During the years I spent serving as president of the La Crosse Common Council, I often reminded my fellow members that what they did was very important to the future of La Crosse. I also reminded them that how they did their work was also very important, because the children are watching.

My grandkids are too old and my great-grandkids too young to provide me with regular exposure to elementary school-age children. But I fondly remember the stories teachers shared with me over the years regarding young children’s observations and evaluations of the behavior of celebrities and elected officials. In short, they saw more than we thought.

Which brings me to my observations of two recent events that unfortunately reflect a trend in public discourse. What possible good can result from our White House chief of staff stating that one of the reasons for limited enrollment in an immigrant program is that potential recipients were “too lazy to get up off their asses to register.” Or for our president to suggest that because the opposition party did not respond positively to his State of the Union remarks “they may be guilty of treason.”

The “political correctness” that may have gone too far in the past has been replaced by very troubling public discourse. I don’t know about you, but I strongly believe that too many of our elected officials are setting a poor example for our children. And the children are watching.

Dick Swantz, La Crosse

Dick Swantz served as La Crosse superintendent of schools from 1977 to 1998 and on the Common Council from 2007 until 2017.