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America needs to 'man up'

Posted: September 18, 2012 4:52 p.m.
Updated: September 19, 2012 5:00 a.m.

To evaluate the present, and make any kind of intelligent prediction for the future, one must have a knowledge of and appreciation for the past. I have lived 82 years in this ever-evolving United States of America, greatest nation on the face of the earth, and I believe that provides me a perspective, one that tells me we are rapidly changing, and not for the better I fear.

Obviously, the past (“the old days”) had its positives and negatives. Much of the positive had to do with the character of the citizenry. Times were hard, but I believe it built a greater degree of determination, self reliance, independence, and ultimately a feeling of self worth. We knew no one else was going to take responsibility for us, so we scratched out a living for ourselves, and the extent to which we succeeded, we felt self pride in the accomplishment.

About 50 years ago, two changes began to creep into the mindset of society. One, entitlement programs began to be bought into by more and more people. A concept that contended that the various governments, state, local, and federal, owed the people whatever they wanted, but, didn’t have and wasn’t willing to strive to attain for themselves. This concept has been fed over the years by politicians, who bought votes by promising the people whatever it took to appease them. This practice has continued to the Nth degree.

Two, our society developed a philosophy that if we fail to get what we want, or achieve whatever we desire, then by definition it’s someone else’s fault, it’s not ours. Do you hear “It’s Bush’s fault” in there somewhere?

Now I know there are exceptions to every rule and these are merely one man’s opinion, but allow me to bring this a little closer to home and be a little more specific.

One can get a little weary of all the programs that plead for society’s support for homeless people, hungry people, people that don’t have Christmas gifts, and the myriad programs for people that sometimes can’t, but all too often won’t, provide for themselves. After all “they are entitled” and “it’s someone else’s fault.” Some charities and most welfare are killing society’s initiative and incentive to provide for themselves. It begs the question, why should you knock yourself out to provide for yourself it someone else will do it for you. Self pride? Pretty much gone for too many of our people. Our National Park Service learned a long time ago to not allow you to feed the animals, because if they became dependent they lost the capability and willingness to hunt food for themselves.

Education. We now say a hungry child cannot learn. That is somewhat exaggerated. Don’t misunderstand, I’d like no child to ever be hungry. I’m saying too long ago we ceased to be able to distinguish between wants and absolute needs. Today, we try to provide breakfast, and lunch for them at school, and in some case considering providing meals on the weekends while the parents get a free ride. (Of course, in many cases, the parents are getting food stamps, unemployment compensation, disability pay, etc.) Meantime we are providing laptop computers, iPads, school tools galore (no offense to anyone who feels this is their mission), some clothing, and in some cases free haircuts to start school.

Remember I said there are always some exceptions, but this is fairly prevalent. And what is the payoff? Our nation continues to lose academic superiority compared to many other countries, and our state continues to rank low compared to others.

So what is the answer? By previously stated definition, it must be something or somebody else’s fault. So we have tried to resolve the issue by throwing money at it. Major among these efforts is destruction of prevailing school facilities, and construction of overly expensive and seemingly overly adequate facilities. We’ve dismantled buildings that would have been magnificent compared to some buildings I was educated in (they served the purpose well enough). A building does not educate a child.

I suggest to you that what is missing is a proper level of expectation. As parents and as a society in general, we do not expect enough and properly convey that expectation to our children.

In industry, we used to emphasize the value of training with the saying that if the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught. I now believe that philosophy to be overstated. More than likely, if the student doesn’t learn, he hasn’t adequately applied himself, and the parent has not held him accountable and provided appropriate incentives. Neither the building, electronic aids, supplies, nor any other way to throw money at the task will balance the equation.

So, we need to wean ourselves from all the programs that make it easier to escape responsibility and duty by trying to place the blame elsewhere. As parents, grandparents, and as citizens, we should expect more, without compromising, and I believe the youngsters can and will deliver.

It’s time to “man up” and do it quickly.

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