Friday, November 5, 2010

Just a little pinch

This post might make some people angry. I'm not even sure how I want to say what I'm going to say. I guess I'll be blunt (since that's really all I'm capable of being). Here goes: I'm tired of free programs to help the needy, especially needy children.

I love children (well, most children). I love the potential in every child. I love how each one was created by our Maker to be unique and wonderful. I also realize full well that I had a great childhood, a blessed upbringing that continues to bless me in adulthood. I am very thankful. I realize I was shaped hugely by those young years.

I did not have a luxurious youth; I had a youth where my needs were met. I was given the necessities, a few luxuries, and love. I was supported by a married couple who also happened to be my parents (that's a bonus, isn't it?!) and who had no problem reminding me—frequently—that I was the kid and they were the adults. The adults who also happened to be in charge.

So I didn't have everything. But I had the essentials and a few extras. It's a big difference. Giving a kid all the physical tools for success, instead of giving them what they most need (which may or may not be a kick in the pants and some chores,) makes for a kid who gets a lot of stuff... but misses out on the most important building blocks of life. And it can happen in needy families, for sure. Those kids often run wild, with little to no parental modeling and supervision, and no matter what "stuff" they get from society, it's not going to make up for what's missing.

Maybe it's the recent election that has me thinking about helpful programs in general. Maybe it was today's book fair at my son's school, where all the children will receive a free book from the PTO. (I think that's awesome, though, because a few of the children at the same today couldn't buy a book and looked rather downtrodden. Plus, the government did not purchase said books; the PTO did.) Maybe it's just the fact that I'm beginning to realize that I, my little family, what we value—I fear we're the minority. We're becoming even more of a minority every day.

And I'm wondering who is populating the country. Who's having all these kids? Based on the countless help programs out there, and on increasingly alarming recent statistics, I'm guessing it's mostly the uneducated, unmarried, unstable, too-young or unprepared population. And I'm thinking this awful but true thought: I'd rather give money for birth control than keep on supporting kids who are not getting, and won't get, the basics.

Before you call me a monster, please hear me out. I spoke with a friend who subs for the City of Pittsburgh. She explained how it's a jungle in many of the schools. She explained how even the regular classroom teachers, often seasoned educators, have to address the children in short, loud terms instead of kind, soft tones because the kinder, gentler voice goes unnoticed. The kids are so unaccustomed to hearing that sort of language that they don't even notice, let alone respond. She shared, too, a meeting where she'd gotten a good look at the curriculum for elementary students. "What they want to teach them," she said, "is wonderful. Teaching it to kids who don't even know how to sit down and be quiet? That's something else."

I feel as if we're trying to arm these kids with advantages, with free meals, with new books and classroom aides. Yet I believe, truly, that none of those things will make a dent if the children aren't first taught the most simple skills of sitting still, listening, focusing, and showing courtesy. If a child can't stop shouting, how will he or she learn anything? If the kid doesn't know that some words are inappropriate, then how can he/she be expected not to use inappropriate words?

And the ball continues to be dropped, so many times, because it seems to me (just IMHO, of course) that so often the very nature of helpful programs is rooted in a well-meaning, liberal-minded member or members of society—people who want to help but would feel quite uncomfortable putting a foot down with their own families let alone strangers, people who want to believe in the innate goodness of mankind. Perhaps it flies in the face of the good they're trying to do, this unwelcome idea that good can't happen until order happens, that change can't occur if it's unlearned the minute a child leaves the helper's presence. Or perhaps these kind-hearted folks just cannot be the heavy hand.

But a heavy hand is much in need. Self-control is learned, not innate; to boot, it's often learned through suffering. And my guiding principle? People are basically bad news, not good. (Again, that's my opinion.)

This is why I say Yes, teach love for others, teach tolerance, teach abstinence. Give to good causes, help the little people of this world who don't have much, who need square meals and their own books and a warm bed and coat. But first, address the behaviors that make improvement impossible. And if you're not willing to go there? Then please, tell me where I can give money for those hormone shots to be administered to any and every young woman who isn't willing to go there either. Especially the ones who already have a child or two or five. For the love of God, let me give to that fund instead of watching us all try to play catch-up in a flawed and feeble system that, by the way, is failing miserably.

It doesn't "take a village." It doesn't require nearly that many people, at least not in this country. We need to start being honest about what it really takes to be parents.

See? I told you I'd make some people mad. Now, please excuse me while I go establish the "Free twice-annual BC shot if you opt out of other child support options" program. *

* Think about the money we'd save: the cost of shots twice per year, compared to the thousands upon thousands of dollars expended in raising a child—especially a child who is more or less supported by the taxpayers.


Cari Skuse said...

I agree. The amount of waste is astounding. When Mark was out of work 2 years ago, we qualified for free lunches at the school. We did take advantage of them because it helped. But the kicker was, after you qualified it didn't matter that you got a job! You were still eligible for a year! And it didn't seem that anyone had any objection to us not updating our status because the school funding is somehow tied to it?!
I've always thought that people should only be allowed to be on welfare for X number of years. After that, it's done. I know people go through tough times, but you have to pick yourself up and go. Not just expect a handout, some one else to do it for you.
That's what I teach my kids, and that's what my parents taught me. So if that makes someone mad, I'm happy to be in the same class with you!

Facie said...

When I most subbed for the same teacher three days in a row, I created and passed out a type of self-assessment. I was trying to figure out how these kids saw themselves, what motivates them, who they fear the most, etc. Most were not the least bit afraid of their parents. The teachers did not rank much higher. One student acknowledged that he was the one who tended to get the class stirred up/talked out of turn frequently, yet he also wanted the teachers to think highly of him. Huh?

And, yeah, very much in favor of birth control. If those women want their welfare money, they should have to get monthly shots or whatever you are talking about. So wish there was a shot for men as well because too often when you read about a guy who was shot in the city, you read about his six or seven kids.

Mel said...

You can be in my class anytime, Cari--and if I ever start that foundation I mentioned, I'll let you know. I'm not surprised to hear there is no follow-up to check on eligibility for assistance. Facie, I am totally on board with a BC shot for men. Wow, the money THAT could save...

Anonymous said...

"...and who had no problem reminding me—frequently—that I was the kid and they were the adults. The adults who also happened to be in charge."

Amen to that. My parents were working-class people (who didn't go to college) and who both worked. My brother, sister, and I had to do chores around the house and we received no allowance. We also had to shovel our elderly neighbors' sidewalks in winter and couldn't accept any payment from them. We also were expected to study and get good grades, and we never got paid for good performance our gradecards. And as soon as we turned 16, we got work permits and did small after-school jobs. My parents had to drive us there and back from these jobs -- it was a sacrifice for them, too -- but that's how it was in our house. You learned to work hard not to earn short-term money/rewards, but to learn life habits of working hard, sacrificing, and not always getting what you wanted. These days, that kind of "harsh" parenting might provoke a call to Children's Services. ;-)

- Shell