You can lead a horse to water but …

How should Americans live in order to attain a reasonable level of comfort and security? The formula, seemingly forgotten long ago, is simple. Robert Rob spells it out in his Politico article, “Americans Lose Gift for Practical Living”:

Regardless of how bad a school you attend, pay attention and do what your teachers say to do. Get at least a high school education.

Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. Don’t have a child out of wedlock.

Get a job and perform your duties diligently. Live below your means and put the power of compounding interest to work for your future.

Note this doesn’t include sitting around waiting for someone else to do it for you. It doesn’t include counting on and waiting for government handouts, bailouts, and subsidies. It doesn’t include a home, or a car, or anything else that you haven’t earned.

And yet, as Rob points out, our government seems to be encouraging the continued flouting of these simple guidelines by subsidizing irresponsible behavior — both personal and corporate. As I’ve said before, everything, including responsible behavior, begins at home. Parents should — must — both set the example and teach their kids that this is how you get ahead. That, of course, is precisely the problem. We already have a generation of parents who didn’t learn this themselves and who haven’t taught it to their kids.

Frankly, I don’t know how we break the cycle. I believe education is the key to solving all the world’s ills, from overpopulation to war to economic crises. I don’t know how you convince a school drop-out, a truant, or a gang member prowling the streets that keeping one’s nose to the educational grindstone for twelve years offers a better payoff than the instant gratification of hoops on the playground or drugs on the corner.

Despite what some public figures seem to think, the election of a black president isn’t suddenly, magically, going to motivate minorities, the underprivileged, and the uneducated to rush to their neighborhood schools and become dedicated students. School has always been there, opportunity has always been there, and examples of successful people from all segments of our population have always been there for those who chose to see. Don’t tell me you’ve been discriminated against; don’t tell me I owe you a hand up or a handout; don’t tell me you “can’t.” Don’t expect me to take any responsibility for you or your shortcomings or your bad luck if you won’t first take responsiblity for yourself.

4 thoughts on “You can lead a horse to water but …

  1. I agree. This doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten into scrapes. But when I have, I’ve cleared them up, paid them off, or otherwise handled them myself.

    I think in some ways, it’s that American parents are almost too kind. Each generation has been more lenient and indulgent than the one before. Right now we’re dealing with kids raised by Baby Boomers, who are a rather spoiled bunch, mainly because their Depression-era parents worked so hard and gave them so much so as not to see them go without, the way they had to. Noble, but completely unappreciated. Am I casting blame? No. Just pointing out that overall, humans, or at least Americans, are an ungrateful bunch. We just don’t appreciate what we have–and that is why we are so miserable. A recent study showed that the people who are happy, are happy with what they have. They have goals, but in terms of living arrangements and material possessions, they work with what they’ve got and are content with that.

    1. Giving your kids everything, whatever your motivation, is spoiling them. Same thing if the government does it. It creates a sense of entitlement. I don’t think anyone really appreciates anything unless they’ve earned it themselves.

      Giving your kids nothing — no love, sense of responsibility, pride, encouragement, ambition, love of learning — is even more inexcusable because these things are essential to your children’s future and cost you nothing.

  2. Hey 30,
    Good post and I agree whole-heartedly but I would add one thing – in addition to education, formal or otherwise, parents need to teach their children common sense. This seems to be the most glaring outpoint in our society today. Education was once the foundation for such things but since p.c. has hit every aspect of modern living common sense was one of its first casualties. Too bad. And don’t get me started on critical thinking. I don’t know what the solution is either but I have a feeling it’s going to have to be extreme and likely painful for most of us.

    1. You’re so right! Political correctness has crippled our educational system, making parental input even more important. Cause for concern because so many parents seem to be so irresponsible. Excellent point about critical thinking; it may be the single most important thing you get from a formal education.

... and that's my two cents