News - from the past & the present

TBT: This is what being a good citizen meant in 1939 – Does it still mean the same today?

GOOD CITIZENSHIP IN A DEMOCRACY

by

Houston Cole

Tuscaloosa News December 1, 1939

It might be said that good citizenship in a democracy, generally speaking, involves two things: namely, (1) a knowledge of the factors that enter the realm of civic affairs, and (2) the will to act on the basis of such knowledge.


Nation could not survive unless supported by an informed citizenry

It is common information that the founding fathers recognized the fact that the newly formed nation could not long survive as a democracy unless it was supported by an informed citizenry. This belief that the continuity of our government rested upon an enlightened electorate served as a germ of our public school system. If men were to govern themselves intelligently, there must be organized channels to supply them with information necessary to intelligent action.

girl-reading-a-newspaper-1937-by-lee-russell-library-of-congress

Girl reading a newspaper 1937 in Tower MN by Lee Russell (Library of Congress)

Little need to govern before the depression

The problem, of securing civic information on which to project intelligent civic action is much greater today than ever before in the history of this country. Up until recent years, the field of government prerogative was confined to the comparatively simple task of distributing the mails or providing police protection to life and private property. This philosophy of government involved nothing more complicated than the tariff issue. It was believed that the best government governed least. A citizen’s judgment was taxed only as it related to choice among individuals who aspired to office. There were seldom issues that transcended personality.

Then came the depression with a multitude of social and economic problems; National, state and local governments suddenly found themselves face to face with an avalanche of demands that had never before encountered. These demands included unemployment on an unprecedented scale, industrial and agricultural collapse, social security, and a horde of concomitant issues.

Two different philosophies of government

To complete the situation further, there forged to the front competing philosophies of government among our own people. Many felt that this country should hew rigidly to traditional lines of action, while others felt conditions warranted a broadened base of governmental rule. This issue is still predominant.

It is within the framework of this entangled skein that a citizen finds himself today. The atmosphere is surcharged with issues and schemes that must be dealt with intelligently if our democracy is to survive.

government-care-vs-government-neglect-library-of-congress

Government care vs Government neglect print by Puck ca. 1910 (Library of Congress).jpg

Debate over old-age pension (Social Security)

Only recently an issue of major importance faced the voters in two of our richest and most populous states. The question of providing old age pensions involving capital outlays that ran into billions of dollars was at stake. The proponents of the measures claimed that if they were adopted the two-fold purpose of providing security of the aged and a boon to prosperity would be served. The opponents contended that the scheme would lead to inevitable state bankruptcy. So plausible did the contention of the two groups sound, that many citizens found themselves in the baffling position of not knowing which side to take. Here is a typical instance in our modern democratic society where the demands of enlightenment on the average citizen were great. Other examples could be cited.

mr-and-mrs-bob-calloway-who-get-an-old-age-pension-penfield-greene-county-georgia-by-jack-delano-1941-library-of-congress

Mr. and Mrs. Bob Calloway, who get an old age pension Penfield, Greene County, Georgia by Jack Delano 1941 (Library of Congress)

Good citizenship requires use of information for worthy ends

Happily, there has grown up along side the necessity for greater civic knowledge more agencies for the distribution of such knowledge. The press, the radio, the cinema, and organized public groups are devoting more attention to the problem of providing citizenship information to our people. At last the schools have come to realize the vital part they must play in training our youth for the day when they assume the responsibilities of active citizenship.

It must be remembered, however, that a wealth of information can avail little in making for good citizenship unless the possessors use much information for worthy ends. Knowledge can be a two-edged sword. It can bless or it can damn. It can be used for worthy or unworthy purposes. What good does it do a man to know that it is crime against his country to sell his vote and then proceed to sell his ballot to the highest bidder.

Monument to the Spirit of American Citizenship

Spiral, pyramid-shaped lighted monumenterected to honor citizens and history of the area. Taped messages with area history, national anthem sung by Jeff Cook (member of ALABAMA), George Washington quote, volunteerism message for school children – by Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)


Good citizenship is more than knowledge

Good citizenship is as much ethics as it is knowledge. Teachers have found that it is more difficult to train the will than it is to train the mind. There must be the will to follow where the path of enlightenment and truth lead. If our democracy is to be maintained and improved, our people must not only be informed about civic affairs but they must act militantly on the basis of the information.

The Civitan Club is to again be commended for sponsoring a citizenship contest among the junior and senior high school pupils of the county and city.

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Features: Faith and Courage A Novel of Colonial America
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .
For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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2 comments

  1. Dr. Houston Cole, became President of Jacksonville State University, in Sept, 1942,
    …. with vision, aspiration and planning took the fifties as a time to move his Alma Mater to heights with broader areas of curricula, improved facilities and quality instruction. Encouraging all to participate in reaching for the stars, programs were brought forth.
    Miss Lucile Branscomb, who had been Dr. Cole’s secretary when he was with OPA (he persuaded her to go to Columbia University for graduate work), developed the B.S. in Business.
    Miss Branscomb, with war surplus typewriters, having perfected secretarial education, pushed ever forward for a school of business. A diligent lady, she chartered the FBLA and was a delegate officer to the National Business Education Association. The annex to the business building is named in her honor.
    Source: Life and Times of Houston Cole authored by various former JSU faculty and administration, as well as Dr. Cole’s nephew.
    http://lib-www.jsu.edu/archives/lifetimes/Life-and-Times-of-Houston-Cole.pdf

    Lucille Branscomb joins JSTC
    Anniston Star, Anniston AL
    January 8, 1943
    Extract:
    “After her graduation from college, she taught French and English before transferring to business training. She had the unusual assignment of serving as private secretary to three successive directors of the Stat Highway Department, leaving that branch of the state government to accept the position as secretary to Houston Cole, then director of the Office of Price Administration. She continued in this capacity to his successor, Dr. A. H. Collins, resigning to accept the place on the college faculty. For the past three years she has taught secretarial science in The University Center at Montgomery, a branch of the University of Alabama, under the supervision of the Department of Extension.”

  2. Written by Dr. Houston Cole, who later became President of Jacksonville State University, in Sept, 1942, …. with vision, aspiration and planning took the fifties as a time to move his Alma Mater to heights with broader areas of curricula, improved facilities and quality instruction. Encouraging all to participate in reaching for the stars, programs were brought forth.
    Miss Lucile Branscomb, who had been Dr. Cole’s secretary when he was with OPA (he persuaded her to go to Columbia University for graduate work), developed the B.S. in Business.
    Miss Branscomb, with war surplus typewriters, having perfected secretarial education, pushed ever forward for a school of business. A diligent lady, she chartered the FBLA and was a delegate officer to the National Business Education Association. The annex to the business building is named in her honor.
    Source: Life and Times of Houston Cole authored by various former JSU faculty and administration, as well as Dr. Cole’s nephew.
    http://lib-www.jsu.edu/archives/lifetimes/Life-and-Times-of-Houston-Cole.pdf

    Lucille Branscomb joins JSTC
    Anniston Star, Anniston AL
    January 8, 1943
    Extract:
    “After her graduation from college, she taught French and English before transferring to business training. She had the unusual assignment of serving as private secretary to three successive directors of the Stat Highway Department, leaving that branch of the state government to accept the position as secretary to Houston Cole, then director of the Office of Price Administration. She continued in this capacity to his successor, Dr. A. H. Collins, resigning to accept the place on the college faculty. For the past three years she has taught secretarial science in The University Center at Montgomery, a branch of the University of Alabama, under the supervision of the Department of Extension.”
    Eugenia Branscomb Hobday, niece of Dr. Lucille Branscomb [email protected]

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