Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Speech & Debate

My daughter is in Speech & Debate and they had a parent's meeting this evening. Ew, I know, speech and debate...very boring (a la Academic Challenge as just about any Northern Ohioian will remember), but I found it very interesting. First of all, it is not what I thought it would be. There are more speeches these days than debates and they range from politics, to humor, to drama, to public policy. There were several students who performed their pieces so the parents could see what the club was all about.

One of the students did a piece which started with a fictional ad for "Pounds-Be-Gone." "You can eat all your junk food while watching a Happy Days marathon and the pounds will just melt away." It was very funny, but that was only the beginning. It was just a metaphor for the lack of personal responsibility in our society today. We want the rewards without the work. We accept leaders and business owners who cheat and lie and steal and we do not hold them accountable for it. Her example was Martha Stewart. We accept that she was found guilty and had to serve time, but we also allowed her to be rewarded after her release with a prime time television show! What kind of an example is that?

It made me think about the recent riot in Toledo. There are "leaders" in the black community who are saying that the kids that did the rioting should not be held accountable for their actions because it is a result of their social problems and we should just understand and help them. I'm sorry, but the biggest help we could give anyone who breaks the law is to make them take responsibility for doing so.

I was raised with a very strict father. He used corporal punishment and we minded because there were consequences (sometimes painful) if we didn't. Mom showed us that shame is a good thing. If we didn't do our homework, chores or our grades were bad or we hurt someone with cruel actions or words, Mom would give us "that look" and say "I am so disappointed in you." And we would be ashamed and make amends. Of course, when my brother and I got older, we would try to use a similar ploy back on Mom, but it never worked because we didn't use shame, we were trying to do it with guilt. But everyone else is going! But I'll be the ONLY one without those designer jeans! Well, Mom's favorite saying when we tried it was, "I don't do guilt!" And so we learned the difference between shame and guilt.

I believe that my parents brought us up right. We have always had to take responsibility for our actions and I have tried to instill that in my girls. I just wish that more parents would at least try to do the same. I see these kids at the high school who have no shame. They speak to their parents as though they are the lowliest serf and the parents allow this behavior. And should little Johnny or Jane get into trouble, it is because they are going through "a rough spell." Parents need to be parents, not friends to their children.

I fear that if we do not take responsibility for our own actions and we do not teach our children that they must do the same, we will slide down the slippery slope of immorality and degradation and not be able to find a way out of that hole. The author Marcia Muller said this:
She was the archetypal selfless mother: living only for her children, sheltering them from the consequences of their actions -- and in the end doing them irreparable harm.
Irreparable harm...think on that.

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