping on the bandwagon
sputtering nonsense about the civil liberties of students and threats against minors.

Our principal explained that we were the leaders of our class and that we were to set
an example of doing what wasn’t necessarily the popular thing but doing that which was
the right thing…
There were rules about skipping school and if we opted to skip…
well, there’d be penalties for our poor choices.

Needless to say, the four of us were in school that day,
along with a handful of other mindful students.

In the end, did I simply miss a good time or had I learned an important life lesson?
I would say that latter.

As a former high school teacher, I can honestly say that I appreciate the passion
many of our kids are displaying for wanting to take a stand against the gun
violence happening in their close-knit worlds.

But…

at the same time, our schools have rules about things such as disobedience,
defiance and rule-breaking…
where things such as walkouts and or demonstrations fall directly under said headings.

Schools should not be “punished” for maintaining a standard level of discipline.
If one system supports a national walkout—that’s fine…
Such being a school system’s prerogative.
Yet no one should punish or shame those schools or districts who decide to hold onto their
standards, rules, and approach to discipline versus participating in a walkout.

I was more than slightly incensed last evening when I heard an Atlanta lawyer interviewed
on the local news using his legal language insinuating that students had been
“pressured, intimidated and bullied” by school officials over their wanting to walk
out when the school had issued a ban on doing such.

If your school was one to opt out…well then…that’s that is it not?

We live with rules…whether we like it or not.
A civil society.

And our kids are just that…they are kids.
While we, in turn, are the adults.
Sometimes the responsibility of the care entrusted to us over our kids comes in the
form of rules, discipline and even tough love.
Adults are entrusted to make the rules…rules which are in place to help govern
a civil society.
And as adults, we are charged with the care of our students and children and the fact
that they must understand that we set rules for a reason.

Obviously, our legislators need to act…
And as adults, it is our responsibility to see to it that they do act—
and if we don’t like how they act…we therefore voice our objection and vote
them out of office.

Is it not our responsibility to support our school administrators who
need to be allowed to do their jobs—
of which…is to keep our kids safe, orderly and educated.

These moments, which we have been witnessing around this Nation of ours regarding the
disgruntlement our kids, are what we call “teachable moments”…
moments when its ok to deviate from the curriculum and lessons at hand as we address
a bigger issue.

But allowing the protests and defiance to take on a larger than life momentum,
as well as a life of its own, in turn, creates a disservice to each and every victim…

so…do we do our best to work toward a means of civil discourse
or do we simply allow our children to begin living as we adults are…
living by throwing civility, laws, and rules totally out the window as
the end means…
getting what it is we think we need and want by any raising the loudest and
most disruptive clamor—
Becoming a society that gets what it thinks it wants by making demands and
strong-arming any and all sense of order or civility…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

18 comments on “civil discourse

  1. atimetoshare.me says:

    Hear, hear, Yoda. Another case of things gone amok. Since my granddaughter is now a teen, I understand what the kids are angry about. The adults they’ve grown to trust are not dealing with the dangers they face by attending what should be a safe space. It’s easy for them to get caught up on thee protesting when it affects them personally. They do need to be heard, but have been influenced by activists who wish to stir things up to get attention. The problem is they aren’t following the rules. Old age problem with humanity as a whole. Good to see animals know how to get along.

  2. Most certainly agree with your post..but do want to say that adults should not leave adult work undone…the issue of gun violence should not have been left for kids to protest. Blessings today!

  3. @vapor_sage says:

    Sadly no one is outraged at the actual higher risk of injury or death, just getting to school.

    • it seems that outrage only comes on the heels of what the news focuses on and puts out there in our faces…all the other madness is simply left behind…there is so much to really be upset over regarding our kids, their safety, our schools, etc…but none of that gets any playing time…

  4. Lisa V says:

    Agreed. Our district has a policy of not doing anything that interferes with the school day (I’m paraphrasing) and I applaud them. In the middle school, my son said 11 kids walked out and were punished. My son, being the personality that he is, asked one of the boys (his friend) why he was walking out, and what the current laws were, and how he expected things to change by walking out (my son is 12, by the way) and he said it took the boy 10 minutes to come up with an answer that made no sense at all. I also saw a post on Facebook that mentioned if the walk-out was planned on a Saturday, how many students would actually show up? Good point. I applaud the students for having passion to want to change things, but I really liked the idea of a “Walk Up” instead of a “Walk Out.” I’m a slightly younger than you (GenX) and it must have been interesting to experience the civil disobedience of the 60s and 70s. Did it seem to be such a knee-jerk reaction as things are now with protests and walk-outs?

  5. You have said it all so well! Thank you! You can run for congress any time as far as I’m concerned, dear Julie. I’d work for your campaign. 🙂 Great post. I love the photo, too! ❤ ❤

  6. Wally Fry says:

    Julie for President!

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