SEVERE WX : Flood Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Why Parkland crisis continues to resonate

Whereas so many other school tragedies seem to play out quickly in the media, fading from one news cycle to the next,...

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 6:02 AM
Updated: Apr 11, 2018 6:02 AM

Whereas so many other school tragedies seem to play out quickly in the media, fading from one news cycle to the next, the story of Parkland, Florida, nearly two months ago continues to gain attention. One lingering impression for me is the remarkable eloquence and presence demonstrated by some of the students in front of a national audience. Over the past few weeks, they've played at the level of some national political figures, spoken out on national TV and helped organize a major demonstration in Washington.

What is little known is that the ability of some of them to perform so effortlessly stems, in large part, from the Broward County Public Schools' impressive debate performance program. All the middle schools and high schools in the county have a debate team, giving students a unique opportunity to research and publicly discuss issues of national importance, often from a perspective with which they personally might disagree.

Their demonstrated skills are vital anywhere, but they're especially vital in a democracy. A government of, for and by the people needs citizens who can consider a variety of arguments, weigh their strengths and weaknesses and come to an informed opinion. Broward County's debate program has shaped many of the Parkland students into exactly these kinds of citizens.

Are we giving other students the same opportunities, preparing them not just for a few weeks of activism, but for years as voting citizens on a wide range of issues critical to our republic?

Going by the numbers, it seems as though the answer is a resounding "no." The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress found that a mere 23% of students were "proficient" in civics. The trend holds true among advanced students as well. Average scores on the AP government exam were the fourth lowest of all the 45 AP exams offered by the College Board in 2016. And things don't get better when students go off to college: A much-publicized Brookings Institution report found that 62% of college students think a campus group hosting a controversial speaker is "legally required" by the First Amendment to counterbalance that speaker with one who holds an opposing view.

This is, to put it mildly, unacceptable. All the social media tools for these young men and women, our praise for their impassioned response to a tragedy -- it rings rather hollow when you consider how poorly the adults in charge have prepared them to assume the mantle of citizenship. If we truly want them to make a lasting and positive impact, we must take a serious look at the education system that has allowed a level of ignorance by many of their peers to go unchecked.

Thirty-five years ago, the Reagan administration released "A Nation at Risk," a seminal report on the state of education in this country. It brought many grim realities to our national attention: More than 10% of 17-year-olds were essentially illiterate, 40% were incapable of reading a text and making inferences and a mere 20% could compose a persuasive essay.

Most disturbing of all, however, were the implications of these realities for democracy. "For our country to function," the report observed, "citizens must be able to reach some common understandings on complex issues, often on short notice and on the basis of incomplete or conflicting evidence." Its findings made clear that the United States' education system was simply not up to the task of forging this common understanding.

Decades later, a simple scroll through Twitter or Facebook will show you that we are no closer to being able to reach this consensus than we were then. Indeed, we are arguably even farther from it. From 1976 to today, the percentage of the voting-age population that actually votes has stagnated. And, thanks to the threat of "fake" news, hyped or not, we are less and less able to discern what the truth is and how it should affect our decisions in the ballot box.

A recent study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers revealed that accurate news stories are disseminated about six times more slowly on Twitter than fake news. Fake political news was especially pernicious, reaching twice as many people as other, nonpolitical news -- and reaching them three times faster than other news reached half that number of users.

This failure may be due in part to the lack of a unifying vision for our education system as a vital part of preparing students to become engaged members of civic society. In 2015, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined the mission statements of the biggest school districts in the country. More than half -- 59% -- lack a reference to citizenship or civics. By failing to prepare them to make choices as citizens, we're failing to prepare them for a role they will play for the rest of their lives.

If the past few weeks have shown us anything, they have shown us that students are eager to make the most of those privileges. We, however, have not been on a broad scale eager to help them do so responsibly. It is time we take our responsibility as seriously as they do theirs. Another national conversation on education reform is long overdue.

Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 42°
Kokomo
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 28°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 36°
Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 42°
Danville
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 44°
Frankfort
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 29°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 29°
Monticello
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 40°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 40°
Logansport
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 32°
Warmest day since November ahead Monday.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 666516

Reported Deaths: 12726
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion912711659
Lake48687890
Allen36102644
Hamilton32445398
St. Joseph30306514
Elkhart25510420
Vanderburgh21326382
Tippecanoe20220205
Johnson16466363
Porter16068281
Hendricks15944302
Clark12060182
Madison11799323
Vigo11685234
Monroe10419164
Delaware9891179
LaPorte9831199
Howard9112201
Kosciusko8597111
Bartholomew7522147
Hancock7462134
Warrick7451153
Floyd7263173
Wayne6661192
Grant6462158
Boone616691
Morgan6129128
Dubois5936112
Dearborn551270
Cass5485100
Marshall5451105
Henry542995
Noble513178
Jackson465567
Shelby463391
Lawrence4195113
Gibson405185
Harrison403265
Clinton397553
Montgomery391684
DeKalb387478
Miami358263
Knox357885
Whitley351238
Huntington349477
Steuben340055
Putnam333960
Wabash333176
Ripley327962
Adams325449
Jasper319143
White298152
Jefferson296274
Daviess285996
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261432
Wells259075
Scott251850
LaGrange242470
Clay241644
Randolph226077
Spencer219430
Jennings216744
Washington213027
Sullivan203739
Fountain202842
Starke189951
Owen183654
Fulton179737
Jay178728
Carroll176919
Perry174036
Orange171451
Rush165622
Vermillion161543
Franklin159935
Tipton149541
Parke140216
Pike128533
Blackford120627
Pulaski107644
Newton96832
Brown95340
Benton92413
Crawford92213
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events