Sunday, January 3, 2010

For the Kids -- commentary

Some educator, probably from the Department of Education, came up with the slogan "It's all about the kids." The sentiment behind this slogan is fine, but the slogan is false and I would be happy if I never heard it again.

The "it" in this slogan refers to all the effort we put forth to educate the children of our state and nation. We don't do this for the children; we do it for the preservation of our culture. One of the things making this difficult is a generation of young people who believe it really is all about them. Let me give you a little glimpse into a world where children have come to believe it is all about them.

This event took place four or five years ago. I was reading the book Soldier Mom, by Alice Mead, to my seventh grade class. The story is about Jas, a seventh grade girl whose mother is in the U.S. Army Reserve and is recalled to active duty during the Persian Gulf War. This leaves Jas in the care of her mother's significant other and her baby brother, the child of her mother and the boy friend.

Here's the conflict that arises: The little brother must be picked up at the daycare much earlier than the boyfriend gets off work. That means Jas will have to do it, except that Jas is captain of the basketball team and as such cannot leave practice early.

If Jas would resign as captain, it would be no problem for her to pick up the little guy. Her primary objection to doing so is that she does not like the girl who would replace her and doesn't want her to be the captain.

The boyfriend tries to get her to see that the family is now in an unusually difficult time and that sacrifices are required of them all. He points out to her the additional responsibilities that have fallen his lot with her mother being gone, and that it is only fair that she too should have to sacrifice a little.

I asked the class how many thought Jas should have to sacrifice a little considering the new circumstances in which they find themselves. Not a single voice was raised in support of the boy friend. I kept on with the discussion, hoping to get even a little support for the man. I got none, not even from the church kids who should understand a little bit about sacrifice. The consensus of the entire class was that the teenager had nothing to do with the predicament and therefore should not have to make any sacrifice whatsoever. That my friend is a world in which it is all about the kids.

Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy kids. I enjoy working around them and with them. It's not the kids who spoil the kids, it's the adults.

If indeed it is all about preservation of the culture, how do you think our culture will fair with this group when it comes up against a great depression or a W.W.II? Back in 1966, Robert Paul Smith published "Where Did You Go?" "Out." "What Did You Do?" "Nothing" It was a little book about his growing up years and it was full common sense insights. One of his observations was that the problem with young people is they have no responsibilities that will make any difference to the family if they fail. In earlier times, if a boy failed to take care of the family cow and she dried up, the family had to do without milk and butter. If he failed to carry in enough wood or properly bank the fire, the family woke up to a cold house. If the kids failed to help with the gardening and canning, the family went hungry by spring.

If Smith's observation was true of young people in the 60's, how much more would it be true today? Only today you can add one more element to it. We have experienced a tremendous increase in affluence so between parents and grandparents, the average kid is given everything he wants and almost has come to think of it as a right. And, now we are going to proclaim, "It's all about the kids," to help shore up this mind set? Not me.

We pass on knowledge from generation to generation to preserve the culture. However, the kind of learning that will preserve a culture requires a sense of responsibility. If we can't inculcate that in our kids, then there is not much hope for our culture. This type of responsibility is best taught in the home, though the schools don't help by propagating such platitudes. Please, no more "It's all about the kids."

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