Raising a Good Citizen in a World Gone Mad

Ronald Reagan famously reminded us that, “freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.”  If we value the freedom of speech, rule of law, and religious liberty that make America quantitatively different from, say, China or Venezuela, we must pay attention to what we’re teaching our children.  The “lukewarm citizenship” of a generation that has come of age after the Cold War and doesn’t remember 9/11 requires intentionality from parents and teachers. What we say matters, but what we do matters more.  

What to do:

  1. Vote in every election. 

Tell your kids that voting is a tremendous responsibility and privilege for every American. Show your kids you mean what you say by actually voting in every election. There’s an important election for those living inside the city limits of Lakeland on Tuesday, November 5. At Lakeland Christian School, we have a policy of excusing tardies for kids voting with their parents or for high school seniors going to vote themselves. Take advantage of this opportunity to show your kids what it means to fulfill a key responsibility of citizenship. And while you’re at it, tell them the story of those who fought for the right of women to vote–we celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020.

  1. “Don’t seek protection from competing ideas.” Ben Sasse

We must teach our kids to value freedom of speech–their own as well as those with whom they disagree. A disturbing survey was published in 2018, in which one in five college students reported their belief that violence is an appropriate response to prevent a controversial speaker from making offensive or hurtful statements. This should move us to have a direct conversation with our kids pronto.  We must link arms to defend the right of others to speak even when we disagree with the content of their speech–freedom of speech must apply even to those whose ideas we abhor. To disagree graciously and make winsome arguments for truth are key skills for our students that will make them effective advocates.

  1. Recognize that all human beings are created in the image of God and possess inherent dignity.

Viewing others as “Imago Dei” — made in the image of God — provides the foundation for civil discourse. We must help our kids understand why all people have worth and dignity–the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled as well as the folks in our neighborhoods with whom we disagree.

“In the Christian worldview, every created person is given natural, inherent worth by the very nature of being a bearer of the imago dei, created in the image of God and indeed, knitted together and formed by God. Personhood is not something earned, but given by God to everyone.” Nancy Pearcy in Love Thy Body

If you’re looking for more, read Love Your Enemies by Arthur Brooks, who says, “The key is not bland agreement, but rather a culture of warm-heartedness toward our political foes, a vigorous–but respectful–competition of ideas…”

May your intentionality and God’s grace result in your kids becoming, as Teddy Roosevelt said, citizens of “great and generous emotion, high pride, stern belief, and lofty enthusiasm.”

About the author: Mrs. Jennifer Canady directs the RISE Institute at Lakeland Christian School, which includes LCS’s Center for Law and Public Policy. She serves as a Commissioner on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and was recently appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to serve on the Florida Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee. She and her husband, Chief Justice Charles Canady, have two daughters, Julia and Anna.