Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Media Rant: Citizenship 101

Last Thursday evening when I tuned in the local news on TV, one of the local stations began the broadcast by “teasing” the upcoming stories, including something like “and the nation pauses to honor the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country”, with a video clip of Vice-President Biden laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

A few moments later, one of the news anchors read the story, with the same phrase about soldiers who had “made the ultimate sacrifice.” I immediately posted a snotty status update on my FaceBook page, railing at the station and pointing out that Veterans Day is to honor ALL veterans, and MEMORIAL Day is to honor dead veterans. My parting shot on the status update was “Citizenship 101.”

But the children who write news these days never had Citizenship 101. We were too busy teaching them in our schools that they are all special; they are all wonderful young people; they can do or be anything they want when they grow up; and all sorts of other crappy, politically correct lies. The courses folks my age had in “civics” have long been abandoned in favor of…..well, in favor of other things.

So it’s likely that the person who actually wrote that tease and the Veterans Day story was never told the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and it’s further likely that their family members who served our nation in uniform, either in the big war (WW2) or VietNam are too far removed from the daily reality of these young people. They probably know someone who’s serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, but they never learned about the meaning of these national days of observation, and why they are so important to so many of us.

My snotty FaceBook status update drew plenty of response, much of it from friends who are, like me, “retired” from the broadcast news business, with comments about the “young people running the ship these days” and similar themes. These young folks have no idea about the sacrifices their grandparents made, and don’t realize at a gut level that unless those sacrifices had been made, we’d be speaking German or Japanese today.

Perhaps we could devote a few hours of precious classroom time in our public schools each year to re-educate our younger citizens about this nation’s history and values. It might be wise to explain again the meaning of the 4th of July, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day.


  1. Interesting essay, there.

    Forget, for a moment, the happy-happy feelgood stuff pushed in "schools."

    Timing counts: US history from 1600-1800 (in general terms) is covered in MIDDLE School; later US history is covered in HS.

    Thus, discussions of Constitutional provisions are, to say the least, stunted.

  2. I found myself noticing again, during Veterans Day week, how we have started referring to *everyone* serving in the military as a "hero." Seems to me this was not always the case. During Vietnam, Korea, and WWII, was the term "hero" reserved for those who performed some distinct act that would be described as heroic--falling on a grenade, wiping out an enemy platoon a la Sergeant York--or did we refer to every soldier generically as a hero?

    I mean no disrespect to people who are serving now or have served in the past. It's just that I suspect our definition of hero has changed, maybe as an offshoot of the support-the-troops meme that first emerged during the Gulf War. I wonder if anyone else has noticed it, or if I've hallucinated the whole thing, which is always a possibility.

  3. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has discovered that only one third of our citizens can name the three branches of the federal government. She has started a campaign to get civics taught in our nation's public schools. She has a website to educate our children,, which appears to be trying to educate the youngest Americans. I just looked at it, and it seems very interesting. I'm curious to hear if its successful...... the teaching on the site seems to be done by games. I was wondering if that is condoned by educators. I don't see why not.