More civics, more civility says Dennis Ross

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross

The vitriolic presidential campaign and its controversies are due in a major part to the education system failing to retain one of its traditional and historical obligations, the teaching of civics, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, told a meeting of a Kiwanis Club in his hometown Thursday.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Ross said of the combative campaigns and crowds this year. “And the reason is that we don’t teach our kids — the next generation — civics and the political process.

“Charlotte and Baton Rouge have been with us, and that is not the way to process change, “he said. “There has to be a sense of civility (on both sides),” he said.

Ross, during his first term, 2011-2013, was a member of the Tea Party Caucus of the Republican-controlled House, which was often accused of not compromising or not working with then-Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. After the first term, he was no longer a member, adding he still believed in some of the group’s points.

But Ross is among several elected officials calling for a return to teaching the governmental and civic processes in school.

These subjects have largely been dropped in many schools to make way for more technical subjects without increasing the school year or for lack of funding. Still, they affect the way many understand government and dealing with one another, supporters say.

“In any relationship, we have to have give-and-take, but we don’t teach that anymore,” he said.

Ross often said where there is the teaching of the subject, the substance of government isn’t given to students, such as requiring a visit to a city commission meeting or a school board session.

Neither major party has a monopoly on the right way to do things, he said.

“I have many friends who are Democrats. My mother was a Democrat until the day she died. She always said that she voted for me, but I am not really sure,” he quipped.

It is crucial, he said, for the next generation to understand the process of government and civility toward each other. He said he is worried about what children are learning from this campaign year.

“If we have a fundamental understanding of the process (of government in a democracy), then we can go forward. I am encouraging students, teachers, school boards, and college professors on this subject,” he said.

Bill Rufty

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”


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