Six Cultural Beliefs to Live By

14 Apr. 2004

Transcript

Six Cultural Beliefs to Live By


Sister Woodhouse:

Thank you, Larry.  We are hand-holders.  Sometimes when I’m nervous it’s a death grip, but we do hold hands.  I want to thank the choir.  Honestly, music to me brings the Spirit into a meeting.  I love music and, you know, you’re lucky that I don’t just start singing along with you because it’s just so beautiful and so fun.
Welcome, students.  I wanted to tell you, as we started this new school year, the President had a fall workshop for all the faculty and staff—basically, everyone that works within these walls.  And he titled it “Cultural Transitions—from Good to Great.”  We had a facilitator come and help us define our cultural beliefs.  After much soul searching, tough questions were asked and answered, opinions given and debated, and there was a consensus, a coming together of these cultural beliefs.  Not an easy task, you might say, with all of the diverse minds and backgrounds of all those of us who work within these walls.  But surprisingly, it was wonderful to see how similar our thoughts, our feelings about the College were.
Now why am I so surprised?  When you ask in all sincerity for the Spirit’s guide and attendance in all your doings, you become “determined in one mind…in one heart, united in all things,” as stated in 2 Nephi 1:21.  So here are our cultural beliefs—this is what we came up with.  Now if you ask any teacher, any bookstore manager, the financial aid administrator, cashier—anyone who works here—they should be able to respond to what our culture is here, and what we believe with these six statements:
  • “Do Right.  I will do the will of Heaven to bless the youth of Zion.”  You should be glad we picked this one.  Listen to what we decided—“I will do the will of Heaven to bless the youth of Zion.”  Guess who that is?  That is you.  We want to bless you.
  • “Champion Every Student.  Help every student reach their full potential.”
  • “Value Others.  I show gratitude for the work and contribution of others.”  That of course includes everyone.
  • “Counsel Together.  I counsel with others and consider all viewpoints before acting.”  
  • “Be Accountable.  I take responsibility for supporting decisions made, achieving results and reporting progress.”
  • “Measure Success.  I value and use measurement to achieve strategic initiatives.”
Now this was for those of us who work here—faculty, staff and everyone who works here.  Brother Craig Nelson, vice president of student affairs, and a myriad of other titles—I can’t give you all of them, he’s way too busy—anyway, he brought you on board.   Not just the faculty and staff, but you, our students, as well, so that we can all be, with the Spirit’s guidance, “determined in one mind, in one heart and united in all things.”  So here’s how Brother Nelson defined the LDS Business College student cultural beliefs, and I think you all got a card as you walked in that gives you these, and also faculty and staff have a card for them.  So these are the students’ cultural beliefs.  You can read them as we go along.  I will be discussing the first three.  So I’ll start with:
  • Do Right.  I honor my commitments. 
That covers a lot.  You made a covenant with the Lord at baptism; you probably committed to your mom and dad that, since they’re supporting you here at the College, that you’d do well in your studies.  The thing I want to emphasize today is your commitment to the Honor Code you signed.  It says a lot about you, how seriously you take your word.  If you say you do something, and sign it and put your good name to it, that you are committed, and you will do it.  Read the Honor Code again.  Understand it.  Be committed to it.  And you will recognize if we all honor our commitments, it takes us from being just good to [being] great. 
The Lord says in D&C 82:10, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”  I, for one, when I get on my knees in the morning and ask for help and guidance for the day from the Lord, I want to have done my part.  “Keep my commandments,” so the Lord is bound in love to hear and answer our prayers.
  • Champion Every Student.  Help others reach their full potential.
How do you do that?  Jacob says, “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.” (Jacob 2:17)  Now, Jacob was warning against pride in this scripture.  He also says that “after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good.” (Jacob 2:19)  May I substitute “knowledge” for “riches” at this point in your life?  You will obtain knowledge if you seek it, with the intent to use knowledge to do good—not to be prideful and say, “Look what I know and you don’t.”  Sometimes, because we receive grades, others’ failures make us feel we look better.  That is not what we want at LDS Business College. 
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, in a talk given in a CES fireside, said, “Some mistake the Church [and I’m going to say LDSBC] for a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things and think perfect thoughts and feel perfect feelings.”  Doesn’t that just sound so nice?  He says, “May I quickly dispel such thoughts?  The Church [LDS Business College] is a place where imperfect people gather to help strengthen each other as we strive to return to live with our Heavenly Father.”
He also said, “The Church is a mutual improvement society, with a goal to help every son and daughter of God return to His presence.  The way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask yourself, ‘How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential?  Do I support the Church or do I tear them down?’   If you are tearing others down, you are tearing down the kingdom of God.  If you are building others, you are building the kingdom.”
So our cultural belief is to champion each other, or build each other up.
  • Value Others.  I respect different viewpoints and cultures.
I quote the scripture, “Go and do thou likewise,” found in Luke (10:37).  And I did that because of the parable.  It’s at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  When Jesus told this parable, he used the Samaritan as the hero.  We know there was great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans at that time.  Elder M. Russell Ballard, in his talk, “Doctrine of Inclusion,” states:
“His [Jesus’] deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors; that we should love, esteem, respect and serve one another, despite our deepest differences, including religion, politics and cultural differences.”
Elder Wirthlin in his talk, “Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life,” states:  “Every one of us will travel different roads in mortality.  We will each progress at different rates.  Temptations that afflict your brother may not trouble you at all.  Never look down on those who are less perfect than you.  Never be upset because someone can’t speak as well as you, can’t read as well as you, can’t serve as well as you, can’t sew, hoe or glow as well as you.”  I love the way he put that.
Now, I’m not saying that you should associate in any relationship that would put you at spiritual risk.  What I am saying is, get to know each other.  Value each other.  Respect each other’s differences and build on each other’s strengths. 
I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer, and I know He would want us to love one another.  Do right.  I honor my commitments.  Champion every student.  I help others reach their full potential.  Value Others.  I respect different viewpoints and cultures.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 
President Woodhouse:
Isn’t she wonderful?  You know, when I was in college, I was friends with her big sister.  And one day, her big sister brought the little sister with her to study, who was in high school.  Now, I was kind of interested.  I was getting my masters degree, and she was in high school.  I talked to her sister about this—her older sister—and I said, “You know, I’m kind of interested here.  How do you think we can work this out?”
She said, “You come over to my house one night and we’ll study together.”  And so we did that, and invited Sytske to come study.  And she wondered why this returned missionary who was graduated from college was over studying with them.  And anyway, it all worked out.  So if you get the Spirit, just go after it, and look what you might end up with.  She’s been a terrific companion.  We’ve done so many great things together. 
She talked about our cultural transition.  This has been a great experience the last few weeks, as we’ve gone through, with the faculty and staff, a cultural transition.  And now we’re beginning on a cultural transition with you, the students.  Now why would we do this?  Is it necessary?  Maybe not, but we think it’s a good thing to do.
As I look out over this audience, I am absolutely thrilled because I see beautiful young people who are here, you’re here for a specific purpose--you’re here to learn.  So I’m going to ask you to ask yourself life’s three most important questions. 
First of all, who are you?  Think about it.  Define that, and take that a step further and define who you want to be.  Where do you want to go?  Where do you want to be in five years?  Now, let us help you get there.
What’s the purpose for you being on earth?  Now, that’s a little bigger than just who you are.  But it’s also important for you to know why you’re here.
And number three, are you here to do something, or are you just here to have something to do?  Now think about that for a minute.  If you want to accomplish something in your life, you’ve got to set goals, you’ve got to do something about it, and you have to achieve it. 
I went to a conference where we were talking about—and these are a couple of slides I brought from the conference—the four generations that we’re dealing with, that are on earth today.  My generation is that very first one, called the Traditionalists.  And things are a little different in our cultures, different than the way we grew up.  Look down at some of the technology, and I think I’ll dwell on that for a minute. 
When I was a young man, I remember—we didn’t have TVs, but I remember my grandfather, you know, who had been through the second World War and the first World War—every day when I would go over to his house, he was always sitting there next to the radio.  He wanted to hear the news.  He wanted to find out what’s going on in the world.  And he used to always listen to the radio, and he used to always tell us kids to be quiet, because he wanted to hear the radio.  Now think how much different that is than today.  We actually started out, they didn’t even have refrigerators.  They had ice boxes, and you know, you’d put ice in the top and it would keep things cool for a while. 
Go on to the next group, which are the Baby Boomers.  I don’t know if any of you will remember this, but I can remember when we got our first telephone in our house.  It was a four-party line.  Now what did that mean?  That meant four other families on the block shared that one telephone line with you.  And you’d have to organize your time into blocks on when you could use the telephone.  Is that different than today?   
Now we move on to the Baby Busters, and that’s the group who were born in 1965 to 1976.  I think most of you students are probably in that last group, which we call the Millennials, the Gen-Y'ers, the Net Generation, the Echo-Boomers.  Lots of names for your generation.  But look how things have changed, and it’s just a short period of time, just in that many years. I can remember meeting with our technology people, and I still remember the day when we did phone messages, we used to use these little pink pads of paper, and we’d write on them and we’d pass them around, about who had called—and one day, I think Brent Cherrington came to me, and he said, “You know, there’s this thing they’re starting.  It’s called the Internet.”
And I said, “Explain what that means.” 
“Well, right through our computer we can talk to each other, and we can put phone messages through the computer.”
I said, “Gosh, we have to do that.  Let’s get started on that.”
So we did.  Now you students are getting instant messaging, you’re doing text messaging.  In fact, people have told me—and I can’t do this—but people have told me you can text message in your pocket with a telephone.  Now, that’s a phenomenon.  I can’t do that, but a lot of you can. 
So our values—our values are a little different.  If you look at this, my generation—they called it the loyal generation.  Honor was the big thing.  Your word was your bond, those types of things.  And look who our heroes were.  Our heroes were John Wayne.  Any of you remember John Wayne?  He was the man, you know.  But look how we move through the generations to this generation.
Who are some of the—I don’t know whether we call them heroes—we’re calling them influential people.  But the people you read about in the newspaper every day are Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, you know.  I don’t think they’re the finest examples for your generation, but they’re out there, and so you have to deal with that.  And you have to make a choice.  Do you want to go that direction, or do you want to go this direction.  You really do have to choose.  And so that’s why I say set your goals out there and then work backwards. 
Let me tell you a little story about Sir Christopher Wren.  He was an architect that lived several hundred years ago in Europe, and he actually was responsible for building some of the great cathedrals of Europe.  He was the architect.  And he decided to go around and talk to some of the workers.  He wanted to see what their feelings were; how they felt about what they were doing.  So he walks up to one of the workers and says, “What are you doing here?”
And this young man said, “I’m pounding on a rock.”  And that didn’t inspire him a whole lot. 
So he goes to the next one.  He says, “What are you doing here?”
He answered, “Well, I’m making two rupees an hour.”  That was what was important to him at the time.
And he goes to the third, and the third says, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a magnificent cathedral.”  Now that was the answer he wanted to hear.  Someone who was on the same page as he was—he being the architect, they being the worker, but they had the same vision, the same goal.
That’s what we’re trying to do here.  So I’m going to ask you a question, a very simple question.  Is good good enough?  We saw on that very first slide, we used the words “Good to Great.”  We did not create those words.  Those words were used by Jim Collins, who wrote the book Good to Great. He was a professor at the Stanford Business School.  Then he left to be a consultant for business and, in reading his book you learn some great things.  You learn that good is not good enough.  Because if you’re good, that means you think you’ve gone as far as you’re going to go, and you’re a little bit complacent about it.  You’re just fine.  Everything’s going well; you get up in the morning, you go to bed at night, you do your job. 
But that is not good enough.  If you want to be great, you have to make a transition; hence, we decided to do a cultural transition for the College.  And I might say it’s actually being done all over the Church, because the Church is changing at a very rapid rate.  Our facilitator at the time told us that his responsibility and his team’s responsibility is to help the leaders of the Church as the Church grows from 13 million, where it is today, to 50 million people.  Now that’s a huge, a giant leap forward, and it requires a different culture.
Here’s a quote from him:  “How do you get to greatness?  Well, it’s discipline.  You have to have discipline about your thoughts, about your actions, about your principles.  You have to know who you are.  You have to know where you’re going, and you have to realize that you’re not just here taking up space.”
I went to a retreat—the Utah Campus Compact is an organization that we belong to, and all thirteen colleges and universities in the State of Utah are members of the Utah Campus Compact.  Several of you students will have a chance to be leaders in that organization.  We had a retreat a few weeks ago, and this was one of the things that was posted on the door as we walked in:  “There is no power for change greater than a community that discovers what it cares about.”
Now those of you who have something to write with, think for a moment.  What do you care about?  Write something down.  What do you care about?  Because whatever you care about is what’s going to facilitate change in your life.  If you care about something more noble, that’s the direction you’re going to go.  If you care about something that is not so noble, that’s the direction you’re going to go.  So by writing this down, what you care about, you are choosing your future, and you can see the future by looking at the page.
I’m going to give you a homework assignment to go along with that.  Now you just did that.  This is your homework assignment for tonight.  If you care about things that are above yourself at this point in time—there are things that you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet accomplished—I would suggest that you’re going to have to change some things.  That’s why we call it cultural shift.  You have to change from what you’re doing to the things that you should be doing.  And therefore, you have to stop some things, and you have to start some things.  So I’m just going to give you one example. 
I think I’ll ask for a raise of hands.  Have any of you ever been pressured by your friends to do something that you didn’t want to do?  Raise your hand.  Look at that.  I see almost every hand going up.  Stop doing that.  Stop yielding to pressure and start demonstrating honesty and integrity.  Now what does that really mean?  I’m going to read you a story.  I actually got this story at a Boy Scout conference over here at the Salt Palace. One of the speakers was Bob Evans from Fox 13 News.  You’ve probably seen him.  And this is the story that he told, and I asked him if he would send me a copy, and he did.  True story—not his story, but a story about someone that he was reading about:
“As a high school coach, I did all that I could to help my boys win their game.  I rooted as hard for victory as they did.  A dramatic incident, however, following a game in which I officiated as a referee, changed my perspective on victories and defeats.  I was referee in a league championship basketball game in New Rochelle, New York between New Rochelle and Yonkers High.  New Rochelle was coached by Dan O’Brien, Yonkers by Les Beck.  The gym was crowded to capacity and the volume of noise made it impossible to hear.  The game was well-played and closely contested.  Yonkers was leading by one point, as I glanced at the clock and discovered there were thirty seconds left to play. 
“Yonkers, in possession of the ball, passed it off, shot, missed.  New Rochelle recovered, pushed the ball up the court, shot.  The ball rolled tantalizing around the rim and fell off.  New Rochelle, the home team, recovered the ball, tapped it in for what looked like a victory.  The tumult was deafening.  I glanced at the clock and saw that the game was over.  I hadn’t heard the final buzzer because of the noise.  I checked with the other official.  He could not help me.
“Still seeking to help in this bedlam, I approached the timekeeper, a young man of seventeen.  He said, ‘Mr. Covino, the buzzer went off as the ball rolled around the rim before the final tap-in was made.’ 
“I was in the unenviable position of having to tell Coach O’Brien the sad news.  ‘Dan,’ I said, ‘Time ran out before that final basket was tapped in.  Yonkers has won the game.’”
“His face clouded over.  The young timekeeper came up and he said, ‘I’m sorry, Dad.  Time ran out before the final basket.’ 
“Suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, Coach O’Brien, his face lit up, said, ‘That’s okay, Joe.  You did what you had to do and I’m proud of you.’
“Turning to me, he said, ‘I’d like you to meet my son.’”
Could you stand up to that?  Just think of that young man.  All he would have to do is say no.  So our fourth cultural belief is:
  • Counsel Together.  Learn from others.
We do something here called collaborative learning.  You’ll do this in your classrooms, where you will work together.  We hear you.  Remember, two minds are better than one.  Instead of accusing people, why don’t you go around trying to catch someone doing something right?  And when you do, counsel with them.  Befriend them.  Let them be your example. 
The Nephites, when they decided to separate from the Lamanites, had to make some decisions.  So I’m just going to draw a little parallel universe here, from 2 Nephi 5.  They had to make a decision, and what did they do?  They counseled together.  They counseled together; they decided to call the name of their place Nephi, and they decided to call themselves Nephites.  But they did this by counseling together.
  • Be Accountable.  I take responsibility for my obligations as a student.
Now when you leave today, we’re going to give you a card that we got when we did our cultural transition.  On one side, it says, “Below the Line”; on the other side it says, “Above the Line.”  Well, what is the difference?  Let me give you some examples.
Some of the “Below the Line” excuses—and this really works.  I carry these cards around, so we’ve stopped arguing about everything.  When we’re talking, we just hold up our card.  “Dear, that was below the line.”  Okay, let’s move it to above the line.  It really works.  Some of the excuses for being below the line: 
  • To ignore it or deny it.  “I didn’t do it.  It must have been Joe, over there.  Not me.”
  • “It’s not my job.”  Have you ever heard that?  That’s the one that tires me the most, when people say, “It’s not my job.”  Because all that means is that they’re not taking responsibility for anything.
  • Or you point the finger.  I get in meetings when this happens.  We deal with a lot of Church entities here—other people do the yard, other Church entities provide food for us, provide the dorms for us, a lot of things.  And in some of our meetings, I can tell you, we sit there and do this.  And I try to cut through that very quickly.  It doesn’t do anybody any good to say, “Well, that person should have done it, or that person should have done it.”  The point is, something should have been done; let’s get the job done.
  • Or, confusion.  Just saying, “I’m confused.  Just tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it.”
  • Cover your tail.  You know, that’s a waste of time.  Some people do that, but it’s a waste of time.  What that means is, you’re worried about what somebody might say, so you sit and write…you watch people, and when they make a mistake, you write it down, you put it in a little file in your drawer in case you ever need it to use against them. 
These are all Below the Line.  And probably the worst one is just to procrastinate.  Just to not do anything, just to wait.  Wait and see what happens. 
Okay, let’s get “Above the Line.”  It’s really very simple.  It’s hard to do, but the words are simple.  First of all, you have to see it.  You have to decide what it is.  You have to own it.  That means you take the responsibility yourself.  And then, probably with the help of others, you solve it.  You solve the problem.  You set up a plan.  You set up a solution.  We do this every day.  And then you just do it.  You just do it, and you make sure that it happens.
I’m just going to touch on the Honor and Dress Code.  Sytske has brought that up, and you know, what I see here is wonderful.  We have concerns about the way students dress.  Now you’re all dressed appropriately, the ones that I can see.  But on a regular school day, that’s not always the case.  I’m asking you, and I’ll ask you now, to step it up.  We’re going to try to work with your student leaders and decide how together we can just step it up, and to be accountable.  Think of some things, as you’re stepping it up.  When you’re sitting in class, look at yourself and say, “If I were going out on a career interview right after this class, how would I be accepted?” 
The business community has gone several ways with dress codes.  I can tell you that.  I first joined the IBM Corporation.  Back in the 1960s  you could see somebody from IBM coming a block away, because they were always wearing a white shirt, a blue suit, wing-tip shoes.  It was almost like the uniform.
And then it kind of swung back the other way; they kind of dressed down a little.  I can tell you now it’s come back, and the business community dresses for success, and that’s the code word we ought to use here.
Here’s a quote from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, who’s one of the Presidents of the Seventy.  He was also in our prior stake.  He says, “If one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them.  Absent a feeling of reverence, he or she will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct.”  I’m just warning you, be careful.  Be careful about this.  How you dress affects how you act and the opposite is also true:  how you act affects how you dress.  So, let’s step it up together.
Another…from the same scripture.  I’m just following the same scripture in 2 Nephi 5:  “It came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.” (v. 17) They were accountable all the way along.  They made it happen.
Measure Our Success is the sixth cultural belief which was written down.  
And I took the example about where the Nephites built the temple similar to Solomon’s Temple, and “the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” (2 Nephi 5:16) So as you measure yourself, ask yourself that question:  “Was the work that I did today ‘exceedingly fine’?”
How can we measure our success?  I’ve often said that everything I ever needed to know in life I learned in Primary.  That is:  Do what is right and tell the truth.  I lean back on that all the time.  If you do those two things, you’re going to be successful in life. 
I was going to ask one of you students to stand up and recite the 13th Article of Faith.  I learned it in Primary, but I can’t recite it today.  But I wanted to close with that.  “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, we seek after these things.”
We would hope that you seek after those things.  We do, and we hope you do, and we hope that together we’re going to have a wonderful, wonderful year together.  I want to leave you my testimony that I know that Jesus is the Christ.  I know that we have been given this great opportunity to come to earth at this time—a time when there’s a lot of tumult in the world, and I guess there always will be.  But together, we can succeed together.  We have the gospel that we can grab on to.  We have our leaders telling us which directions we should go.  I want to leave you with my testimony that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet of God.  Fortunately, I get to meet with him on a monthly basis, along with the other presidents of BYU and Seminaries and Institutes, where we discuss what is happening within the Church Educational System.  We discuss it together.  He loves you.  He cares about you.  For those of you who have heard about our dedication of this building, and when he spoke—his parents, in fact, met at LDS Business College. 
I want you to know that I love you.  I know that Sytske loves you, and I know your teachers love you.  I share this with you, and I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 
© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Do What You Are

14 Apr. 2004

Transcript

Do What You Are 


It is indeed a pleasure and an honor for me to be with you today. I usually type these Devotional talks, not give them. I must say, I was astonished when I received a call from President Woodhouse informing me of this award.
I’m certain the selection committee decided to overlook my accounting grade when they were considering me for this award. But I want them to know that I did finally learn how to do a spreadsheet correctly while working for a tax accounting firm for 15 years.
I am truly an ordinary woman who had the good sense to attend LDS Business College where I took the first step in creating a firm educational foundation for what has transpired in my life. One of the most important purposes of a college education is to prepare men and women to be responsible and intelligent leaders and participants in the lives of their families, in their Church, and in their communities. LDS Business College provides the resources and instruction to prepare students for life’s challenges, in both a career-oriented and spiritual way. The business world today is looking for people with principles and integrity. Every employer should have confidence that a graduate of LDS Business College possess these qualities.
It was 36 years ago that I was where you are today. As I was graduating from high school, I had to make a decision about continuing my education. It was difficult. I knew that marriage and family come first, but I was also aware that the Church has consistently urged young women to seek education and prepare for their careers. I did not choose marriage or education, I chose marriage and education. Did I want to go to a four year college, or invest two years in obtaining an associate degree in a business-related field?
In Proverbs 23:12, I found great counsel: “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.” An education provides enrichment, fulfillment, vision, teaching, learning, and understanding. It opens doors to better employment opportunities.
President Hinckley has said: “You belong to a church which espouses education…. Train yourselves to make a contribution to the society in which you…live. There is an essence of the divine in the improvement of the mind. ‘The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth’ (D & C 93:36). ‘Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection’ (D & C 130:18). … Education is an investment that never ceases to pay dividends of one kind or another.”i
Education is a continuous process of growth as we go through the experiences of life.
In an articles published in the Ensign in December, 1980, entitled “Education without a Classroom,” the author talks about continual learning: “Our Heavenly Father has blessed us with the resources we need to continue learning all our lives. He has given us brains with infinite capacity, a world too complex to ever bore us, the freedom to pursue our own interests, and the ability to structure our own time. All we need to do is take advantage of the possibilities that daily surround us.”
With the help and encouragement of my parents and a kind and loving Father in Heaven who listened to my countless prayers asking for guidance, I chose to enroll here at LDS Business College. What could be better—as the Mission Statement reads: “…a spiritually-grounded career education founded on the divine doctrines and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” A school that offered a career-based education and spiritual enlightenment. My parents were pleased that I would be in such a good environment. As you go out into the business world, you will truly come to appreciate the close educational and spiritual environment this college provides.
I remember being excited and somewhat apprehensive as I began taking courses here. I was on a “no nonsense mission” to “get in and out” with an associate degree. I took classes in the morning and worked part-time in the afternoon. I remember parking was a real problem. Is it still a problem? It won’t be after the new campus is built. Weather permitting, I studied out on the front lawn and as I pass here, I see that is still happening. I recall, we didn’t have a cafeteria—only vending machines. Institute classes were wonderful—a spiritual diversion from the technical environment.
I remember great friends—many from Idaho. I noted from the Pathways publication that as of the fall semester of 2003, there were 284 international students from 49 foreign countries attending classes here, which makes up 22.5 percent of the total student population. It seemed to me, back in my LDS Business College days that there were that many students here from Idaho! What a great multi-cultural student body you have. What a great opportunity to learn from one another.
I remember classes being small, with teachers who were willing to give individual attention as they saw the need. I remember taking endless shorthand dictation. (Most of you here probably don’t even know what shorthand is). You’d be surprised how I have used that ability in many ways throughout my life. I remember countless typing classes where I would say to myself as I was typing, “Now don’t make a mistake!” In those days, we couldn’t make mistakes. It was too hard to correct them! When I graduated in 1968 with an associate degree in Executive Secretarial Training, I had met the requirements of taking shorthand at 120 words per minute and typing at 90 words per minute, with a high percentage of accuracy. I felt that I had accomplished something great.
Upon graduation, I continued working, then full-time, for the mechanical and electrical contractor I had worked for while I was in school. In 1970 I married my boss’s son and my life changed both personally and career wise. Three weeks after my marriage, I found myself in New York City. My husband was attending Columbia University where he received an MBA degree in finance. I went from Salt Lake City to New York City. It was quite a shock. We took the “red eye special” flight to New York and as we took a taxi into Manhattan at 6:30 a.m. on a rainy, humid, September morning, I thought to myself, “What have I done?”
We had been there only three days when it was time for me to find a job. After all, I was going to help put my husband through graduate school. LDS Business College had trained me to be an executive secretary. I began interviewing and my associate degree got me through the door. I eventually had three job offers: The New York Hilton Hotel, Saks Fifth Avenue (which would have been great for my wardrobe), and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. I chose the New York Hilton because I thought it would be the most interesting of the three and mostly because I had a good impression of the man I would be working for. He was a family man (there were family pictures all over his office) and he treated me kindly. And so began an incredible three years.
By day I worked as a secretary to the assistant director of sales for the largest convention hotel in New York City, and by night I typed my husband’s school papers. I was quite a novelty at the hotel. I was a “Mormon girl” from Utah. I was asked the usual questions: Does your husband have other wives? Are you allowed to dance? I thought you were required to wear black? Is it true you don’t drink or smoke and are you kidding, you don’t drink coffee? But I was treated with respect and I learned much from my co-workers.
One of my jobs was taking the minutes (shorthand, I might point out) for the sales meetings held every Monday morning. As I walked in the room the first Monday, I found a nice cup of coffee at my place at the table, along with everyone else. I simply moved it aside. This went on for about a month. One Monday morning I walked in the room and found a welcome glass of orange juice at my seat.
Some of the language used in the office was rather “unique” and people were continually asking me to “excuse” their language.
One day I was called down to “Human Resource” (in those days it was called “Personnel”) and asked if I had any “religious holidays” that I needed to have off. I was in an office of about 40 people who were mostly Catholic or Jewish. Of course, there were several Jewish holidays, and Good Friday was a day off for the Catholics in the office. I thought, well, how about April 6th or the 24th of July, but I simply said that Sunday was the Sabbath for me and that I tried to live my beliefs every day. They couldn’t quite figure me out.
I had many opportunities to do missionary work. My testimony was solidified in New York City. I felt like I was watched all the time and there were many opportunities to “do what is right.”
My late father always told me, “You need to live in the world, but not of the world.” In New York I learned how to live “in the world” while holding true to the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As I was preparing this talk, I thought a lot about how things have changed in the business world in 36 years. Let me highlight some examples:
     °In New York, I took three hours of shorthand a day. I spent the rest of the day transcribing it.
     °I typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter. Do you remember typewriters? My accuracy had to be as close to perfect as possible. In the Church Administration Building today, I think we may have two or three typewriters in the whole building. If I have a form to fill out that requires a typewriter, it’s like going on a scavenger hunt to find one.
     °Next came the IBM “Correcting” typewriter. They were a little bit of heaven. I could make a mistake and then be able to correct it by simply hitting the correction key. Of course, I had to remember to replace the correction ribbon in the typewriter.
     °Then along came the dictating machines. They were wonderful. My boss would simply dictate into the machine and all I had to do was learn how to put earphones in my ears and use a foot pedal. No more taking as much shorthand.
     °Shortly thereafter, IBM came out with their Mag Card Machine. My boss would dictate into a machine that contained a magnetic card. I, in turn, would put the card into a transcribing machine and I could transcribe his dictation.
     °And how magnificent was the IBM memory typewriter. It recorded the typewritten text of the document by applying different codes after which I could save it and play it back any time I wanted.
     °And then came the computer. Being trained in using the computer is where most of you came in because I suspect you have never known anything else. Think about what the college offers you today in the latest computer technology—technology that was first introduced to the students here in August, 1966.
     °Now we have computer software and Microsoft. In my day, it was IBM. What would we do without Microsoft today? We had WordPerfect; we now have Word, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint, Excel and many, many other powerful software programs.
In my cupboard at work, I have a “quick course” manual for numerous software programs. I have had to learn these programs. Learning is a continuous, life-long experience. You have learned how to learn here in your studies. You will be amazed at your capacity to absorb and acquire new knowledge and skills as you embrace opportunities that will come to you as you navigate the course through life. You are now being prepared to step into the business world with enthusiasm and confidence in your abilities.
In early 1973, I found I was expecting a baby and I knew my life would change again. My husband was working on Wall Street at Morgan Guarantee Trust and I was still at the hotel. Everything went well until May when my husband was offered a job in San Francisco beginning in September. The baby was due in August, so we had to move clear across the country. I gave notice at work that I would be leaving in July. I was going to miss the friends I had made in New York, but I had a new learning experience ahead of me—that of being a mother.
A mother is the first and most important teacher in a child’s life. British essayist G. K. Chesterton once compared a full-time specialist in a single discipline with a full-time mother, who is a generalist in all the disciplines of life. He observed that the specialist is something to everyone, but the mother is everything to someone. A prospective mother should take her education seriously enough to become an inspiring teacher, not only because she profoundly influences her children’s lives, but also because she improves the quality of her own life.
Being a mother is important to me. I spent the early years of our daughter, Tiffany’s life at home with her in Foster City, California where we lived for 21 years. I have learned much from this sweet, smart, and obedient daughter. I can truly say, as John did in the Third Epistle of John, verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” She has been a joy to us all her life.
During the time home with Tiffany, professional men in our ward and stake would ask me to come in for a week or two while their secretaries would go on vacation. During that time I worked for the president of Shasta Beverage, an accountant, a litigation attorney and in several other professions. When Tiffany started kindergarten, I returned to work two days a week for a San Francisco law firm that had a branch office in Menlo Park, California, close to my home. I would go to work after Tiffany left or school and world work half a day and would be home to meet the school bus. I eventually began working part time for a tax accountancy firm in Menlo Park. My boss was a bishop and the other accountant in the office was in a bishopric. I also did work for a certified financial planner in the office.
As Tiffany was in school longer hours, I worked more hours. But, because I worked for members of the Church who knew the importance of family, I never missed a school event. When Tiffany was sick, I was able to stay home with her. I worked for the accountancy firm for 15 years—8 years full-time. Fifteen long and exhausting tax seasons. It was a continual learning experience.
During this time, I served in Church callings as they came. While Tiffany was in Primary, I served in the ward and stake Primary organization. When she went into Young Women, I was her Beehive advisor for two years, and then was called to serve in the San Francisco Stake Young Women’s presidency. When Tiffany left to attend BYU, I taught the Spiritual Living lessons in Relief Society. During this time, my husband served in the bishopric and served on the high council of the San Francisco and Menlo Park California Stakes for nine years. We led a busy life.
In 1995, we decided to move back to Salt Lake City where our families resided. We had been the only siblings away for 21 years. Our parents were getting older and we thought it was time to move closer to take care of them. It was then that I applied for employment with the Church and I was offered a job to be secretary to Elder Loren C. Dunn. I worked with Elder Dunn for five years until he went emeritus (meaning he retired while retaining his title as Elder) and I have worked with Elder Monte J. Brough for the past four years. Sometimes I feel as though I have a 40-hour-a-week Church calling. What a blessing this has been in my life.
It is a joy for me to go to work each day. What an exciting and challenging environment I have to work in. I have the privilege of working with men who have been called to build the kingdom of God on this earth. I marvel as I see the exceptional abilities of these men. I know that the Lord is at the head of this Church. I also know that the Holy Ghost can be a powerful instrument in guiding the work of the gospel. I have had many instances where the “still small voice” has prompted me to find a misplaced document or has inspired me to do work well beyond what I feel I am capable of doing.
President Hinckley has said: “The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.”
I am just an ordinary woman whom the Lord blesses each day to help make His work move along. Sometimes I feel like the work goes on in spite of me.
The Seventies’ secretaries were in a staff meeting recently where the secretary to the Quorum of the Seventy made the comment that these brethren have been prepared all their lives to be General Authorities. In turn, their secretaries have also been prepared for their place in the organization and administration of the Church. That struck a cord in me and as I look back on my life, I can see how I have been prepared for the work I do at the present time. I obtained my business education through the Church educational system and I have learned much from the blessings and trials in my life. I have been humbled and strengthened to be able to keep a positive attitude while dealing with the challenges.
Now in my own small way, I would like to leave with you some advice. I do not profess to have all the answers to life’s challenges, but I do have a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I would encourage you to do what you are. Do live a Christlike life because you are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves you very much. Your life is a manifestation of what you think about your Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Believe in yourself as a child of God.
President Hinckley, in his book Stand a Little Taller, gives such worthwhile advice: “Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good and worthwhile things. Believe in the nature within you, the divine nature, that you are in very deed a son or daughter of the living God. There is something of divinity within you, something that stands high and tall and noble. Get above the dirt and the filth of the earth and walk on a higher plane with your heads up, believing in yourselves and in your capacity to act for good in the world and make a difference.”
Your circumstances differ. You may be married, single, live alone, belong to a part-member family, be a single parent, be a parent with preschoolers or teenagers, or not have any children living at home. Not every member of your family may want to live righteously. You may find that your own spirituality fluctuates. But, despite your situation and your own spiritual fluctuations, you can all do important things that will help to center your lives more completely on the Savior.
Creating and living a Christlike life is a continuing task. Your attitude and efforts influence those around you and help them to center their lives on the Savior.
Each of you should look at yourself today and envision what you can become. It has been said, “God love you the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.” Ask yourself these questions:
     °Does my Heavenly Father know my voice?
     °Do I talk with him morning and night?
     °Do I read my scriptures on a regular basis?
Scriptures are “your letters from home.” They give you encouragement, provide a path to follow—they give you strength.
Nephi said in 1 Nephi 18:3, “And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (emphasis added).
If you are humble and teachable, if you are spiritually “in tune” and living righteously, and you approach the Lord in humility, you are worthy to receive personal revelation. The Lord will show you “great things.”
You live in an important time of world history. No one has lived when there are more advantages and opportunities pertaining to salvation. Every gift, ordinance, and teaching is available for your growth and development. You need to be aware of your situation and use the possibilities before you to the fullest as you endeavor to live a Christlike life. You must keep in mind that earth life is the time for making choices. Eternity is a time for remembering what you chose!
No doubt there will be problems, temptations, sorrows. You all must overcome these. But if you are prepared through righteous living to make correct choices and retain faith and confidence in your maker, you can go on to fulfill the divine purpose of your mortal probation. You know what is right and what is wrong. You know when you are doing the proper thing. It is so much easier to “do what is right.” By doing what’s right you enjoy peace and happiness. Remember what God said to Oliver Cowdery as he began his labors as scribe in the translation of the Book of Mormon: “…Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love” (D & C 6:20).
Living a Christlike life requires us to conform our lives to the truth and light we have received—having sympathy and charity for the unfortunate and those in error.
Edward Markham’s poem “A Creed” describes the results of nourishing those around us:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers.
None goes his way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
You have splendid possibilities within you, talents and gifts which you need to develop and use in being of service to others.
President David O. McKay wrote, “Our lives are wrapped up with the lives of others and we are the happiest when we contribute to their happiness.”
There are always those who need a helping hand, who need to feel noticed and accepted and loved. Norma B. Ashton, wife of Elder Marvin J. Ashton, related this incident about her husband: “One winter Sabbath my husband and I were attending a stake conference. As often happens, a member of the stake presidency took Elder Ashton in to greet the Primary children who were meeting separately. He spoke to them briefly, patted the heads of a few children sitting close to him, and left to join the main body of the conference. As the two men were walking down the hall, they heard the running of small feet and a voice calling, ‘Elder Ashton.’ Elder Ashton stopped, waited for a little boy to catch up to him, and asked, ‘What can I do for you?’ Looking up with hurt in his eyes, the young lad said, ‘You didn’t pat my head.’ Elder Ashton gave the young man an extra pat or two, ruffled his blond hair a bit, and was rewarded as the Primary child smiled and ran back to his class. Only a pat on the head, but just what this child needed. He was assured that he was an important as those on the front row.”
One of our important roles as brothers and sisters in the gospel is to be “givers of pats.” The touch of a hand, a word of appreciation, or an expression of love—as small as these things seem to be, they can help people feel worthwhile and needed.
No quality is an enduring or comforting as charity. Charitable people seem to have all the fun. They are the people others are drawn to. They use their energies in positive ways that bring many rewards to others, as well as themselves.
Charity can be exercised in the smallest ways. Mother Teresa made this comment: “We must not drift from the humble works, because these are the works nobody will do. It is never too small. We are so small we look at things in a small way. But God, being Almighty, sees everything great. Very humble work, that is where you and I must be. For there are many people who can do big things. But there are very few people who will do the small things.”
This is a simple and humble lesson Mother Teresa teaches us.
Service will help you forget your own problems and it will give you great capacity to endure your own disappointments, or at least put them in proper focus.
One of the most important lessons of survival in this stressful world is to learn patience—Christlike patience. Orin L. Crane had this need in mind when he wrote the following lines:
Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart
By the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace
With a vision of eternal reach of time.
Give me,
Amidst the confusion of my day,
The calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know
The magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art
Of taking minute vacations—of slowing down
to look at a flower;
to chat with an old friend or make a new one;
to pet a stray dog;
to watch a spider build a web;
to smile at a child;
or to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day
That the race is not always to the swift;
That there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward
Into the branches of the towering oak
And know that it grew great and strong
Because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord,
And inspire me to send my roots deep
Into the soil of life’s enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars
Of my greater destiny.
Each of you is about to embark on a journey that will last the rest of your life—the journey of becoming the person that your Heavenly Father intended you to be. You have been fortunate to attend LDS Business College. You have a foundation of a good education. Build on this firm foundation a life of career success, along with spiritual accomplishment. There will be good times and there will be bad times. Some decisions you make will be good and some will be mistakes. But remember, your Savior set the example for you to follow in living the principles of the gospel and strengthening your spiritual potential, in being charitable and giving service to others, in radiating appreciation for your blessings and in developing patience and love. Remember, do what you are!
Nephi stated: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus said the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2nd Nephi 31:20).
I wish for you great success in your career endeavors and much happiness in life. I am grateful for my educational and spiritual experiences here at LDS Business College and I am so appreciative and humbled by this award.
I bear witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I have a testimony of my Savior; I know He lives; I know He loves me. I know this because He has blessed me to be able to endure difficult times with hope and assurance that He is by my side. I know that when I pattern my life after my Savior, I have peace, success and happiness. This is my prayer for each of you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
NOTES
i Gordon B. Hinckley, “Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 96.
ii Pam Bookstaber, “Education without a Classroom,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 50.
iii LDS Business College Mission Statement.
iv Pathways, Winter 2004, 3.
v Marie K. Hafen, “Celebrating Womanhood,” Ensign, June 1992, 50.
vi Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller, 225.
vii Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller, 160.
viii David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct., 1962.
ix David O. McKay, Conference Report, Sept-Oct., 1950, 150.
x From the book Hope, comp., Elder J. Richard Clark, “The Royal Road to Happiness,” [1988], 136-38.
xi Ardeth Greene Kapp, My Neighbor, My Sister, My Friend, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990.

© Intellectual Properties Inc.

Civic Education and Civic Engagement

14 Apr. 2004

Transcript

Civic Education and Civic Engagement 


Section 147 of the constitution of the state of North Dakota contains the following language: “A high degree of intelligence, patriotism, integrity and morality on the part of every voter in a government by the people being necessary in order to insure the continuance of that government and the prosperity and happiness of the people, the legislative assembly shall make provision for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools. . .” N. D. Const. art. VIII, sec. 147.
This language reflects a long and deeply-held American value: the notion that education for citizenship is a necessary and critical obligation of democratic government—necessary to its survival and critical for its success. The constitutions of all fifty states contain some sort of affirmative guarantee of the right to a free public education provided by the government.
The theoretical underpinnings of these state constitutional provisions derive from the fundamental idea, made explicit in North Dakota, that the cornerstone of our polity is a literate, informed, politically functional citizenry. The idea has deep roots, having played a significant role in our founding and our history.
Increasingly we are learning from historical treatments of the colonial, revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods that “the Founding Fathers recognized that to secure the liberties and republican form of government proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and institutionalized in the Constitution and Bill of Rights would require a widespread reorientation of public attitudes and beliefs.” M. H. Hoeflich, Law in the Republican Classroom, 43 U. Kan. L. Rev. 711, (1995). Men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, drawing on the classical sources that were part of their own education, believed that the paradigms for educating rulers—princes—must be extended in the new republic to the children who were themselves the future rulers.
Franklin advocated the institution of a school in his home town of Philadelphia, arguing that it should “supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Public with Honour to themselves, and to their Country…[and who would learn] the Advantages of Civil Orders and Constitutions…[,] the Advantages of Liberty, Mischiefs of Licentiousness, Benefits arising from good Laws and a due Execution of Justice….” Id. at 714, n. 13. Richard Brown in his 1996 book, The Strength of a People; The Idea of an Informed Citizenry in America 1650-1870, writes that “[t]he idea that an informed citizenry was critical to the success of the republic served as a guiding principle when [the Founders] designed American institutions,” and points out that the specific purpose of public education was to prepare “a politically informed citizenry that knew its rights and jealously defended them.” Ryan Blaine Bennett, Note, Safeguards of the Republic: The Responsibility of the American Lawyer to Preserve the Republic Through Law-Related Education, 4 ND J. L. Ethics & Pub. Pol’y 651, notes 16 and 17, (citing Richard D. Brown, The Strength of a People: The Idea of an Informed Citizenry in America 1650-1870 xv (1996).
In fact, for Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the idea of access to education for all was a persistent theme. “Adams spoke with a sense of urgency, both for the present and for perpetuity: ‘No People will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can they be easily subdued, when Knowledge is diffused and Virtue preserved.’” Id. at n. 18.
Jefferson, in 1779, drafted a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which asserted that the only effective barrier to the rise of tyranny was ultimately an informed citizenry. Not long after Jefferson’s proposal, the new Massachusetts constitution, drafted by John Adams, reframed “the mission of government in broad republican rather than Puritan terms” and “proclaimed a comprehensive public responsibility not merely for education at all levels but also for creating an advanced, enlightened, knowledgeable, and progressive society.” Id. at notes 22 and 23. Noah Webster, the influential educator and lexicographer, advocated the idea that in the new United States, “every class of people should know and love the laws…by means of schools and newspapers.” Id. at n. 20.
Nor did the preoccupations of the founding generation with the centrality of public education in the life of the nation abate during the second half of the nineteenth century. Joseph Story, well known to legal scholars as a distinguished judge, published in 1883 a book for the use of school children entitled Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States. It was a re-worked version of his 1834 book The Constitutional Classbook, also intended for the teaching of children. One legal historian has observed: “The desire of Jefferson and Webster’s generation to inculcate republican principles into the hearts and minds of American youth through early and thorough instruction in public law particularly took on a wholly new complexion for the school textbook authors of Story’s generation. By the 1830s, the period which began to see the flowering of this genre of legal school literature, the ominous signs of political disruption and the possibility of the breakup of the Union over the slavery issue were already clear to most intelligent Americans. Story saw that one possible means of holding the Union together was to create in the minds of the nation’s youth not only a veneration for the republican ideals taught by Webster and his generation of authors, but also a veneration for the very idea of a national Union, predicated upon an adherence to the national constitution. Thus, Story’s book, and others of the post-1830 period, had a new purpose in teaching public law: preservation of the Union.” Hoeflich, supra at 2.
Expressive of the comprehensive view of the relationship between public education and the future of the nation is the preface to one of the most popular and best known school texts of the antebellum period, written by Andrew Young and first published in 1843: “To secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, was the leading object of the people of the United States in ordaining and establishing the Constitution…. In a few years, the destinies of this great and growing republic will be committed to those who are now receiving instruction in our public schools…. A thorough knowledge of our constitutional and civic jurisprudence cannot well be too highly appreciated. Without it, we may hope in vain to perpetuate our free institutions…. Children should grow up in the knowledge of our political institutions…. If ever the great body of the people are to be qualified for the business of self-government, our common schools must be relied on as the principal means…. Not the least important object of the author has been, to inspire our youth with a love of their country and its free institutions…. An intelligent patriotism is deemed indispensable to the health and vigor of the body politic.” Id. at 726, n. 66.
Young was so passionate about this notion that he included a proposal that was pretty radical in 1845: “The author would earnestly recommend, that the female scholars also study the work. Although they are to take no part, directly, they may exert a political influence which, though silent, shall not be the less powerful and salutary.” Id. at n. 67.
Extensive and dramatic changes in the philosophy and methods of public education have taken place in the more than a century and a half since the materials I have been describing were in common use. I am not an educational historian, and it is not my intention here to trace those changes in any detail, except to note the extent to which elements of the original vision of civic education have increasingly been marginalized in the public debates. Historian Diane Ravitch, in her book on The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973 (1974) describes two of the persistent, and competing, themes of this period. First, there is a vision of public education in which schools belong to the community, and the majority have the power and the right to determine the purpose and content of education, including religious sectarianism. This view was embraced by the catholic Church during the common school struggle in New York City.
Then there is the vision propounded by Horace Mann and the common school reformers, that the public schools belong to the state, and their role is to “encourage inquiry, not to impose interpretations,” requiring them to teach only commonly held values and to avoid promoting specific religious or political views. Rosemary C. Salomone, Common School, Uncommon Values: Listening to the Voices of Dissent, 14 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 169, 178 (1996).
More recently, after the turn of the century and through the mid-1900s, under the influence of the American pragmatists led by John Dewey, the public schools became more genuinely secular and, as one historian describes it, “the religious function shaded into the patriotic and the achievement of a broad objective of moral goodness into the nurturing of good citizens.” Id. at 178, n. 42 (citing Robert Michaelson, Piety in the Public School, p. 87 (1970). Described as “progressive,” this vision of public education contemplated schools as places to promote community awareness and further community progress. This idea of “community” incorporated a recognition of cultural differences such as language, literature, ideals, moral and spiritual outlook, and religion, although Dewey disagreed with efforts to incorporate religion per se into the public school. Id. at n. 45.
Since the mid-1900s, American public educational theory and practice has seen wide swings between Dewey’s progressivism and more traditional approaches. In an excellent article in the 1996 Yale Law and Policy Review, law professor Rosemary Salomone summarizes fifty years of recent history: “[B]y the mid-1900s, progressive education began to fall into a cyclical disfavor alternating with more traditional approaches to education. The first shift took place in the late 1950s with the launching of Sputnik by the U.S.S.R. and the race to compete on every front with the Soviet Union. Here educators moved from teaching the whole child to a decided emphasis on excellence. Economists began to talk about education as investment in human capital for the good of society.
“By the mid-1960s, the pendulum swung back again to progressivism with the civil rights and anti-war movements and the War on Poverty which challenged both traditional assumptions of life and society and the apparent competitiveness and achievement orientation that had crept into schooling.
“By the mid-1970s, however, declining scores on standardized achievement tests, increasing dropouts rates, and student violence—all the perceived ills of American education—were laid again at Dewey’s door, blaming his theories for the permissiveness, valuelessness, and lack of academic standards in the public schools. Progressive teaching methods such as the New Math and the New Social Studies together with the open classroom and unconventional elective courses generated a backlash and ushered in the Back to Basics movements. By the late-1970s, the influence of that movement, supported by a rising tide of religious fundamentalism, became manifest in textbooks and curricula across the country. Thus began the present era in which, on an academic level, school officials combine the best lessons learned from the two competing philosophies.
“However, on a philosophical and political level, they must constantly readjust to the cultural dissonance in the larger society and to the shifting political and constitutional views on the purposes, governance structure, and substance of education.” Id.
Salomone goes on to observe that, for Mann and Dewey, and certainly for the generations proceeding theirs, there was such a relatively narrow range of socially and politically accepted values that consensus was viewed as possible. “In recent decades, as the United States has become more diverse in composition, controversy has developed over the values reflected in the curriculum and permitted to be voiced in the public school context. At no other time in our history have we witnessed such a direct challenge to the very premise underlying what has been called the ‘myth of the common school,’ that is, that the values promoted through public education are in fact ‘neutral, nonsectarian, and indeed obvious to any reasonable person.’” Id. at 179-80.
The scope and complexity of this debate of “values” is more than I can hope to treat here. At the core of the debate, of course, is the “indoctrinative function of schooling,” Id. at 183, the idea that both the obvious and the hidden parts of the school curriculum affect the transmission of culture along with the formation of student beliefs and their view of the world. No aspect of education is entirely value-free: not the choice of textbooks or their content, no the structures for school governance, not the extra-curricular activities offered or forbidden, not the role models provided by teachers, or the rules about behavior and dress, not the importance, substance and use of exams, or the pedagogical methods in the classroom, not even the physical design of the school and its classrooms. The larger debate encompasses irreconcilable world views and issues of cultural identity that, whether tied to religion or based in moral or philosophical beliefs, generate conflicts about which people “feel profoundly and disagree sharply.” Id. at 185.
I do not, therefore, propose to enter the thicket. I would like instead to offer a modest proposal, by no means original but I think timely, that I believe would permit some degree of consensus about public education’s core mission, despite our diversity, our pluralism, and our profound differences in this country. I think of this as the “Back to the Future” part of this talk, or perhaps rather “Forward to the Past,” because I believe that an important vision of our future lies in our past.
Numerous studies, opinion polls, and editorials, not to mention large quantities of academic and popular literature, bemoan the current state of our young (and the not-so-young) when it comes to knowledge of the constitutional system we live under, and to levels of individual “civic engagement,” by which I mean a sense of personal responsibility for the condition of the republic at any given level of government—local, state, or national. You have heard the “horror” stories. Public confidence in most governmental institutions has decline dramatically in the past fifty years. A 1997 survey by the National Constitution Center revealed: “More than 90% of Americans agreed that “the U.S. Constitution is important to them” and that it “makes them proud.” Paradoxically, the Center’s surveys have shown that people have an appalling lack of knowledge of a document that impacts their daily lives. Eighty-three percent of respondents admit that they know only “some” or “very little” about the specifics of the Constitution. For example, only 6% can name four rights guaranteed by the First Amendment; 62% cannot name all three branches of the federal government; 35% believe the Constitution mandates English as the official language; and more than half of the Americans do not know the number of senators.” Bennett, supra, 4 at 7.
Four out of five surveyed did not know the number of amendments to the federal Constitution, and one out of every six believed that the Constitution established America as a “Christian nation.” No one seems to have asked whether Americans understand the state constitutional sources of the basic right to a free, public education, but I would be surprised if a significant number of Americans on the street even know their states have constitutions. If the federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights were put to a vote today, pollsters tell us that they would not be adopted. One survey found that “many people not only did not recognize the Bill of Rights, but, without benefit of its title, described it as ‘Communist propaganda.’” Id. at n.35.
In an article last fall in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement noted that since 1960, every significant indicator of political engagement by matriculating college freshmen has fallen by at least half. William A. Galston, Can Patriotism Be Turned Into Civic Engagement?, The Chronicle of Higher Education, B16 (November 16, 2001). He explains the reasons why the “civic detachment of today’s youth should not be regarded with equanimity,” beginning with what he calls the “truism about representative democracy” that “[p]olitical engagement is not sufficient for political effectiveness, but it is necessary.” Id.
“[First] the withdrawal of a cohort of citizens from public affairs disturbs the balance of public deliberation—to the detriment of those who withdraw, but of the rest of us as well.
“Second, political scientists have found that civic attitudes and patterns of behavior formed when young tend to persist throughout adult life…. If today’s young Americans continue to regard civic affairs as irrelevant, they are likely to abstain from political involvement throughout their lives.
“Third, the relationship between citizenship and self-development, although much debated of late among political theorists, should at least be considered…. There is something to the proposition that under appropriate circumstances, political engagement helps develop important human capacities,…[such as] enlarged interests, a wider human sympathy, a sense of active responsibility for oneself, the skills needed to work with others toward goods that can only be obtained through collective action, and the powers of sympathetic understanding needed to build bridges of persuasive words to those with whom we must act.” Id.
The Chronicle essay goes on to observe that “the evidence of [our failure to transmit basic civil knowledge and skills to the next generation of citizens] is now incontrovertible.” Id, at B17.
“In our decentralized system of public education, the closest thing we have to a national examination is the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The results of the most recent NAEP of civic knowledge administered in 1998 were discouraging. About three quarters of all students scored below the level of proficiency. Thirty-five percent of high school seniors tested below basic, indicating near-total civic ignorance. Another 39 percent were only at the basic level, a level below what they need to function competently as citizens.
“It is easy to dismiss these findings as irrelevant. Who cares whether young people master the boring content of civics courses?… [S]urprisingly, recent research…analyzed by Michael X. Delli Carpini and Scott Keeter in What Americans Know About Politics and Why it Matters documents important links between basic civic information and civic attitudes that we have good reason to care about. Other things being equal, civic knowledge enhances support for democratic values, promotes political participation, helps citizens to understand better the impact of public policy on their interests, gives citizens the framework they need to learn more about civic affairs, and reduces generalized mistrust and fear of public life.” Id.
I am convinced that we must restore the civic mission of our educational institutions in the United States. Furthermore, I believe that the judicial branch of state government has an obligation to contribute to the restoration. Thus far, the major involvement of state judiciaries with public education has coincided only with their role as constitutional interpreters. State constitutional education provisions have served as the basis for considerable litigation in the past two to three decades concerning the quality, adequacy, and funding of public education. See e.g., Michael Heise, “State Constitutions, School Finance Litigation and the ‘Third Wave’: From Equity to Adequacy,” 68 Temple L. Rev. 1151 (1995); Paul L. Trashtenburg, “The Evolution and Implementation of Educational Rights Under the New Jersey Constitution of 1947,” 29 Rutgers L. J. 827 (1998). In the context of that litigation, however, the courts exercise only their traditional adjucative function, addressing competing claims about the scope of constitutional rights. I believe there is a larger context in which state courts can and should function as educators, albeit in a limited sense.
The Law Related Education movement in this country is approximately 25 years old. It has had phenomenal success in developing educational materials and programs to foster in elementary and secondary students a practical understanding of the Law, the legal system, and their rights and responsibilities as citizens. In my own state, however, and in most of the states, the use of those materials and programs in the schools is entirely dependent on the energy, competence, and interest of individual classroom teachers or school administrators with responsibility for curriculum decisions. An American Bar Association report on “Law Related Education in America: Guidelines for the Future” (1975) estimated that “less than one percent of America’s elementary and secondary students are currently exposed to systematic curricula in law-related studies.” Bennett, supra, at 4, n.35.
This state of affairs coincides with a growing sense that courts need to be more concerned about public outreach and community perceptions. Known as the “Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts” phenomenon, state courts all over the country are responding to research showing that courts must actively address public service and public access issues, and that they must also look for ways to explain themselves to their communities if they are to regain and maintain the legitimacy and respect necessary for their functional role in a representative democracy.
I believe that the needs of public education and the mission and expertise of the state courts are remarkably coincident at this time in history, and that there are opportunities for leadership and support that state courts should mark and respond to. I would like to describe a work in progress here in Utah as one model. Two years ago, a small group of judges, court administrators, lawyers and administrators from the organized bar, and leaders of the private, non-profit Law Related Education Project in our state started talking about some of the problems detailed in these remarks. We identified three significant, and inter-related, barriers to the incorporation of systematic, comprehensive civic education in our state’s public schools.
First, there is no systematic inclusion of law as a fundamental part of the core curriculum, which drives everything done in the classroom. Second, and of course the reason for the first problem, law-related or civics education is not one of the “BIG THREE” subject matter areas that occupy the center of the curricular universe (reading and language arts, math and science, and social studies); it has been for a number of years, when it was considered at all, viewed as an optional sub-set of social studies, along with history, geography, environmental studies, and life skills. Thus, there are no minimum requirements, no inclusion mandates, and no testing standards associated with civic education. Finally, the burden for the individual classroom teacher to develop or acquire lessons plans, materials, and expertise is extreme; only the most interested and enterprising teachers can successfully incorporate them into classroom programs.
Our small group determined that, within the judicial branch broadly defined, we had resources that could have some impact on the problem, namely: (1) a large collection of programs and educational materials developed in Utah and all over the country by lawyers, courts and law-related education projects. Many of these materials were “going begging” for opportunities to be used; (2) a cadre of law students, lawyers and judges who would be willing to help with the development of age-appropriate lesson materials and to volunteer in the schools themselves, both in the training of teachers and counselors and in the classroom; (3) the administrative capacity either within the courts or the state bar to train and supervise large numbers of volunteers; (4) courthouse facilities themselves, with judges and staff willing to facilitate their use as learning venues for local schools on a regular and on-going basis; and (5) the public relations and impact opportunities resulting from the interest of judges and the state court system in facilitating cooperation and partnership with the state Department of Education, run by our State Board.
When we began to have conversations with curriculum specialists and supervisors within the education system, we discovered that we were, generally, preaching to the choir. The phenomena illustrated by the public research were very much on the minds of many, and our concerns about the level of constitutional, civic, and legal “literacy” among our citizens and our students were shared by educators. Calling ourselves the “Education for Justice Project,” we eventually came to the Board of Education with a proposal for a cooperative effort. Once they found out that we weren’t asking for any up-front money, they signed off on a resolution endorsing our efforts to restore civic education to a central and systematic place in the public school curriculum. This process, of course, will be an arduous and probably very political one that we, from our position outside the educational bureaucracy, cannot control. However, we have been given to understand that our support, as the “third branch,” for such a move, is having a positive effect. Meanwhile, we have launched the following efforts, which are of course on top of everything else that our Law Related Education Project people, our courts (especially the juvenile courts), and numerous other volunteers have been doing all along.
Working on pilot programs in several school districts to introduce teachers and guidance counselors to available videos and lesson plan materials, train them in use, and connect them with volunteers who can help in the classroom.
Working with trial court executives throughout the state to get them to organize “court-school” partnerships with local schools, conduct regular tours and “open houses” and keep their judges in regular contact with school groups.
Developing a “clearinghouse” of materials and staff to match requests for education related assistance with volunteers.
Placing a member of our “Education for Justice Project” on the core curriculum revision commission currently revising the Core Curriculum for grades 7-12.
Identifying this project as one of the major priorities of the state court system through its Public Outreach Committee.
Working on publicizing the extensive programs and materials generated by the Juvenile Courts in our state with relevance to school-age children.
All of the foregoing kinds of activities, of course, are not new or unique to our state. What is unusual about our effort, I believe, is the partnership we are working toward between the governing authority for our public education system, which controls the content and future of public education, and the Supreme Court and Judicial Council, which govern the judicial branch of state government. We are a small state, and therefore can capitalize on relatively straightforward lines of authority and, at least for now, some mutual trust and respect. The availability of such currency in other systems will vary, and in some states it may not exist at all, but I am convinced that it is a legitimate use of the credibility and expertise of the judicial branch of government. When I talked to the state Board of Education, I told them some of the things about the history of education for citizenship that I have detailed here. It was clear to me that, although old history, many of them saw it in a new light; it was also clear that they found it a cogent argument for examining our history to discover ideas for our future.
A former law clerk, who volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer in juvenile court, recently sent me a note with this statement from Neil Postman: “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will never see.” The tragic events of September 2001generated an outpouring of patriotic sentiments and gestures from many Americans. I hope that we can find ways to turn patriotism into civic engagement by helping our children prepare to carry the fundamental values of this nation into that time we will never see.
I would like to close with John Adams’ words in the first, and now the oldest functioning, written constitution in the World: the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: “Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.” David McCullough, John Adams, p. 223 (Simon & Shuster, 2001).
 
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