Not a real debate, obviously, and maybe debate will wind up being the wrong word. I’ve never heard of Rev. Tommy O’Leary but I just found one of his “Reflections” columns and feel like replying to it.
We’ve all heard about the trouble our schools are in. We’re told our children aren’t getting the education they need, or that the school lunch is a nightmare (so what’s new?).
I’ve been thinking about this. Why aren’t our students doing well? Some kids have no respect for teachers, or stayed up too late the night before to absorb anything the teacher tells them.
I wonder how many of those same kids are the ones that don’t listen to their parents or police officers either. I wonder how many of those parents didn’t bother to set enough boundaries and rules down when the kids were young. How many of them couldn’t or didn’t take the time to teach those kids why it’s important to behave and have respect for people? Maybe some of those teachers shouldn’t be in their profession, but whether or not that’s the case in every situation, you also have to ask how many teachers get sufficient support from the parents. Can teachers even discipline their students any more? How much of that is due to parental freak out? Are schools boards simply worried about parental freak out, or are teachers petrified of laying the law down in case students have easy access to guns and knives and may get it into their heads to retaliate rather than listen?
Some say the curriculum is at fault. Violence and sex seem to be the only things the kids learn, especially in high school. One news reporter stated that getting pregnant in high school is like a rite of passage. Oh come on!
That puts me in mind of the pregnancy pact myth that got its start in 2008. The principal who first came up with it turned out to be jumping to conclusions based on just how many of his students were pregnant at the time. Time Magazine ran with it, and others went ahead and believed it, too – especially politicians who wanted to use the teen pregnancy issue as a reason to reduce the availability of decent sex education and contraceptives.
There are people who are trying to address these problems. But I seriously doubt our young people’s problems start at the front door of the school.
The family, which should be part of a child’s foundation, isn’t doing well. Often, parents don’t help with little Johnny’s homework.
Often, the home he comes from has no father. All too often, one or both parents have alcohol or drug problems, so a grandparent must do what he or she can to help.
Kids aren’t feeling love and guidance and often come home to an empty house.
Why is the family falling apart? I think the answer is a spiritual one.
Of course he does. Because nobody who believes in god and attends church regularly like a good Christian could ever be a trouble maker, right?
The absolutes of Christian faith are lost upon a generation whose parents are no longer willing to teach them to their children. Sports or sleeping in have replaced worship and church school as the thing to do on Sunday.
Studies have indicated that sleep is pretty important for kids. Lack it long enough and it can create a cavalcade of health and mental issues. There’s been suggestion that classes ought to start later so kids can get a decent night’s sleep, wake up without a fuss in the morning and be fresh for learning. Even a half hour later can improve ability and reduce irritability.
Sports add physical activity into a kid’s week, something people should applaud. Ideally everyone would be able to afford to put their kids in sports and have kids that actually enjoy doing them and seriously want to be physically active instead of sitting on their asses all weekend. Sports also encourage team work, competition (which isn’t always evil) and teach kids that hard work often leads to positive results. Lessons they learn on a field might help them with a career later, too, and not just sports ones.
What “absolutes of Christian faith” would he mean, anyway? Everyone should be teaching their kids about caring, honesty, trust, loyalty, sharing, and whatever else is deemed important as positive attributes. It’s not just Christians who need to be taught that stuff and I could probably make the case that more than a few won’t learn any of that no matter how often they’re preached over.
If kids aren’t taught about God, who expects certain behavior from them, what can we expect? If we don’t tell them about his great mercy and give them the message of salvation, or teach them how to reach out to others with caring, loving hearts, what can we expect?
Kids ought to be taught that parents, teachers, friends, relatives and neighbours will always expect certain behaviour from them and everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity even when we don’t like them, don’t agree with them, or deep down think they’re idiots. You can take god out of the whole lesson plan and get the same result. It worked with me and my parents. They never once told me that some god would tan my hide if I disobeyed. They’d tell me they were proud of me, or disappointed with me or whatever. I learned through them what was necessary and appropriate – why to help, when to offer support, why to be friends, why to do the right thing. It had nothing to do with pleasing a god and everything to do with selflessness and self-respect and the realization that there’s no value to be found in going through life acting like a shit head.
This generation isn’t being told about the greatness of Jesus, or that faith is something you take with you wherever we go. Our kids, and maybe many parents, aren’t aware that our Lord is for us. They aren’t aware that Jesus offers them the guidance of his Holy Spirit for all the issues of our lives. They have no idea of the hope faith can give for this life and the next.
I get the desire to use Jesus as a guide. I do. Given what the gospels offer about the man and his vision, he’s given credit for some very good ideas that are worth supporting. But the bible isn’t the only method by which parents can instill those ideas. Parents can be ideal role models and never have to mention his name. Plus, there are other secular books that can teach kids about those same values. They aren’t just the property of proper Christians, are they?
(edit March 6/10: wish I’d found this quote when I’d been looking for it the first time: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
-Matthew 19:29-30 — evidence that Jesus approves of kids rebelling against their parents. Does this really make him worth following, or does this make him seem a little more like David Koresh and other cult leaders smart parents aim to keep their children away from?)
Our children seem to have no self-respect. They aren’t aware that God loves them enough to want them to do well on Earth and then spend eternity with him.
They don’t know that God gives us purpose and that he sees us as the greatest of all he created.
I think that’s not a good enough reason to have self-respect. More to the point, I think that’s a selfish reason to justify being a decent person. It would be far better to teach kids that respect needs to be universal. Yes, I do have to drag out the “treat others as you’d like to be treated,” knowing full well where it originates. But it’s a good line and valuable. But it’s something we all should be doing regardless of faith or beliefs about an afterlife or some idea that other esoteric rewards will come to us because of it. It’s a nice thing to do, and it makes sense to do it. Even atheists and humanists and freethinkers and people who follow other religions can come to that conclusion without needing to credit the bible for it. From a humanity perspective it makes all the sense in the world.
And you may as well treat yourself as you’d like to be treated while you’re at it. Trust yourself and your ability to choose wisely. Have faith in yourself. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments when you can honestly say to yourself that you earned them. Know you can rely on yourself and help yourself and love who you are and strive to be all you want to be. If you can have respect for your self, people will respect you for it.
So what’s the problem with our school system? I think we lost something when we abandoned faith. Let’s give Sunday school and worship another try. Let’s see what God has to offer.
His last plea, and an unnecessary one. People weren’t good simply because they had Sunday school and worship. Maybe they were good because there weren’t many avenues for being bad. Maybe they attended Sunday school and worship because it was expected and they’d be judged by their communities as bad people to look down on if they didn’t go.
Complain about a secular society if you want, I guess, and I’ll agree it has some down sides, but parents and schools could get their acts together and figure out a better way to get through to the kids about what’s important without adding more church and bible thumping.
People who run shops and ad campaigns and television stations could decide to run their operations differently and provide less junk and more quality. Music makers could stop swearing and promoting sexualized violence. Young stars could dress with some sense and behave themselves like the worthwhile role models. Everyone could behave better than they do. Will they? Probably not. So then it’s back to the parents and the schools to be the guides and make sure today’s kids grow up with their heads on straight. Will they? Hopefully so, although I know it’s a challenge when bombarded with everything that promotes the opposite.
But I’m sure it would be worth it. Some of those kids would be running shops and ad agencies and entertainment companies of their own someday.