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Civility 101

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“Nasty,” “unbecoming,” “appalling,” “unethical”—just some of the words used to describe the behavior of candidates on the campaign trail during the past presidential and congressional elections.  It was disconcerting to witness such conduct, which intensified in some instances as Election Day 2008 and 2010 drew closer.  Now, here we are, less than a year away from Election Day 2012 and it appears we’re in for another round of attack ads and objectionable rhetoric by candidates for the Oval Office.
Is it ever okay for public officials, or anyone for that matter, to behave unseemly?  Has incivility become the norm in this country?  I hope not, because there is nothing remotely becoming of discourteous conduct.   Nor do I think it’s too much to expect politicians and those vying for political office to exemplify statesmanlike conduct.   "What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions” (Aristotle).
In many school districts across the country, teachers have the additional responsibility of teaching children “character”. Character education curriculums provide lessons on character traits such as: respect—demonstrating high regard for authority and others; integrity—acting honorably; kindness—being courteous and treating others as you would like to be treated; and self-discipline—maintaining control of one’s emotions and behavior. Students demonstrating good character are rewarded for their behavior.

The fact that educators have to teach what I regard as Civility 101 is telling. Our children are the future.  We do them and our country a disservice if we fail to conduct ourselves appropriately before them.  American clergyman Charles R. Swindoll has been quoted as having said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Now that is something we all should be mindful of.


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