Bowling Green

My Skewed Education:

Having grown up the son of two teachers, education was always a topic of conversation at my dinner table. From what teachers could do better, to what I wanted to learn, I always talked to my parents about school. I’d always known that my experience was abnormal, both because of my parents’ jobs and where they had them: a secular private school. As I moved through high school at my parents’ school, the conversations I had with my peers turned towards college. Most of the colleges people mentioned were “elite” schools: University of Virginia, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, and so on. As a high school student, this conversation seemed like the norm to me, like the one everyone, everywhere had.

Leaving My Educational Bubble:

Until last Thursday, I had never stepped foot on a community college campus. While in Bowling Green, though, I was lucky enough to go to Owens Community College in Findlay, Ohio. I watched and listened as students scribbled notes, talked to advisors, and caught up with friends. But there was a difference in what students had to do to be able to go to school. Students such as Tosh worked full-time jobs and commuted to school. They needed to juggle two types of learning, two types of effort, in order to get to where they wanted to go. Continue reading Leaving the Bubble

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Mike and Floyd are long-time residents of Bowling Green, Ohio. Mike is a lawyer and a former chair of the local Republican Party. Floyd is a business owner. They both think that Bowling Green is an amazing community but that certain things, namely civics education and access to opportunity, have changed across the country.

On what makes Bowling Green special:

Floyd: I think we have a particularly good community, where most everyone is a good citizen. People do their share when it’s necessary and when they need to come forward. In another life, I worked in retail for a chain, and I moved around every year. This community works better than anywhere I’ve ever been. There’s normally a Democrat sitting where you’re sitting, and we have coffee every day. That’s what makes this community special.  Continue reading Community, Civics, and the Changing American Dream

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Blake is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a student at Bowling Green State University. His time in Afghanistan and his experience helping young people with drug problems have given him a firm idea on what to do to be a good citizen and what makes a bad citizen.

On the ideas that make someone automatically a bad citizen:

There are a lot of bad citizens in this country. One of my roommates is exceptionally racist. He’s very vocal with his caustic viewpoints. I think that is destructive for a community. I’ve fought for the freedom of speech. But if you’re willing to think that way, you can’t be a good citizen. I don’t think anyone who wants to take away other citizens’ rights (like he does) can be a good citizen.

His thoughts on the distinction between a good citizen and a good person:

If you don’t serve your fellow citizens in some way, shape, or form, you don’t qualify as a good citizen. Being respectful is important. But it just makes you a good person (and there’s a difference between being a good person and a good citizen). Right now, I think what Wal-Mart is doing for Hurricane Harvey is great citizenship. The things Wal-Mart is doing – sending money down, supplies down – things that it is in no way obligated to do, is (exemplary).

There’s a lot of people that aren’t doing anything. That don’t care. And, to me, that’s invaluable. You can’t say you’re a citizen of the country if you don’t want to vote, if you don’t want to be active. Continue reading Our Duty to One Another

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Margy is a secretarial assistant at Bowling Green State University. She lives in Tontogany, Ohio, a town of only 400 people. Her father was a veteran, and she has internalized that commitment to our country and flag.

On the moment she realized the importance of citizenship:

I never thought about it at all until I was called to be on jury duty and said, “I’m not going to do it.” My mom said I’d be an excellent juror, and it was my duty. And so I went.

What she thinks makes people a good citizen:

I think being a good citizen is respecting your government. It’s respecting your flag. I was taught that you respect the president, no matter who’s in office. It doesn’t matter whether he’s the person you voted for or not. Unfortunately, you don’t see that much today.

Her civic pet-peeve:

It really bothers me when I see people rioting, because I think that it makes the whole United States look bad. I don’t remember Republicans rioting like Democrats have been recently when Obama was elected president.

What civic respect looks like in action:

Respect is standing up when you say the Pledge of the Allegiance, at school and at ball games. You’re not only doing it for the country, you’re also doing it for the people who lost their lives to give us the freedom we have today. The flag is important for all of us, for where it’s been all over the world. We should have it outside our houses.

Her experience with people of the opposite political party is reassuring:

I think that people of the opposite political party are good citizens, and I think they’d say the same about me. Where I work is very liberal, so I try to keep my tone down. One professor told me, “Margy, you’re perfect, except that you’re a Republican.” I laughed, and said, “I could say the same about you being a Democrat.” I listen to Democrats, I understand them, and sometimes I agree with them.

What she thinks politicians need to do:

They all just need to sit down and talk. It’s not this party versus that party. We’re in this together. Politicians need to start (seeing) that. They need to be working together, for us.

She’s skeptical of students’ civic education:

They don’t even teach civics anymore. At all. What a shame. I think kids need to learn about voting. I think kids aren’t taught that enough. So, they’re just going to learn what their parents say.

Her perspective on immigration in the wake of 9/11:

I think that if immigrants obey the laws that we set out, they can be an American. It’s respecting the flag, and having honor. They should also have that love of country. I understand the fear of Middle Eastern immigrants since 9/11. I think we just need to look at people’s paper work more closely (before they come in). But once people are here, we shouldn’t send them home.

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Danijela is the Women’s Volleyball Coach at Bowling Green State University. After immigrating here from Bosnia in 1995, she is about to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Witnessing the war in Yugoslavia has given her a strong perspective on America and our role as citizens.

On what she tries to teach her players about citizenship and leadership:

I want them to be themselves. I want them to understand that who they are – their uniqueness – is good. It makes the world better. We don’t want everyone to be the same; it’d be a boring world. During college, I think it’s important for them to have support (in becoming themselves).

I’ve also told them, most importantly, to stand up for justice. We’ve talked about how when they see injustice happen, they need to act, because if you don’t act, you approve (that injustice). That’s something I want them to get out of being my players. You don’t stay silent and watch history pass you. You need to be active. Last year, I encouraged them all to vote. I told them it doesn’t matter who they vote for; they need to vote. They need to participate in the process of democracy.

Her perspective on citizenship based on the war in Yugoslavia:

I think the duties of a citizen (come down to) defending democracy. I think I have a different perspective because I witnessed the war in Bosnia and Croatia, where hate divided the country. Bosnia was specific; it was the most multicultural of the countries in Yugoslavia. To see how manipulation, propaganda, and hate can ruin people’s lives (is horrible). And then to have a second chance and come here, where people don’t care who you are, at least from my perspective (with the caveat of the experience of African-Americans throughout history), and now see signs of what was happening in Yugoslavia, and knowing how dangerous it is, it’s very important we protect democracy.

Her diagnosis of how Americans fall short as citizens:

People take democracy for granted here. People here haven’t experienced war, or seen what I’ve seen.

Why free inquiry makes U.S. citizenship unique and special:

Even before the war, being in a citizen in Yugoslavia was completely different. You did what you’re supposed to do, what you were told to do. We had a good life. But it’s really different how people debate and think different ideas, different ideologies, and that’s okay here. We should debate, and have dialogue, and have different ideas here. And that’s celebrated. I think we have the best democracy (a country) could have. Studying for my citizenship test, I think it’s a very special thing, having the oldest Constitutional system in the world, and we should cherish it and try to make it better.

Her thoughts on the proposed border wall:

I have an issue that in the 21st century that there’s a policy based on building a wall. I see it as un-American. As an immigrant, it’s hard to see that.

The most important things Americans need to know about our history:

The first thing we all need to understand is that all men are created equal. I don’t know how much clearer that should be.

We all also need to know that this country was built by immigrants. Unless you’re a Native American, you’re from somewhere else, and that’s what makes this country special.

On the key to being an American:

I think being an American means embracing the uniqueness of everybody. If you don’t embrace that tapestry of this country, if you don’t embrace it and say this is who we are and this is what makes us great, I think it’s un-American, because we all came from somewhere else.

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