Thinking of Others and the Future on This Holiday


May 31, 2010

We just heard that a crew member who had hoped to return to work with us this summer is facing some serious medical issues and will not be able to.

This young man, Peter, is a US Veteran and served in the Middle East.

His news that things were serious enough to send him out of state for more testing, that involve his brain, and possible treatment was worrisome. He asked us to keep him in our prayers. Although Peter doesn’t even know I am doing this I am asking that you also keep him, and all the others you might know who are in need too, in your prayers and kind thoughts. I firmly believe the energy we all generate will find him as he travels to the lower 48 for his medical needs.

My concern for Peter led me to something else that has me distressed, which is our lack of understanding of what and how our government works. Let me explain.

We were catching up on the news the other evening and caught the last part of an interview with the former Supreme Court Judge, Sandra Day O’Connor.

She is involved in a great project that draws attention to the need for American students to learn civics!!

The lack of teaching civics in school is a subject that has come up a number of times in our blog as comments concerning all sorts of subjects.

For those of you who might not have been taught Civics in school, the definition according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:

Date: 1886: a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens

It probably won’t surprise you how much Alaska, both on state and local levels, has not been held up lately as the best example of a government truly run in the best interests of its citizens.  All that got me wondering:  What if we followed Judge O’Connor’s example and saw to it that we began a new program with our middle schoolers, those in grades 6-8, and taught them civics?  Would some of the apathy, the widely-held view of rampant corruption, the misuse of tribal and local authority, and general negativity start to fade from our villages and cities?

Would our citizens start attending council, borough, city and state meetings feeling they could question things with some assurance they were correct to expect answers?

Would people start to call out our boards, assemblies, and legislators when they felt questionable things were going on?

If they did this, would they begin to feel a greater sense of control over their lives, villages and futures?

Would the numbers of alcohol and domestic abuse drop if our citizens felt more in control of their surroundings?

Judge O’Connor is spreading the idea that even something as simple as a computer game can help teach these civic principles to our kids.  It is a game that uses examples and simulates decision-making as a Supreme Court justice. Examples talk about basic things like school rules forbidding a boy from wearing a T-shirt depicting a certain music band.  The game can be found at and is part of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s web-based project to push civics education in the United States.

When I read that only one in seven Americans can name the Chief Justice of the highest court but two in three can name a judge on the TV show Idol, I was appalled!!

We are in trouble if our own citizens do not understand how our government works or why their being involved in it is vital.

How can we hold our leaders accountable and understand the laws that govern us if we do not have even the basics in civics?

So I got to wondering…maybe we could do this as an afterschool club, taught by concerned parents or volunteers, with some help.

Maybe this could even lead to debate clubs and other activities to help our kids move into the future better-prepared.

Ultimately, should we not honor the service of our American military veterans, like Peter, some who died for our country, to give us the rights and privileges of involvement in our governmental process?

Do we not owe it to ourselves, our kids and grandkids to take control over this gross lack of civic understanding?

As Alaskans and US citizens, it seems damn important we get a handle on this, and darn soon.

If nothing else, we should do it to repay those like Peter whose devotion to duty in service to our country guarantees that we CAN do it!!

~ Victoria Briggs


4 Responses to “Thinking of Others and the Future on This Holiday”

  1. Elsie Says:

    Good ideas all around, Ugavic.

    When you hear back from Peter, let us know, will you? Tell him someone in the lower 48 cares and hopes the medical news will be good, and he’ll be back home soon, better than ever. Tonight on this Memorial Day, I hold him close to my heart.

  2. Man_from_Unk Says:

    Ugavic, you are on the right track. Our citizens in general show that they lack an understanding of their “rights and duties of citizens”.

    Pay attention to what’s happening in Nome right now. A simple Electronic voting machine against hand counts. It looks like some of those ballots are slipping and sliding around. Nome might have to bring in the US Marshal and a troop of unbiased ballot counters for yet a THIRD hand count of the ballots for the Nome School Board Recall Election. It’s about Civics and the citizens rights to fair and equal representation on any board elected for “the people and by the people”. I don’t understand why this is a hard concept for some to grasp.

  3. ugavic Says:

    I am really saddened to see what is happening in our state when it comes to voting.

    Either people fail to take the time to vote or they make the effort and the system is all messed up.

    This is something we each have to take seriously and participate in. If not we might as well turn things over to those who will only serve themselves.

    Not much of a legacy for our future!

  4. Man_from_Unk Says:

    Man, you are not ah kidding ugavic when you said, “…we might as well turn things over to those who will only serve themselves.”

    You see it in just about every quasi-government group from Fish and Game Advisory Groups to the CDQ program.

    The scary thing about elections is exactly how you put it, “the system is all messed up.” I think it’s basically not “messed up” but that the Controllers interpret rules and regulations to their own benefit. Either that or they totally ignore the rules and hope that no one catches them in the act!

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