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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

11/21/2006

It Takes a Family (Part I)


I heard Alan Keyes speak at a local Republican Committee banquet when he was running for president back in 2000. I won’t go into his speech or my reaction to it (that’s a topic for another day), except to say that his main political premise was that every ill from which America suffers can inevitably be traced to a single source: the breakdown of the nuclear family.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about his assertion in the six ensuing years, and I lean toward believing that he is right. It may seem a stretch to attribute the cause of the threat that Islamic fascism poses to the free world, or the invasion of illegals across our southern border, to the breakdown of the nuclear family, but I believe that, once one peels away all the layers of societal/political circumstances that have allowed both to thrive, even those seemingly unrelated threats would not exist to the degree that they do … if at all … if the nuclear American family, and the profound and far-reaching effect that it has on what we like to call ‘civilization,’ were not involved in a painful and purposeful process of incremental disintegration.

Time and energy permitting, I intend to write about this sad process, and its terrible consequences, in several essays over the next few months. Even though I have done much thinking about this idea since the Keyes banquet six years ago, his insightful observation on the family and America’s decline represents too interconnected and convoluted a process/relationship to tackle in one sitting. And, as always, I’d like to solicit input from other readers here, either debunking or adding to what I have to say. I (as have others, I am sure) have learned from many incredibly insightful comments here, and I’m sure will continue to do so. :)

To scratch the surface tonight, I’d like to make an observation regarding the generalized behavior of students in our schools, with the axiomatic assumption that changes that have occurred in that behavior, in, say, the last forty years, can and must be traced backed to simultaneous changes in what is expected, or tolerated, from them at home.

I attended high school in the sixties. A city high school. There were recognized groups of kids in my high school, as there always are in any school. The most ‘troublesome’ group were the ‘hoods’ – those who wore black leather, were often bikers or wannabe bikers, and generally threw their weight around a lot more effortlessly than the rest of us. The hoods were the ‘bad guys/girls’ of the school. Bad guys or not, their ‘bad’ never involved threatening or badmouthing a teacher. Teachers were authority figures, and authority figures, by definition, were afforded a degree of respect that included no verbal attacks, even by the ‘worst’ among us.

Not so in today’s average high school.

We live in a rural area in south-central Pennsylvania, within an excellent (as 'excellent' goes these days) school district – the kind of district in which parents and prospective parents seek to settle, so that their children can have the benefit of a 'good education'.

Yet, even in our school district, it is not entirely uncommon for a student to argue with a teacher about the amount of homework that is assigned, to verbally tell the teacher that he does not intend to do an assignment because the amount or content is ‘unfair’, or to evaluate, aloud, something a teacher says in the course of class instruction as ‘ridiculous’ or ‘stupid’. Of course, such behaviors are milder, but significantly more frequent, than much more obnoxious, disrespectful, even violent behaviors ... which is my purpose in mentioning them: their actual acceptance as part of more-or-less tolerated behavior in the modern American classroom.

That which we tolerate is a reflection of what we have become.

Our son, Dan, teaches high school physics in a small city. I recently told him that I was considering writing something that included this subject and asked him to provide me a recent personal example of the kind of fairly regular disrespectful behavior that the average teacher is forced to address. He told me this:

Several weeks ago, a junior girl in one of his physics classes approached him and asked him for his signature on a paper that would have allowed her to drop out of his class. He was already well aware that this girl is an underachiever who wastes more time than she uses productively, who has little focus or ambition, and who tends to quit anything that does not come easily.

He refused to sign the course waiver, telling her, at the same time, that he believes that she is an intelligent girl who is capable of doing well in the course, that quitting is not an option, and that he would be willing to spend after-school time in the class with her, or respond to e-mail inquiries, about any of the subject matter that she does not understand … now and in the future.

She walked up to him, and told him, ‘Unless you do as I ask, I am going to make your life a living hell' (verbatim).

Dan handled the situation promptly and well (he always does), but assured me that such arrogance and disrespect, though not an everyday occurrence, is not uncommon either – in many classes, in most schools.

I believe that several character traits, dramatically less prevalent in the youth of forty years ago, are evident in the modern representative examples I have cited above:

(1) disrespect for authority

(2) a belief that (even reasonable, by most civilized standards) boundaries are made to be crossed

(3) an unwillingness, inability, or disinterest in achieving (or even recognizing, or caring about) one’s potential

(4) a self-absorbed view of the world

(5) a lack of comprehension of the concepts of planning, organizing, or goal-setting

(6) a belief that difficulties or challenges are to be avoided rather than confronted

Readers of this weblog are familiar with the fact that I hold teachers’ unions, and the modern public education establishment, in general disdain (with exceptions, of course). But, as regards the inherent causes of the dramatic increase in the abovementioned behaviors and character traits in significantly more of the youth of today, I believe (as would Alan Keyes) that the seed for such self-destructive behaviors are planted at home.

These behaviors have causes whose roots run deep and wide, and which affect many other aspects of our societal decline … and their future ramifications will affect more than the lives of those currently involved in the battle to shape the minds of children who refuse to recognize, or have been rendered incapable of recognizing, that their mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Education should consist of a series of enchantments, each raising the individual to a higher level of awareness, understanding, and kinship with all living things ... Unknown

(to be continued … )

18 comments:

robmaroni said...

Awesome Joanie! Looking forward to part 2,3,4, etc.

Welcome back.

smithy said...

I was a "hood" and I resent the implications. :o)

Good job.

Anonymous said...

"That which we tolerate is a reflection of what we have become."

Amen to that.

3timesalady said...

I believe that several character traits, dramatically less prevalent in the youth of forty years ago, are evident in the modern representative examples I have cited above:

(1) disrespect for authority

(2) a belief that (even reasonable, by most civilized standards) boundaries are made to be crossed

(3) an unwillingness, inability, or disinterest in achieving (or even recognizing, or caring about) one’s potential

(4) a self-absorbed view of the world

(5) a lack of comprehension of the concepts of planning, organizing, or goal-setting

(6) a belief that difficulties or challenges are to be avoided rather than confronted


All good, and I would add a lessening of morals and religious beliefs.

Anonymous said...

A sick society isn't capable of putting value on anything really meaningful. Why should our children be any different?

jim_bob said...

I think you have to factor in television somewhere in your assessment of the change in our youth, unless you're planning to do that at another time.

You put into words so well alot of what the rest of us are thinking. Thanks.

D_o'connor said...

Instead, for all the time it takes . . . in years in the wilderness, facing defeats instead of victories, yet you will move people, one heart at a time, one faith at a time . . . until you have put together a community of principle . . . that will stand the test that a nation must stand if it is to survive.

This I believe is what we are challenged to offer to America now. For it faces, now, an insidious challenge that will in the end lead not to our destruction from without but quite possibly to the destruction of our liberty from within, as we surrender to the fears engendered by terror and to the degradation engendered by our own loss of conscience and principle---Alan Keyes


Keyes' day will come.

Anonymous said...

You could write very similar for the UK too.
To what has already been written I would add the litigious culture and the emphasis on everyone (of all ages) having "rights". "I know my rights" is a common phrase.

There is much less emphasis on the obligations that come with rights.

Very well written post.

joanie said...

You could write very similar for the UK too.

I'm truly sorry to hear that, although I shouldn't be surprised. I fear that both of our countries' best days are behind us, with each of us paralleling the other in so many follies.

Your addition of 'the litigious culture' is a good one -- and one that I would insert into to my essay, if it weren't for the hint of plagiarism it would add. :)

Thanks for the kind words, and the additional insights.

~ joanie

joanie said...

D. O'Connor ...

A beautiful Keyes quote. Thanks.

joanie said...

Rob, smithy, 3times, jim,

Thanks for the kind words and additional thoughts!

~ joanie

lori_gmeiner said...

Your list is a good one and we should address each issue. You're right that most of the reason for everything on the list begins at home. Parents are the culprits and they have to start getting their priorities straight. Government isn't helping that to happen.

Anonymous said...

You need to write a syndicated column.

Danthemangottschall said...

Well done, Joanie. May the next "installment" be as convincing. ;)

alexib said...

I don't have much contact with what's going on in modern schools except for what I sometimes read in the paper. What you have described is very disturbing, especially what happened to your son. If that kind of thing is common, we're in real trouble and our kids need some old fashioned discipline and a lot more parent involvement.

dawn'searlylight said...

Joanie, I know you probably plan to talk about things that happen in families nowadays that cause the behaviors on your list, but let me just say that I don't believe those things happen in Amish families. And that's just another reason we should see them as a good example.

John Cooper said...

Maybe I'm showing my age, but when I was in high-school, on the rare occasions that a girl got pregnant, she just "disappeared" for a while.

These days, it seems like being pregnant with no visible means of support is not only accepted but some kind of badge of honor.

My wife (who works at the local hospital) tells me that about 75% of the births there are "out-of-wedlock", and many of them the third or fourth one.

What ever happened to shame?

(By shame, I don't mean the shame of having sex with someone who is not your spouse. I mean the shame of forcing strangers to pay the medical bills for yourself and your child, and the shame of forcing your parents and grandparents to provide daycare services for your little moment of pleasure.)

The percentage of live births to unmarried women has steadily increased in the past few decades, from 5.3 percent in 1960 to 32.2 percent in 1995 and to 37 percent now. To be more specific, the CDC reports the "percent of live births to unmarried mothers" has increased from:

* 10.7% in 1970 to 34.6% in 2003 for all races

* 5.5% in 1970 to 29.4% in 2003 for whites

* 37.5% in 1970 to 68.2% in 2003 for blacks

* zero in 1970 to 15.2% in 2003 for Asian/Pacific Islanders

* 23.6% in 1980 to 45.0% in 2003 for Hispanics (not tracked prior to 1980)

Using the absolute numbers, there were 399,000 live births to unwed mothers in 1970, and 1,414,000 in 2003.

I believe we have three things to blame for this: The liberal takeover of the education system, the welfare state, and the feminist agenda.

joanie said...

My wife (who works at the local hospital) tells me that about 75% of the births there are "out-of-wedlock", and many of them the third or fourth one.

Astounding, John. And I suspect that it is you and I who are supporting these families -- many of them with absentee 'fathers', no doubt.