Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bag ban was civics lesson

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This is what I teach. As an AP government teacher, it is my duty and my calling to instill democratic values in our students so that they someday become active, informed and involved citizens. That day was Nov. 8, 2011.

Often, my students (juniors and seniors) view the government system and its politicians as something wholly out of their reach. They aren't 18, they can't vote and therefore they (in their opinion) don't get a say in public policy. But they're wrong, and some of my very own AP government students proved that very effectively by lobbying the Hailey City Council and its citizens to consider an initiative to ban plastic bags. Despite their loss on Tuesday, I can say that I am one proud teacher!

The WATER Club learned more by their participation in the process than I could have ever taught them in AP government. They learned how citizens can effect change in their own communities. They learned about the role of special-interest groups and corporations in our political process. They learned about media influences on campaigns. All are things they could have read in our text book but instead they garnered real-life experience and became citizens!

They may not have won, but they should be congratulated for raising awareness in our valley. Their mentor, Erika Greenberg, should be commended for her passionate leadership of the group. I certainly hope that at the bare minimum, we all will think twice about our decisions to use paper, plastic or reusables the next time we head to the grocery store.

Maritt Wolfrom

AP government teacher Wood River High School

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