I’ve experienced a phenomenon that I’ve labeled: “Here’s my excuse; you must accept it or I get upset.” I’m sure you’ve experienced it too.
It is a sense of entitlement, and because of this selfish worldview I hear excuses all day long. My day job is that of a public school band director. Most days I have 11- and 12- year-olds say “I left my instrument at home because I was going to miss the bus.” Or “I left my music book at home because I forgot it at my dad’s house.” Not so bad, I guess. I understand that life happens.
However, when I say that they will receive a “0” for the day since they are unable to participate, I hear this response: “Well… didn’t you just hear me? I said I slept in on accident!” or the ever-popular blanket statement “That’s not fair!” While we could argue my philosophy on grading and what constitutes the definition of the word participation, it is the students’ response that draws my attention. Unfortunately for these kids, the culture of minimal to non-existent consequences is not going to serve them well when they leave school. My elders tell me that if you don’t show up to a gig, you don’t get paid. If you don’t come in for work for 3 days straight, your employer just might fire you.
Too bad for the kids though, since my generation and the ones before are not helping. In education, the whole idea of “No Child Left Behind” met its demise because not every child has the same situation or needs the same thing to be a “success.” The only way to realize a vision of every child being a “success” is to decide for the child what “success” is, then set the standards of that success low enough to accommodate the least gifted, the least motivated and the most poorly endowed child. Where’s the rigor? Where is the hard work that we claim to value? While there was a positive development on this front, the name of the current national education law is still called “Every Student Succeeds Act.” It’s still the same mindset, the same fallacious reasoning: to make it work, the students who do next to nothing still get a diploma to show for it. And this is not just an education issue.
The idea of universal basic income is gaining traction around the world. The idea is that the government pays you a small amount of money to help with the cost of living so that you can job search, get a higher education, feed your families when times are tight, etc. Countries like Finland, Kenya and even cities inside the United States are experimenting with the idea. Even intellectual free-market giants like Milton Friedman supported the idea (thanks Matt Orfalea!). It sounds like a good idea, but
- Where does that money come from? and
- What guarantee is there that you won’t squander that money on things you don’t need or, worse, throw it into social drains like drugs or gambling?
Like any good governmental idea, it’s doomed to failure if it is not tempered with morality and virtue. This is why morally bankrupt ideologies like communism need totalitarian governments to function well. And it’s just not me saying this:
- “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin
- “’Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government.” – George Washington
We’ve forgotten, or perhaps simply don’t believe in the virtue espoused in Paul’s second letter to Thessalonica, where he commanded them that “…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) If our populace becomes accustomed to being able to make a living by doing less and less, it will succumb to any system or ideology to sustain that lifestyle. Many surely would jump at the chance to sit around a palace and eat like a king and do nothing all day issuing proclamations. But at what cost? Who grows the food? Who built that palace? Who designed the video game? Who runs your proclamation to the media outlet to declare it to the world? Isn’t this what so many young people are doing now, staying at home longer (Pew Research), playing video games for imaginary gains long into the night?
Now, of course, staying home with your parents an extra year in-and-of itself isn’t a bad thing, as many kids stay home longer because they want to save up for a down-payment on a house or are avoiding debt by doing community college, etc. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with leisure. YHWH Himself takes the seventh day off in the creation account of Genesis to enjoy what He’d made. However, a country without virtue and a love of leisure leads to societal decay and an economy built on service rather than industry. If you’ve seen my previous article discussing Artificial Intelligence, you know there are systems that are being built that will be able to pacify a population of willing participants by cheaply and efficiently providing what they need. What will our population be willing to give up in order to continue its idealized lifestyle of getting something for nothing?
If our society was all uprooted and placed on a desert island with no food, water or shelter, who among us would even try to survive? I heard a story on National Public Radio (NPR) a couple weeks ago that a town in Puerto Rico called San Sebastian decided to stop waiting for the government to turn their power back on and to do it themselves, 4 months after Hurricane Maria leveled the island. That’s awesome! Would our population be willing or able to do that? What about in 10 years? 20 years?
Pursuing leisure above all else is a form of idol worship, and I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is for kids to succumb to it. Christians in Thessalonica neglected daily tasks because many of them were just waiting around for the imminent return of Christ. They had to be reminded that we can’t just wait around for something great to happen. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 tells us “…never tire of doing what is good.” Two thousand years later, with our world at risk of war, financial collapse and experiencing spiritual decay, maybe, just maybe, we should make like the folks in San Sebastian and just get to work.