The entitlement mentality has invaded the classroom, especially in the inner city, and it is ruining our children’s education. When I was a kid, I remember being chided by my parents and teachers not to be lazy. The work ethic was stressed at every moment in the classroom. We were Americans and it was the American ethos to work hard, to be independent and to take responsibility for our behavior. A conscience was instilled in the classrooms, not just a moral one, but an ethical one, and working was considered honorable, therefore, desirable and ethical. Even the lazy kid who didn’t turn in his homework or pay attention in class was made to feel that ethos bearing down upon him. He was never proud to defy his teachers. He was made to feel guilty about his defiance. He did not brag about being lazy.
We had to do real work in the classroom, too. Nobody made it fun. No teacher felt the need to make learning entertaining. It was work. We were given multiplication tables to memorize for math class and lots of arithmetic problems to work over, both in class and as homework. A demand was made upon us to read the classic literature and to appreciate the great known authors. We were required to learn not merely the dates, but the lessons of history, to appreciate and understand the achievements of the great figures of historic importance, and more, to understand the greatness of our own nation and the achievements of our greatest figures, not just the generals who fought in wars and made us the leading nation on Earth, but the great figures in industry, sports and the arts. We were imbued with respect for how hard they all had to work to achieve the things they achieved, and we were encouraged to work just as hard as they had so that we could earn the same respect as they had.
We were imbued with this ethos for a reason. It was because, without that work ethic, without the full realization that our futures as individuals were of our own making, our lives would be adversely affected, not just by the poverty of our pocketbooks, but by the poverty of our very spirit. We needed to develop the ability to continue to learn beyond school, in life itself. We were never told that our self-esteem could be handed to us through some idiotic regulations. We had to achieve our own self-esteem and working hard was the only way to achieve it.
Our education consisted of lessons that we might consider boring and routine, like learning our multiplication tables and reciting them aloud, but they were lessons necessary to our survival in a difficult world. Reality, despite what Liberal Democrats will often tell you, is not forgiving. It is reality and if we ignore it, we pay a heavy price for that ignorance. We knew that if we did not do our arithmetic we would be unable to make change at a grocery store and would not be able to calculate our paychecks. We had to learn to read and write properly in Standard English, because, if we didn’t, no one would understand us. We were not given the option of speaking in a unique patois and we were not given our lessons in some foreign language, just because we were from other countries. English was and still is the language of our country and everyone who wants to live and work here has to be able to communicate with others, not just some others, but all others. I remember that in our classrooms we had children from foreign countries who had managed to survive the horrors of the Second World War. They were required to learn English, the language of America, which had welcomed them and which was now their country as well as ours. They learned English because their ability to communicate would have been so stunted that no one would pay attention to them. We all had to learn to express ourselves, our ideas and our vision, as individuals, because our survival depended on it.
But now, it seems, that traditional American ethos has been turned on its head. Where is the work ethic that once was prevalent in American public schools? With so many people on the public dole, many students, especially those whose parents receive welfare, seem to feel that they do not need to work to earn their grades any more than their parents need to work to earn a paycheck. Children seem to have developed an entitlement mentality that says, “We don’t need to work hard, because we are entitled to an education.” They do not recognize that they are already being given the opportunity for that education. What they really mean is that they are entitled to high grades while putting in as little work as possible to achieve them. Marking on the curve, taking into account their upbringing and living circumstances, their ethnicity and its history or some other factor related to some perceived disadvantage is now the rule, rather than the exception it once was.
Believe it or not, there was a time when receiving welfare was not common. When I was growing up, even the mention of social welfare was enough to bring conversation to a whisper. Why? It was because working, even at a menial job, was honorable, while taking charity was, if not dishonorable, at least something that did not instill pride. And when people needed charity, they usually had to be convinced to take it. They had to be told it wasn’t really shameful, because sometimes people needed a hand. But the thought of generational welfare on the public dole was not only unthinkable, it was disgraceful. And until the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, it was non-existent, because people were supposed to work. It was the American way and it was the only decent way to live. Even children were required to work, not in factories or in the fields, but in school where they built their future by learning their multiplication tables and by practicing standard English.
The entitlement attitude has burgeoned so much in the past several decades, that work ethic which was once a part of the American social fabric, once universally recognized as fundamental and honorable, has eroded, not only in society in general, but in the classrooms, as well. It has been replaced by the weak-willed notion that the government will take care of them. The Liberal Democrats encourage this by creating the notion of class warfare. They do it by stressing loudly what they call income inequality. But they do not mention that the inequality in incomes is fundamentally the difference between the product of one person’s efforts and another person’s lack of efforts. Their solution to this difference is to provide greater and greater “entitlements,” which means merely that they seize wealth that has been earned by some people and give it to those who have not earned it. This practice and the mentality it creates encourage not work, but idleness and yet a greater entitlement mentality. But welfare is not empowering; it is disempowering. What is empowering is achievement and that can come about solely through real work.
For a kid, that means learning the real lessons of the school classroom, not the fraudulent lessons of a welfare state or a collectivist society, but real lessons: how to read, how to do arithmetic and how to be a responsible individual. When I was growing up, going to school and getting an education was a kid’s job and he was expected to do it with the same energy as his parents did their jobs. The “paycheck” we received for working hard in school, for studying and doing their homework, was a report card of good grades. That report card was earned, just as our parents’ paycheck was earned. But when parents no longer work to get their paychecks, but rely instead upon welfare entitlements, how are children to learn this lesson. In fact, without restoring the work ethic, to society and to our school classrooms, the result will be an even greater division between those who have and those who do not. And, when students no longer work to achieve not merely grades, but a real education, the fabric of society will break down and ultimately, a whole civilization will destroy itself.