Teaching civics, economics, ethics will make better citizens

Having read that the State College Area School District is planning to add 54 minutes to the school day, I’d like to suggest a way to make good use of that extra time. It’s my contention that there are three basic areas of instruction sadly neglected in U.S. schools: 1. Civics, 2. Economics and 3. Ethics.

Regarding the first of these: We seem to have produced a populace with little knowledge of how our republic works and why it was designed with a constitution, a Bill of Rights with a means of adding amendments, and a three-way balance of power to prevent abuses from any one of the three bodies (executive, legislative and judicial.) If it were a true “democracy” — that is, one person, one vote — the need for an educated public, willing to take on the serious responsibilities of self-government, would be even more crucial.

As for economics: With our national debt increasing exponentially every year, it’s no wonder so many folks find it hard to live within their means, easy credit being the norm. The principles of economics, taught age appropriately from the early grades through high school, might impress our future generations with the benefits of personal fiscal restraint — much to the dismay of credit card companies.

Finally, with regard to ethics, isn’t it time to acknowledge that certain rights and wrongs are not relative, but unchanging and universal? Studying ethics — again, age appropriately — should lead to a more civil and cooperative society. For example, I recently heard biographer David McCullough interviewed, and he mentioned two primary values worth encouraging and upholding: honesty and compassion.

Apparently, our school district’s elementary teachers want the extra 54 minutes for “core instruction” (which has its own promoters and opponents). Yes, academic basics are important for success in life; but attention to civics, economics and ethics would help us be better citizens of the United States of America.

Dorothy Lutz lives in State College.