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Isolation won’t solve anything

Sept. 14, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

It seems that partisan divisiveness is creeping into everything these days.

Last week, President Obama spoke to the nation’s students.

Prior to the speech, his political opponents were already beating their drums and accusing him of using the speech for political gain.

Parents vowed to keep their children home from school, accusing the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas.

I listened to the speech, as did many others.

The focus of the speech was responsibility.

The president spoke about students’ responsibility, teachers’ responsibility, parents’ responsibility, and government’s responsibility.

He challenged students not to use other factors in their lives as excuses for failure.

He acknowledged that success does not come easily, but requires hard work and dedication.

He asked students to set their own goals for their education, and to do whatever it takes to reach those goals.

I say it is about time.

Some of us have long lamented the demise of personal responsibility in this country.

The message that we need to take responsibility for our actions, and quit making excuses for our failures is a message that all of us, students and adults alike, need to hear.

If that is socialist propaganda, then bring on the socialists.

I don’t believe it is propaganda, though. To me, it sounds more like common sense, which is another endangered species in this country.

We need to work for the things we want, rather than expecting someone to hand over the goodies without any effort on our part.

Our parents understood this, as did our grandparents.

The current climate of entitlement and blaming others when things don’t go our way must drive the old-timers crazy.

They grew up in a time when people saved up for the things they wanted, and did without what they couldn’t afford. They did not go out and buy things on credit without any plan as to how to pay for them.

Schools were not places designed to make kids feel good about themselves.

The good feelings kids got came from the pride of accomplishing difficult tasks. There is no pride in saying everyone is a winner, no matter what.

Those who did not succeed were not automatically promoted to the next grade level to become someone else’s problem.

Responsibility, goal-setting, and hard work are good lessons to learn, and the sooner we learn them, the better off we will be.

The parents who kept their children home to avoid the president’s speech are also teaching the kids something.

It teaches them that we don’t have to listen to anyone with whom we might disagree.

This attitude is responsible for many of the problems we face today.

Unless we learn to listen to others and work toward compromise, we will never be able to solve problems.

There is one more thing that those parents apparently don’t realize; the kids are smarter than they (the parents) think.

It is a disservice to the kids to assume that by keeping them from hearing a certain speech, we can control what they learn.

Children, even very young children, are like little information sponges, and they are more perceptive than we think.

Speaking as a former child, I can say that any time someone tried to keep information from me, it piqued my interest, and I became even more curious and determined to find out what was being hidden.

For this reason, those parents who try to keep their children in a vacuum, and prevent them from hearing anything that differs from the parent’s political views, might find that their strategy backfires in the long run.

It is also not a good way for children to learn critical thinking. This is evidenced by some adults I have met. Ignoring other points of view does not improve understanding.

Whether we like it or not, the US is part of a global economy, and our students are competing not just against each other, but against students from around the world.

Politics won’t help them to succeed in this highly-competitive environment, but working hard, setting goals, and taking responsibility just might.