One night last week, I flicked on Travis Smiley who was just announcing that his first guest for the evening was Marion Wright Edelman, the long time Director of the Children’s Defense Fund. I couldn’t believe that Ms. Wright Edelman was still active in an organization that at least 35 years ago was synonymous with her name. I decided to watch the interview for a few minutes, hoping that Ms. Write-Edelman would reveal the latest strategies for helping poor children in the United States. In the meantime, Mr. Smiley was spouting percentages of children living in poverty today along with the percentage of public funds needed to reduce that number to practically nothing. I do not remember all of the numbers exactly. But, the number of children living in poverty in the US topped 50%. The additional amount of public funds that could reduce that number to almost nothing was about 2%. I was a little disappointed that all Mr. Smiley could offer was to put more public money into the problem. I thought that the solution sounded like a throwback to the 1960’s when the answer to lowering the poverty level of children was to throw more money into programs like Head Start, etc. Although that solution from the interviewer’s lips disappointed me, I decided to hear what Ms.. Wright-Edelman had to say.
I was doubly disappointed. Ms. Wright-Edelman agreed with Mr. Smiley. More public money would easily fix the problem of child poverty in the US. Gone was the woman that I admired and respected, the woman who had such creative compassion in her search for solutions to this perennial problem. In her place was the head of a non-profit organization who tenaciously and deliberately makes the solicitation of funds her prime and only concern. I must confess that I did not give Ms. Wright-Edelman or Mr. Smiley time to redeem themselves. I changed the channel.
In his commentary on the alarming disparity in behavior between the children of college educated parents and those of high school educated parents as researched and examined in the book “Our Kids” by Robert Putnam, David Brooks states that not only sympathy, money and policy are needed but norms. Brooks believes that norms and values were destroyed in US culture by a “plague of nonjudgementalism which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.” Brooks ends this Op-ed piece with, “Every parent loves his or her children. Everybody struggles. But we need ideals and standards to guide the way.”
As one of many others who made life changing decisions in the cause of freedom and self-determination for all in the age of “Peace, not War”, it is time to re-examine the values associated with personal freedom