Saturday, November 27, 2010


When I was a child, I had very few toys: a doll with a chipped face, a teal colored doll bed with a miniature comforter, and 9 piece wood puzzle blocks that formed pictures of various fairy tales if matched correctly. This forced me to be quite creative during child play and brought many neighborhood kids outdoors for improvised games of chase, hide and seek, sledding, ball playing, hop scotch, chess, and dominoes.

Poverty encouraged us to dream of faraway places, fantastical creatures, dragons, kingdoms, and mythical heroes. It did not cost us anything to dream. We were imaginative, creative, and free to wonder in the recesses of our minds that otherwise would be left untouched.

When we could find colored pencils and paper, I drew images that my mind created, unencumbered by outside influences. Clay was plentiful and I taught myself how to model it into figurines and primitive looking vessels. I was not going to win any art contest but I had so much fun. Playing with mud pies on my grandpa's farm helped shape the love of art. I never owned an art book - I admired pictures in art gallery windows and library books.

We did not have Barbies, Ken, Nintendo, PlayStation, computer games, or any electronic gadgets or games, yet we were more creative by necessity. Why did we not create such toys and games like the Americans? Because we were not allowed to be different, to express our uniqueness, we were encouraged to excel, but within the parameters of the group, of the collective.

Standing out was discouraged, bourgeois, and thus punished. A communist society by definition was a "shared," based on equality society, nobody was allowed to be better than anybody else, except for the ruling elite.

Schools made some concession to achievement by awarding book prizes at the end of the school year for good grades. It was the only glimmer of self-esteem allowed. Contrast this to the liberal educational doctrine today to give everybody a trophy, to make everyone a winner, to promote everyone, to social promotion, or risk hurting their feelings and self-esteem.

Should we fail to reward bad behavior, bad grades, and bad performance, the legal system is there to sue us at the drop of a hat. We are the most litigious society on earth and spend more on self-insurance to avoid unpleasant lawsuits. Teachers are afraid to come in direct contact with their students, counselors counsel with wide open doors, and principals use witnesses during conferences with parents.

The uniqueness that made this country great, is now discouraged and shameful, pushing children towards uniformity and communism. In communism everything is "communis," as the Latin term describes, "shared." Sharing may be a virtue in the Bible but under communism, it is a misnomer. Nobody really shares anything. There are poor people and the elites. If I demand my "share" of the pie, of the country's wealth, I am laughed at and sent to a gulag.

We were punished when we were bad, our parents were humiliated, we were humiliated, we were held back in school if our performance was not up to par, we got bad grades if we were not prepared every day, repeated the year if we had to, no social promotion there, nobody threatened to sue the school, bad behavior was not only not tolerated, but was harshly punished. We got up, dusted ourselves off, and tried harder next time. Discipline and failure were natural consequences to bad behavior and under performance.

American parents who are enablers of their children's poor performance in school and preposterous behavior in society, are responsible for overindulging their children with material possessions that are beyond the needs of a child and do not promote healthy developmental, moral, and ethical compass.

Educators catch the brunt of parental and societal displeasure for their children's poor performance. Mom and dad fail to take responsibility for the first six years of a child life that shape who they are and how they will behave and perform in society.

Parents abdicate their roles completely and expect teachers, who are often ill-prepared to teach the subject matter to which they are assigned, to also become surrogate parents who will magically change all the neglect and sometimes verbal and physical abuse children suffered in their first six years of life.

Society's flawed solution to "fixing" this problem is to waste more money on education and demand more accountability and longer work hours from teachers, when the fix would be quite simple - raise responsible and involved parents who stop spoiling their children materially while spending more time with them and supervising their homework. There is only one other country in the world that spends more money on education than we do, Luxembourg, a rich country the size of a postage stamp. And we have precious little to show for our expenditures on education and our lavish, overabundant parental material spending on our children.

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