Elaine Harris Spearman Commentary: Character education missing from schools

Elaine Harris Spearman
Elaine Harris Spearman

Where do people go to learn to respect human life and to respect all people as human beings just as they are?

What has happened that any person who feels aggrieved, for whatever the reason, must resolve their personal conflict with violence.

The American public must come to grips with the massive wave of violence that is wreaking havoc upon everything. The violence has no boundaries. You name it: Churches, synagogues, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, parades, airlines, bus travel, night clubs and any public gathering that you can imagine.

The way that we pursue grievances in this country about electoral disputes and other matters of import is through the law and the courts. More than 50 lawsuits were filed regarding the election fraud lies by former President Donald Trump and his followers. The lawsuits were rejected by federal and state judges across the country.

In early October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Mike Lindell’s claim that voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election. The high court issued a brief order stating that it would not review a decision that allowed Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuits against the chief executive of My Pillow Inc. to proceed.

Because you believe it, does not make it so. It also does not authorize any person to use the Second Amendment as a sword and a shield to advance against the American system of government because it did not go your way.

Violence, primarily with the use of guns, is at an all-time high. Frustrated citizens have no inherent right to raise arms against the government, nor on their fellow citizens as they are going about their daily lives.

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The perpetrators of this massive wave of gun violence knows no race or age. Of the more than 900 people charged with crimes tied to Jan 6, 2021, not one has had a single charge dismissed by any state or federal court on the grounds that the Second Amendment or any part of the Constitution gives them the right to engage in violent insurrection against the government.

I for one believe that the vitriol and urging of the use of violence beginning in 2016 has much to do with shooters feeling free to take their anger and hatred out on large numbers of people, no matter the race or age.

When you have U.S. senators and representatives using the Second Amendment to block any form of responsible gun control, and control of citizenry access to military style assault weapons, it only justifies deadly political violence.

Clearly there is a lack of respect for human life. This lack of care includes shooters who disregard children caught in crossfires. The first finger to point is at the parents. Lack of parental guidance and control is a contributing factor to out-of-control young people.

The question then becomes what about those parents who are themselves ill equipped to provide children with the skills to navigate a changing landscape. When parents leave it to others to provide mentoring, a concern becomes those persons mentoring.

Churches and schools have always been the go-to place for learning — for character building and skill building. What we are seeing now is a growing divide in the mainline churches. The world of division that all of us live in has heavily invaded the churches.

Politics and division in the schools reflect the tumultuous times that we live in. School boards cannot become the bastions of discrimination or failures at recognizing the needs of all of the students. Those who have singular purposes do not need to serve on a school board that should recognize the diverse populations that are at risk.

One of the missing pieces in schools is character education. Teaching character may address many of the problems experienced today.

According to Marvin Berkowitz, a renowned character expert, “If we want a more just, equitable and compassionate world, we must educate more just, humane, ethical people. That’s what character education does; we need it now more than ever.”

When school-based character education is given priority, it improves conflict resolution and moral reasoning. It also aides in improving relationships.

The U.S. Department of Education hasn’t mentioned the words character, virtue, moral or justice in its last two strategic plans covering 2014 to 2022, according to a recent article from AL.com.

It is time to hold the Department of Education accountable for the poor strategic plans it develops. In the plan developed for 2002 to 2007, one of the six goals was to “develop safe schools and strong character.”

What happened?

Elaine Harris Spearman, Esq., a Gadsden native, is an attorney and is the retired legal advisor to the comptroller of the City of St. Louis. The opinions reflected are her own. 

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Elaine Harris Spearman discusses the need for character education