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Touching So Few Lives....

First, a note to parents and teachers... Heck.. to us all, really, but especially those who live or work with young people....

Perhaps because we are plenty busy with work and running around.. maybe we've not been prioritizing the important things, we're neglecting duties, don't feel it's "our" responsibility, or we've just plain forgotten to teach our kids some manners. Or values. Or any sort of skills to improve the human condition or enhance the next generation.

Maybe it's just me.... concerned.

Several things have occurred to me in the recent past. Number one, seems there's just no fire in anyone's belly to do something to make the world better, their own lives better, to do well just because it is right and good to do well. I have noticed a certain level of attention commanded in the classroom when I lead my students along a brief metaphorical side journey into conversation about about life path, ambition, success, doing the "right" stuff and the cream rising to the top. It's as if they never heard inspired words before that very moment, or that they were never challenged by anyone to do better, or that anyone really ever showed them care enough about things that can and do happen to people who don't act responsibly.

Don't parents tell their babies any more, "You are good, you are smart, you are special and you can be anything you want to be... but you've got to earn it..." ??????

Dear World:

There are no free lunches.

Signed,

Chuckles the Clown

Case in point: a rather flippant young lady sat for the first two weeks in a class I teach (and has since not returned). It is a four (4) hour long class. Her posture and demeanor was rude and inattentive. Her interest completely lacking. One and a half hours into the class, after we'd already had our first break, and during the lecture/discussion part of the class, which (to me) was rather engaging, she interrupted. "Mzzzzzz Lewwwwis??" she said, rolling her eyes and cocking her frizzy head.

"I'm borrrrrrred. Can we go home?"

I looked up from my lectern. I put down my white board pen. I peered over my professor-like glasses with a long pause. My lips were drawn tight and brow furrowed. I took a few steps closer into her and the entire class. The others waited to see how I would handle this.

"Perhaps I should simply sign your diploma and hand it to you, too? Thank you for showing up today. You were marked "present" in attendance. But to answer your question... Why yes, YOU, in particular, may leave and your participation grade will be duly noted. And I offer each and all of you the same chance to leave... you, who wish to be other places, please, do leave... this class is for students who care to learn, who want the service of education for which they pay premium dollars...."

I went on about the differences between those who succeed and those who do not. It's been estimated that only 20% of Americans earn a college degree at the bachelor's level. Jesus, that should be the minimum educational requirement for all people. We are in a world which needs creative thinkers, logical problem solvers. These things don't come naturally for most people. If society isn't getting educated in schools, then where? TV? Video Games? Parents who are working two jobs?

Teachers are in an important position to affect minds. But the percentage of connection is ever so slight... seemingly insignificant. I feel lucky if I've touched one or two in a class each semester. It is exhausting to care... to really care about students and take them aside and encourage them. It is frustrating as hell to be on the receiving end of rudeness.

Another thing I notice among my students is that they feel "victimized" by financial constraints, relationship issues and tend to stay home if they are feeling a bit depressed or under the weather, making their studies a lower priority, than say, their "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" was in the emergency room for a sprained ankle and "needed me there". They believe that their situation is unique, their struggles far more important and significant than the next guy's car trouble or job loss. I don't mean to minimize the excuses for absences or decline in motivation, but I do see trends and commonalities about what is "important" in students' lives, education falling way low on the scale and a readiness to succumb to the woe-is-me syndrome easily in response to whatever will bring them down.

Where is the fight?

Where is inner strength?

Conviction?

Why don't people emerge heroes in their own right? In their own world?

Why is it everyone seeks a savior and won't work for the end result themselves?

Pick yourself up and ACT RIGHT! Quit whining. Do well in school! And for those of us who are parents or teachers... Tough Love!

I do what I can... it's not enough.

That's alls I gots ta say today.

7 comments:

Jilly said...

while i agree with priorities and tough love, i disagree with "that should be the minimum educational requirement for all people."

Not everyone needs or wants a college degree. If everyone were to get a college degree, then we'd all have to get PhDs or invent something beyond to reach higher level positions. A BS would be the same as a regular high school diploma then.

That's my problem with Obama's goal for everyone to get a degree. Some people aren't school smart and some people hate school. It's okay to hate school and to not be book smart. We only need so many people with "useless" history degrees or philosophy degrees that end up working at walmart because there's nothing else for them to do. Face it, most people who get a history degree do so because they're not cut out for an engineering degree. Also, many people in the "easier" fields weren't really ready for a college degree either.

Not that getting a degree in a humanity or social science is terrible, but you have to get a few more degrees after that to really make your way, and most people who get the BS aren't qualified to go on after that. They went to college so they could say "i have a degree. someone will pay me and I won't have to work hard" what a bunch of bullshit that is. There is nothing wrong with hard work, but most people aren't taught to accept a life of hard work in their futures because of the mythical idea that if they go to college, they're "set."

What we do need are people who can fix cars, plumb, perform electrical work etc. These jobs are not easy and do require some education, but do not require 4 years of schooling. They require a lot of hard work, but conversly, my cousin is a master electrician and makes upwards of $85 an hour in the busy season. I'll probably never make $85 an hour and I have so much education that it's disgusting.

That girl had a lot of balls asking to go. I'd have chewed her a new one and then let it be known she wasn't welcome back and not to expect a decent grade. School is a game, and if you're not willing to play it, then go do something else.

aliasmoi said...

I agree with Jilly. A kid who is going to be a carpenter or a mechanic does not need a college degree. Also, a large number of people are simply not "college material." It cheapens the meaning of the degree when you give them out to morons.

Anonymous said...

we cant all be what we want to be no matter how hard we may try , you only have to watch Pop idol or american idol or x factor to realise that what people have done over the years is actually instill in their kids the idea that they can be anything when they patently obviously cant.Theres far too much emphasis put on white collar jobs but if I'm ever stuck after a disaster iid rather be stuck with tradesmen than wordsmiths
Alex

Roger D. Curry said...

I touch people all the time.

Generally, I use a coup stick.

R

Anonymous said...

The best things in life are free. That includes the free will to educate yourself beyond the minds primitive mode of thinking.

You'll never gain higher conscienceness if you only deal with your mind of propiganda materials and your five sense interpetation of what is before you. Wipe the slate clean and retrain your brain to stop all this "stinking thinking" as some may call it.

There is nothing sadder to me than overly-educated people who still can not be radically free in their thinking.

Just makes me think a whole lot of money went to nothing. But maybe that's just me. I tend to be more the Evolver than Rhenisance man.

I think the problem here is we are looking at degrees like they mean something. Any chimp with a typewriter nowadays can buy one to hang on the wall. At the end of the day that does not mean that they have changed or adapted better to being a universal being on planet earth. They just feel the world owes them a job now.

Romans never thunk this way.

Degrees are not being "cheapened" by morons. It's just that more and more morons are buying into the concept of higher education as a way out of debt.

Just watch the afternoon judge shows and see how many diploma and trade school ads pop up. Education is big buisiness. Are you buying?

Jon Russell said...

Well as a former student, I would like to say you did inspire me. You took the time to look past my "class clown" attitude and allowed me to be myself and to express myself. In doing so I was able to learn a lot about what you had to say and about myself. Shit I don't read ever, as a matter of fact I avoid it, but I did read my Psych book and I read articles all the time for current events. Its been 2 to 3 years now and I still remember the articles I submitted and the papers I wrote for your classes. I have taken everything I learned from you to heart and I am doing whatever I can to become a success. To me success isn't measured by money or things, success is measured by what you have left behind when your gone. Education can only get you so far, you can have all the knowledge in the world but if you aren't driven to apply it what is the point. You have to find something inside to drive you to be better. You have touched my life and I am a better person for have knowing you. I am a success and I am continually driven to be a success and I thank you for your part in my life.

doreenmary said...

Jon, you were a beloved student who is remembered as one who participated and engaged course material with passion. I could always count on you to raise compelling questions. I hope you pursue with vigor great things for yourself. Be a student of life... never stop growing! Thanks for your post.

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