The Booster Shot Americans Need to Cure Incivility

Brooks and Capehart.  How many of you know either of these two individuals?

The PBS News Hour.  When was the last time you watched this broadcast?

For those of you who don’t know, back when there were three major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—there was the little engine that could:  the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).

PBS first broadcast its news show, The Robert MacNeil Report, back in 1975.  When reporter Jim Lehrer shared anchor duties with MacNeil, the show became the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Almost a decade ago, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the first all-female anchoring team.

Sadly, the PBS News Hour always finishes in fourth place behind the big three in the ratings race, but in terms of quality, it is number one.

To me, it has always been the most intelligent, balanced news program on the air.  If you are used to having animated images all around the frame on your TV screen, this is not the show for you.  This is the news in all its undressed staging, sometimes dry, that requires the listener to pay attention.  The pace is refreshingly deliberate.  The producers take time to inform the viewers, rewarding them with more information, less bells and whistles.  It is quite calming.

The highlight of the show for me has always been its final segment each week where two commentators share their differing views—one liberal, one conservative—on that week’s top news stories.  

Whether it was Mark Shields or David Gergen, or David Brooks or Jonathan Capehart, it is comforting hearing smart thinkers make sense of a troubling world.

Just because Brooks is a conservative and Capehart is a liberal has no bearing on their loyalty to a label.  Neither journalist is a mouthpiece of any political party or politician.  On any given Friday evening you can hear Brooks applaud Biden or Capehart chastise Biden. 

These two men with different views respect each other by not raising their voices or insulting one another.  On no other news program can you find such civility, decency and humanity. 

How refreshing is that?

It makes one believe in goodness, gives hope that we are not all doomed.  How wonderful our society would be if we just listened to each other and respected each other.  It really is all about sharing common values.

Watching Brooks and Capehart on the PBS NewsHour is a 15-minute booster shot that America somehow still has a chance of coming out of whatever mess we are in as a nation.

Back to School, Back to Parent Apathy

Imagine if schools made it incredibly easy for parents to attend the two main evening events each year—Back to School Night and Open House—by allowing them to do so from the comfort of their own homes.  How large the turnout would be!

Oh, wait a minute, that availability has already been in place for over a year via Zoom.

The result?  Lower turnout than when parents had to drive over to the school after dinner and walk from classroom to classroom.

At my son’s Back to School Night, there were on average five parents on the video board for each of the six classes.  And my son has four Advanced Placement classes where supposedly the most motivated students are and, one would think, the more involved parents are.

All parents had to do was stop bingeing on “Hacks” and take 90 minutes out of their lives to get to know their children’s teachers.  In other words, show some minor interest in their children’s education.

The conclusion to draw from such a low turnout is that a majority of parents are apathetic and/or lazy.

It’s surprising but not surprising.

If parents don’t care about their children’s education, think of other parenting areas where they come up short in.  I don’t know, things like being selfless, helping others, believing in God and in this country, and, yes, even wearing masks and getting Covid vaccines.

Already too many parents allow their children electronic devices at too early of an age, then look the other way at their children’s internet surfing habits, even allowing them to go into their own rooms, shut the door, and disappear for hours—completely unsupervised.

These children then grow up expecting to do whatever they want to do without barriers or consequences.

And all of society suffers when our culture overflows with these self-absorbed individuals.

Parents need to take a more active role in their children’s lives, starting with getting to know the adults who end up spending more time with their offspring than the parents do themselves:  the teachers.