Thirty years ago, or so, I became a teacher for a small group of academically talented, urban fourth and fifth graders. The program, state mandated, was new to the district. My job was to turbo-charge the existing curriculum to challenge these select students from five different schools from the surrounding neighborhoods. Before classes started, my supervisor gave me a piece of advice that I have never forgotten. She said that given a choice, it is human nature nearly always to choose the easiest path.
My supervisor stated the above words of wisdom to suggest, cajole, push me into providing a broadened, intensified, inspired curriculum. Those students have long ago passed through my hands and into the wide world of real life. The piece of advice, however, is still with me. Moreover, it remains true.
A few days ago, I read David Brooks op-ed piece in the “New York Times”. The title was “The Vigorous Virtues”. In it Brooks takes issue with the Republican cant that America has lost the vigorous virtues of self-reliance, personal responsibility, industriousness and a passion for freedom because of big government. Government will bail out businesses that lose money; government will provide for children without fathers.
Brooks and I agree that there is much truth in the above. Today, women choose to have children without male support and men choose to impregnate women with impunity. In 2009 the government chose to bail out automakers and bankers to avoid a depression caused by industrial greed.
Recently, automakers have begun to pay back the government; the government has begun suing banks and mortgage companies. Regenerating personal responsibility, however, will not magically re-grow simply be reducing government’s role. Brooks thinks that the answer to restoring the vigorous virtues lies in serious activism by a combination of religious, community and government agencies.
It is much easier to live with the status quo than to try to change social mores that have had several decades to grow. Who will take up the challenge?