Sunday, February 22, 2009

Charting a Course for the Next Generation

My husband and I watched Speed Racer the other night. A perfect movie for my husband who LOVES cars and for me a reminder of the kind of family we want to create. I wouldn't give it 5 stars, neither would my husband. But we would definitely watch it again for the fun of doing so and for the values it portrays: humility, patience, love for family, families are stronger when they do things together, knowing who you are is more important than fame, fortune and power. What other new movie these days shows these kinds of values??? We hope our son will not trade in fame, fortune and/or power for being authentically himself.

A book that reminds how important the next generation is and how we must help chart the course for their world is The Sea is so Wide and my Boat is so Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation by Marian Wright Edelman. It is very easy and simple to read, yet enjoyable, inspiring and motivating. The book is also an eye-opener. Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

How America Ranks Among Industrialized Countries in Investing In and Protecting Children:

1st in gross domestic product
1st in number of billionaires in the world
1st in number in persons incarcerated
1st in health expenditures
1st in military technology
1st in defense expenditures
1st in military weapons exports
22nd in low birth weight rates
25th in infant mortality rates
high in relative child poverty
high in the gap between the rich and the poor
high in teen (age 15 - 19) birthrates
last in protecting children against gun violence
USA and Somalia (which has no legally constituted government) are the only two UN members that have failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Percent of 12th grade public school students NOT reading at grade level

Total, all races 65
White, non-Hispanic 57
Black 84
Hispanic 80
American Indian 74
Asian 64

Percent of 12th grade public school students NOT doing maths at grade level

Total, all races 77
White, non-Hispanic 71
Black 94
Hispanic 92
American Indian 94
Asian 64

In A Letter to Parents, Ms. Edelman writes:

Parenting has become more and more difficult in our dazzlingly fast-paced world mired down in materialism, violence, fame, celebrity worship, and triviality. With technology's instant and massive reach, the relentless virus of commercial and entertainment messaging to children at earlier and earlier ages is difficult to avoid, forcing parents to compete with powerful outside cultural forces for children children's attention and values. Childhood innocence, play, and imagination are being intruded upon more and more by profiteers seeking new markets and trying to addict parents through their children to their brands. Many parents are pressured into buying the latest designer sneakers and jeans and other 'stuff' they cannot afford, working more hours to satisfy children who seek to keep up with peers and spending less time at home. In our increasingly coarse and profane public marketplace, mutual respect and any sense of the sacred has eroded, extrinsic values are glorified over intrinsic ones, making it difficult to guid children toward more authentic and purposeful lives. Buying is equated with happiness. Money and fame are equated with success. Children are not just sold products but sex, alcohol, tobacco, and violence as the way to be accepted and hip.

At its 350th anniversary, Harvard reported the top three goals of its entering freshmen as (1) money, (2) power, and (3) reputation and fame. Are these the values we truly want our children to treasure? Will the pursuit of such individualistic goals brin gour nation and world closer together or drive us further apart? Are these the measures of success we want to leave our children as parents, people of faith, and citizens of a great democracy in a globalizing world desperately hungering for moral leadership? If money, power, and personal fame are the central values in our lives, then human values and fair sharing with those left behind get lost. Children are treated as consumers, market values trump moral values, and personal greed trumps common good.

In A Letter to Young People, she writes:

Keep saying the truth and holding on to your beliefs even if it appears no one is listening. A rabbi, who lived and preached a life of virtue while his congregation ignored him and went on with their selfish ways, was asked: "Rabbi, why do you bother? Nobody listens. You're not changing anything." And the rabbi replied: "But you misunderstand. I don't do it to change them. I do it to keep them from changing me." Try not to let the world tell you who you are. Try to tell the world who you are and don't be a copycat. God made you original.

Choose work that promotes life not death. My father told me as a child that God runs a full employment economy and that if you just look for and follow the need you'll never lack a purposeful existence... How much of our war machinery today is propelled by the need to keep employed the scientists and the engineers who specialize in weapons of mass destruction? How much safer might the world become if you and your peers chose to become scientists or mathematicians or engineers or economists committed to finding ways to feed the world's hungry or to finding cures for diseases afflicting the poor or to assuring there's enough water in dry places... Ask whether the education or job you seek or get will benefit others and not just yourself and make the world better or less so. And don't just work for money or power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night.

No comments:

Post a Comment