Johnson City Press: A civics class in a glass

A civics class in a glass

Johnson City Press • Jul 14, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Each summer for the past three, the Johnson City Press has photographed a group of kids doing what kids have done for generations – selling lemonade from a roadside stand.

But Ellie Ledbetter, June Copp, Kesnel Copp, Tyson Copp and Brin Copp have not been filling their piggy banks or spending their earnings on video games. Their sales and other donations from the lemonade stand on Sherwood Drive have gone to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

That’s why the sign on this year’s stand read “Lemon Aid” as opposed to just “Lemonade.”

We hope seeing children giving a little of their summer to help other children would bring a smile to our readers’ faces and warm their hearts. The nostalgia alone made the stand worth the space in our newspaper that first year, but the message is why we keep going back.

Children who learn to think beyond themselves at a young age are more likely to become empathetic adults. They will be more active in their communities, devote energy to just causes and challenge society to improve.

We are glad to see the state of Tennessee’s new law requiring students to pass a civics exam to graduate. Americans — not just young people – are woefully undereducated and complacent about government at every level, the responsibilities of citizenship and the rights afforded to every American. Yes, that’s every American — not just those who share your way of life or points of view.

Nothing illustrates Tennessee’s abysmal sense of civic responsibility more than our voting record. Just three-quarters of our eligible voters are registered. In the 2014 and 2016 midterm national elections, Tennessee was last and second to last in voter turnout with less than one-third casting ballots. Last November’s results, though, were much improved as 55.9 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls — a heated U.S. Senate contest being the inspiration. Not every election will have such a catalyst, though.

Let’s hope that as schools bolster instruction to help students pass the U.S. Civics Test, they can avoid politicizing what students learn along the way. There’s a fine line between civics and partisanship.

Meanwhile, seeing the Ledbetter and Copp kids out on Sherwood Drive again this year offers a little hope that the classroom is not the only place for civics lessons. It's a sweet one to boot.

Johnson City Press Videos