I have always defended today's youth, even before I was put in the position of teaching them. At the height of the hysteria over the school shootings at such places as Columbine and Jonesboro, it was seldom pointed out that the rate of violence in our schools had actually decreased.
The media plays such an important role in the stereotyping of our younger generation. They emphasize the bad things that happen and rarely point out the good. They also have played a key role in the heavy emphasis on test scores in comparison to test scores from other countries, always conveniently overlooking the fact that this country is the only country in the world that makes a genuine effort to educate everyone from the most intelligent to the educable mentally retarded. We have always had a goal of no child left behind, well before it became a political slogan.
This hysteria has backfired on the country in many ways. It has put such an emphasis on tests, all of which must, of course, be politically correct, that it is putting the country in danger of failing to educate its young on the basics of citizenship.
Too many times the lessons of today's news have to be left behind so teachers can strictly adhere to curriculums designed to enable students to pass standardized tests. Fortunately there are some teachers who continue to work civics into their lessons, engaging the interest of young people.
Rocky Biggers, my next-door neighbor at South Middle School is one of those teachers. Rocky, who teaches eighth grade social studies, has already managed to work in lessons involving this year's presidential race as well as lessons that compare our judicial system with that of 16th Century Salem.
I wouldn't put myself in Rocky's league, but the students in my communication arts classes were in the computer lab Friday and will be there again Monday to research the stances of President Bush and Senator Kerry on the issues in preparation for writing a comparison/contrast paper later this week.
Students always say they are bored by politics, but it has been my experience that they are almost always more interested than they let on.
Today's youth also have a strong feeling of allegiance to this country. For proof of that, go to my class website, www.room210.com to the Wall of Fame page and read my eighth graders' entries for the annual Elks Lodge Essay Contest. This year's topic was "What Old Glory Means to Me." Some of those entries will leave you with tears in your eyes.
The events of the past week served as a reminder to me of the importance of small-town newspapers in bringing together communities. Small-town newspapers are not there to serve as cheerleaders for a community, though they should be supportive and write about the good things that happen.
At the same time, they should not be constantly tearing down a community, but they must always present the bad news as it happens. And they owe it to their communities to have reporters who are trained to accurately report the news and who are able to write well.
Death in a community is always big news, especially when it happens to someone who is prominent or to someone who is young and never had a chance to live a complete life. I was disappointed to see the Saturday Lamar Democrat (at least the internet version) and see that only a small obituary was there for Rachel Blaser. The local newspaper can play an important role in the healing of a community during such a sad occasion. On the other hand, if it is done poorly, it is probably better off not being done at all, so maybe the right decision was made.
That being said, how in the world can the Democrat publish two straight editions without a story on the resignation of Dan O'Sullivan as chairman of the board of directors at O'Sullivan Industries, the company founded by his father.
That is big news in anybody's definition. Not only is it the removal of nearly the last link of the O'Sullivans to their family business, but it is a sign of continuing change in the company that is the largest employer in Barton County. If you get a chance, take a look at www.lamardemocrat.com and see what stories the Democrat editor considered more important than the O'Sullivan resignation.
The other big story this week was the Missouri State Auditor's release of the audit for McDonald County. That is the kind of big story that couldn't be ignored as was obvious from the two-day exposure given to the results by both The Joplin Globe and The Neosho Daily News.