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Tailgating with respect

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October 26, 2010
By Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director. Keep Iowa Beautiful
No one can argue about the fun and enjoyment of social activities before and after athletic events. It is a great way to have fun, enjoy great food and refreshments, meet people, reflect on the game and gain support for your particular school. The issue becomes one of how we conduct ourselves during those events – with respect and dignity or with disregard and rudeness. Do we leave the area clean and picked up or littered and filled with debris.

As you walk among the groups you can easily tell the quality of the people by how they keep their tailgating area. Those that are clean and well kept have a sense of pride and respect and conduct themselves with a sense of civility. Those that don’t care for their tailgating area often reflect rudeness and a lack of courtesy or respect (much less adding significantly to the high cost of clean-up and event management).

Like anything else in society, a small minority can cause problems and encourage reactions that affect the majority resulting in an increase in laws, rules and constraints. I’m sure that the majority of the tailgating fans conduct themselves in a respectful and pleasant manner. However, it is apparent from the recent actions in Iowa City that the laws need to be brought into action to curtail the lack of civility resulting from some of the tailgating sites.

It is unfortunate that we need to keep adding laws or controls. It seems to reflect a society that can no longer treat property and one another with respect. Fun is one thing that most everyone can tolerate and enjoy, but the disregard for others should not be tolerated.

So what is the answer – more laws, rules and enforcement officers can have an impact on prevention, however, the real solution is the development of a society that has a high regard for the land, property and others. That type of training and guidance at one time was managed and doled out by parents. Now with both parents working, the guide for social behavior seems to fall on the day care facilities and the schools. The schools are fast becoming the parents for a number of our youth. That statement is not made to cast a negative image of every youth and family in this State. There are a number of great families and youth that understand and emulate the qualities of civility and respect. The problem is the growing number of individuals in which those words “respect and civility” seem to be absent.

There is no single “Silver Bullet” to solve the problem as there are many facets and elements. One thing is clear - we need to support programs like the service learning efforts in schools that link students with their community through service to the community and Character Counts programs that build civility and pride. Programs like these have become highly respected and proven to be effective. Initiating these programs early in life helps to implant a behavior that we can all appreciate and is beneficial to society. If we learn these principles early in life they will tend to stay with us. The costs associated with negative and intolerable actions of a minority of the public should not destroy the beauty of our landscape, or the fun and enjoyment for those that care.


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