Some days one has to wonder what we are doing to our children.
At every turn young people are stymied in pursuing anything which might help them understand the world in which they live, get to know themselves or to build a future.
From local ordinances that keep kids out of public parks, to inane restrictions on young people holding jobs, to the anti-business brain-washing with which they are imbued at all levels of public education, we cripple our children’s ability to participate in life. Then, somehow they are supposed to arrive in the work place, at age 20, bright-eyed and busy tailed, engaging, knowledgeable, and eager to participate in the world of business and production – a place which, if they haven’t been totally alienated against, their only experience has been the purchase of a video game or a hamburger at a checkout stand.
When we wonder what drives youth to experiment with drugs or to become involved in defiant destruction and anti-societal acts, perhaps we should really look for the answer.
How frustrating it must be for youth trying to make sense of life and society, to be pushed into the play room, in front of a television or to be told they aren’t capable. To be told to quit asking questions and go away, or worse to be told they have achieved when even they know they haven’t. Even a child should feel insulted at that.
A few weeks ago, on the news there was a video of a little toddler saving his twin brother who was trapped under a dresser which had toppled onto him. It was amazing to see the evaluation and understanding and initiative the child demonstrated. He demonstrated how much more capable children are than that for which they are allowed the opportunity to exercise. Don’t ever tell that kid he’s winning the soccer game when they are down 12 to zip.
The greatest education any one gets is “on the job,” and the earlier that happens in life the better the outcomes.
We often hear about what great workers farm kids are – about their work ethic – about their dependability and character. What is being recognized isn’t the greater benefits of bucking bales or feeding chickens, but of the opportunity they have to exercise their ability to think and participate in productive endeavors. There is nothing uniquely magical about farms, it’s the fact that farm kids usually get to “work” which helps them to develop their full potential. Dealing with hard core reality is very much a part of farm life, which not only develops critical thought, but the successes in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals, grows self-confidence and a desire to do more.
No wonder that’s a person an employer wants to hire. No wonder that so many of them become employers themselves.
Nothing says that such opportunity must be restricted to farm life – but it certainly seems to be the case.
It is absolutely cruel what we are doing to our youth. Not only are they delivered totally unprepared into adulthood, and expected to function, but their very nature as human beings is being abused.
While the true nature of human beings is seldom given much attention in our political and social discourses, one can hardly escape the reality that we are hardwired to work. Our minds are enjoyably engaged when we are learning, achieving and producing. A sense of euphoria, of accomplishment, and self-worth are only forthcoming when we have created or produced or learned something new. Things that take effort is what most cultivates a strong, confident and content human being — contrary to the idea that we should all be striving for some kind of state of sublime perfection (often called retirement) that is defined by inaction, relaxation and purposeless pursuits. Few really find that enjoyable.
We short change the minds of our children, too, if we do not inspire them and give them structure and purpose to life. To be inspired is a need that is especially felt as human beings enter early adulthood. To inspire is the responsibility of not only parents but of the community as a whole – of teachers, leaders, mentors, role models and artists.
Surely we have to admit that there is little in what our kids are exposed to, on a daily basis, that is inspiring. Our leaders, very astute about what is politically correct, have long ceased to inspire anyone. This may go a long way to explaining how terrorists can so easily persuade young people to join their cause….the calling they offer is the first “cause” of which the kid has ever heard, and if presented well it holds powerful emotional appeal. The young person has no other ideas with which to balance the new ideas And, sometimes, having never been allowed to learn or experience humanity they have no humanity.
When do-gooders go about restricting under-age youth from effort, or the work place, there is usually little balancing in their ideas in regard to the fact that kids are little human beings in the making.
While they claim to be concerned about health and safety and exploitation, there is no value assigned to the education, experience and confidence that the workplace gives a kid. No doubt, there is more risk to a kid working in a place of business, compared to playing video games in the basement – but the only risk the do-gooders consider is potential physical harm. What is happening to the brains and psyche of children isn’t for a moment considered, that only becomes a matter of concern when the kid starts doing drugs.
Perhaps drugs pose a way out in a confusing world in which a child is constantly pushed to reconcile contradictory information. It is heart- wrenching to think what torture some children must suffer in trying to please adults and yet find that what they are being told doesn’t fit with the reality they encounter.
Claims of the do-gooders that they are concerned about risks are quite bogus. Those same do-gooders are undoubtedly the parents of football players, of skiers or skateboarders, rock climbers etc. which expose youth to equal if not greater risks, as would a job of sweeping out a warehouse or stocking shelves or bussing tables. Risks are inherent with life and rational risks must be assumed to accomplish anything worthwhile. Even a play room holds more risks than a padded cell.
Parents who believe they are being loving and benevolent by never requiring their child to do real work, are doing their child no favor. One might admonish such parents with the warning that the kid will likely always want to live in their basement, but more distressing is, what kind of joy, happiness, and sense of self-worth will that grown kid experience?
Life is risk.
Let our children take calculated risks. Let them struggle and discover. Let them encounter and overcome. Let them learn the euphoria of accomplishment and inspiration, before they even know about drugs. Let them understand the world and how to negotiate it.
Let them live.

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