Should courtesy be taught by teachers or parents?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2000

It is hard to fault Gov. Don Siegelman's plan to have a law enacted requiring children in the public schools to address teachers as "sir" and "ma'am." Being against politeness and courtesy is like being against God, home and motherhood.

But once you get over the warm and fuzzy feeling about his proposal, you wonder if teaching common courtesy should be the responsibility of the teacherswho already have a plate full of responsibilities-or should it be done by parents.

You could go a step further…and look for the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) to take this step…and wonder if such a law might infringe upon the constitutionally mandated right of freedom of speech. If a youngster doesn't want to say "sir" or "ma'am", does the state have the right to require him to do so?

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Siegelman wasn't standing behind the door when smarts were given out. He had to know that some would detect the stench of politics in his proposal, namely, that he was trying to curry favor with the older, more conservative folks who still eye him warily.

Siegelman insists that is not so, that he is not playing politics. His response bordered on eloquence:

"This simple courtesy will not only help to restore respect for teachers, but it is my hope that this program, to restore good, old-fashioned values of politeness and courtesy will spill over into our homes and our communities."

Sometimes you can only shake your head in disbelief at the cockamamie positions taken by well-meaning folks.

Example: Several years ago Alabama prison officials adopted a policy which precluded AIDS-infected inmates from participating in certain programs, mostly recreational, with non-infected inmates.

Predictably the aforementioned ACLU challenged the policy in court, necessitating a long and costly court fight.

The matter was put to rest, hopefully, last week when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reverse a lower court decision allowing the segregation of the AIDS-infected inmates.

For the record, there are 231 male inmates and 29 female inmates in Alabama who are HIV-positive.

There is an interesting political twist to the case now being argued in federal court in Montgomery about legislative district lines.

Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel is contending that the districts created in 1993 were intended to make possible the election of more blacks to the Legislature.

Joe Reed, the black political powerbroker who drew the lines, insists race was not the primary factor.

But the twist is this: While the new districts did indeed result in a dramatic increase in black legislators, unintentionally it also led to a dramatic increase in Republican legislators, and there are few bigger Republicans in Alabama than the previously mentioned Mark Monteil.

When lines were drawn to create a predominantly black district, what it left behind was a predominantly white conservative Republican district. Alabama Republicans would never admit it, but they owe an enormous debt to Reed.

I concluded a long time ago that the surest way to hear from your readers is to make a bonehead mistake in your column. I made a geographical goof in this space a week ago and it didn't go unnoticed, most especially by readers in Greene County.

In my comments about heavy-footed Albert Turner Jr., the former ADECA exec who collected speeding tickets like some folks collect Barbie dolls, I identified him as the son of a well-known Civil Rights activist…and I quote…"Greene County Commissioner Albert Turner Sr."

Right name, wrong county. The Turners are from Perry County, and several Greene County folks let me know that, some of them with considerable gusto.