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Friday, December 10, 2004

Teaching Law to School Kids


It's a hallmark of adulthood. A rite of passage. Somewhere along
that measuring line of life, you find yourself extremely unsingle.
With a family. In one blink of an eye, the party conversation
changes from favorite bands to more mundane topics, like which
schools your kids attend.

That's not to say I pine for the single days. To be sure, I don't
miss the Herculean efforts to engage a beautiful-but-vapid vixen in
conversation merely for the sake of the eventual but unlikely reward
of sexual satisfaction. It was just too much work. And the truth is
that I love having kids and all that goes with them.

I think that what tires me out the most is that everyone at parent
parties talks about how horrible schools are, yet they do nothing to
solve the problem. Fortunately, I think I've found the cure for our
school systems and society in general: Teach law in grade schools.
In fact, law course should be compulsory at every grade level, from
kindergarten through senior year high school.

It's not as nutty as it sounds. Here's why:

If you know anything about American law, it's that everything is
based on the concept of "reasonableness." That means people are
supposed to act in a way that's most reasonable. Reasonableness
means you have to think about what you do before you do it, which in
turn means that if you think about it and still do it, you're
responsible for what you do.

What a great foundation upon which to build a human being.

How many times have you heard some idiot before a judge claiming he
didn't know his actions constituted a crime, only to hear the judge
proclaim, "Ignorance is no excuse"? Well, unless you teach every
citizen the law, how can they be anything but ignorant? How is an
individual supposed to learn the law? Where is he supposed to learn
it?

Sure, we bemoan the fact that Johnny can't calculate the area of a
triangle at the age of 16, but which would you rather live among: a
reckless math wiz or a law abiding, responsible illiterate? I'll
tell you this much: if more people knew what was legal, what wasn't
and the consequences of both, we wouldn't be voting on police bonds
every two years.

If we taught law from the very earliest ages, kids would understand
that the rule of law isn't something that expires when the bell
rings. That same respect due classmates in finger-painting would
carry over to the dinner table at home. Those mean kids who tease
their shyer counterparts would finally be held accountable for their
actions by their peers, guided by their teachers. Throughout their
years, school kids would see our legal ethics, codes and practices
touch their lives every day. When they graduate, they'd enter
society with a far better idea of what is and isn't acceptable.

I know there are going to be those who insist that music and art are
more important than law. To them, I say it's time to take a long,
practical look at schools. Because before you can teach anyone to
appreciate art and music, you have to teach them to appreciate
themselves. You have to guide them to principles of self-worth and
self-respect before you can expect them to respect others and that's
what law is essentially all about.

Even the youngest kids have tiny moral compasses. We should be there
to assure they're accurately set from the first day of school.