You have probably heard of Murphy’s law, "If anything can go wrong, it will." Doesn’t that seem to be what is happening today?
First we had COVID. Then we had the Delta variant. Then we had the drought and fires. Then we had the evacuation of Afghanistan. Then we had Hurricane Ida. Then we had the controversy about Roe v. Wade. Then we had schools making tough decisions about wearing masks or not to wear masks. What more could go wrong? It’s like getting out on the wrong side of the bed but in this case you are much better off staying in bed.
Oh, to make matters worse, there is Cedric's law that says, "Murphy is an optimist."
It’s hard for adults to figure things out these days. Maybe we should leave it to the youth to take over and clear things up. To do so, however, they need to grow in at least five areas.
First, let’s require all young people to put in two years of service to the country after graduation. They could choose the military, Teacher Corps, VISTA, Peace Corps, Job Corps or something similar.
Remember the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) that was put into place during the depression era in the 1930s? It ended with the onset of World War II when every young male joined the military. Many of the CCC camps were in this area and because of them our state and national parks began to flourish and many other capital improvements were made.
The idea that every young person should put in some time to serve his country has a mountain of benefits. Probably the most important is that it takes a high degree of sacrifice. You have to give two years of your life to a cause other than yourself but young people shouldn’t worry. No one ever became poor by giving.
The second requirement of youth is that every young person who is 16 and 17 years old should be a mentor to someone who is 14 or 15. Every school is lacking in counselors. Teens are more likely to listen to other teens than they are to adults.
The third requirement is that all youth should study another language for at least two years. All teens don’t need algebra but all teens need to know about other cultures in our interdependent world. Many of our foreign exchange students can speak several languages to the point where it’s an embarrassment when our young people can only speak one. As anyone who can speak two or more languages will tell you, the best way to learn about another culture is to speak their language.
The fourth requirement for all youth would be to complete a peace project both at the elementary and secondary level. Now that we are out of the business of war (let’s not hold our breath), let’s get into the business of peace. We really haven’t tried it. If we have ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) in our schools, which is a fine program for some youth, why not a POTC (Peacemaker Officer Training Corps)?
In the POTC program young people are exposed to the writings of peacemakers like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, Chief Joseph, Muhammed, Jesus, Buddha, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Dorothy Day and Barbara Jordan to name a few. They would be instructed in creating projects that are founded on the principles of peacemaking.
We need to get into the habit of talking about peace, hashing it over, kicking it around. It’s as if we have thrown in the towel. Most teachers wouldn’t even know how to go about organizing a unit on peace. This is because we don't study it, we don’t write about it and we don’t practice it. Matthew 5:9 states: "Blessed are the peacemakers."
As far as I know, there is no race or religion that does not consider peace to be a worthy goal. The Peacemaker Resources program here in Bemidji is built on the premise that social and emotional learning skills are essential for healthy and meaningful lives. It’s an excellent program and every young person should be exposed to peacemaking over a period of time.
The last requirement is that every young person should graduate from high school. Let’s make it a requirement. You can’t drive a car unless you have a license. You shouldn’t be able to leave school unless you have your diploma. Not only would this help all youth, it would provide extra dollars to school districts because enrollments would increase. The benefits for obtaining a high school diploma are almost limitless.
Well, John, isn’t requiring graduating from high school being cruel? Why should everyone have a diploma? Was it cruel to require all young men to register for the draft and serve if they were called? Is it cruel to have all young people wear a mask knowing that it is safer for them as well as for others? Is it cruel to require all young people to attend school knowing that education is in their best interests? Actually, allowing young people to leave school without their diploma is cruel. It borders on being inhumane.
I can understand when young people get disenchanted with schools for various reasons. It’s not always the fault of the student. When this is the case, we need to first change the school and not the student.
Two years of service after graduation, serve as a mentor, learn another language, learn what it is to be a peacemaker, and not leave school without a high school diploma, would these requirements result in a better world? It doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to realize how they would benefit our way of life as we approach the 22nd century. We all should feel a bit of guilt realizing they are not already in place.
Riddle: How can you arrange four "5’s" so they equal 56? (Answer: Add 55 + 5/5)
Thanks to Red Lake Builders for the use of their fence to hold a “Remind Young People To Graduate" banner. Thanks also to the city of Ponemah for using their ball diamond fence.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.