It is Sunday Morning. It was on a Sunday that I had my first sweet taste of democracy. After church my brother, sister and I played hide and seek in the maze of boxwood that was the Bishop’s garden at the National Cathedral. Afterwards we piled in the back of the family station wagon. My father drove us by the White House, the United States Capitol, and the Supreme Court on the way home. He explained how these buildings represented the three branches of government – and how they were the building blocks of democracy. He would have us recite the branches with him. The day that I was able to name the three branches of government by myself, I was immediately taken for my first (and only) three-scoop ice cream cone. I was told I could choose any flavor I wanted for each branch of government. I chose mint chocolate chip for the executive branch; I chose chocolate swirl for the legislative branch; and I chose a scoop of coffee for the judicial branch. My love of government and ice cream remain intact to this day!
This week we will begin our study of ancient Greece and Rome. In addition to learning about the geography, the many ways people adapted, and the contributions of these ancient civilizations, we will learn about the architecture that inspired the buildings that are key to our own government. We will learn that democracy was born in Greece and fine-tuned in ancient Rome. We will also learn that each of us has a role in the way democracy develops now.
Of course, this is not the only introduction to democracy these children will have. When you register to vote or take your child with you to vote, you are teaching about democracy. When you talk about two sides of an issue, you are teaching about democracy. When you talk about protecting the rights of others, you are teaching about democracy. And we are teaching when we don’t know that we are teaching. Children listen carefully when they hear their parents and teachers discuss politics, and this is where we need to be the most careful. I remind myself how grateful I am for the way my own introduction to democracy was dished up: three scoops—hold the cynicism! Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday night.