The Thankfulness Deficit
By Kay R. Daly
November 22, 2004
A more worrisome problem facing this nation than the budget deficit is a deficit of thankfulness for the many blessings we have in our lives. John Stossel's report on ABC's 20/20 last Friday night entitled "Cheaters that Prosper" depicts a generation of college students that feel completely justified in cheating their way to a degree. Clearly, they not only feel entitled to a college education and the benefits that come with completing the course of study, but also view it as a bothersome process to be gamed.
One wealthy heiress to the WalMart fortune paid her young Hispanic roommate to do all of her work at the University of Southern California. The roommate had served in our nation's uniform for the opportunity to go to college while the heiress apparently thought that classes interfered with her social life. Seems to me the roommate deserves two degrees.
Other students covered in this sad story felt no shame whatsoever for buying term papers, plagiarizing from the Internet and using text messaging, PDA's and a host of other creative methods to get around spending the time to actually learn something. If they put as much energy into learning as they did engineering new and creative ways to cheat on tests and papers, they would most likely graduate with honors.
Something has gone terribly wrong when 1) kids have no appreciation for the opportunities they enjoy in today's world; 2) they have no love of learning and the challenge of completing rigorous tasks; 3) they do not hesitate to take shortcuts and cheat their way through college; 4) they feel no shame about it whatsoever.
That, friends, is a sad commentary.
My father was a child of the Great Depression who was on the streets at age nine and it was only his skill as a quarterback and tenacity in the classroom that got him into Northwestern University. When World War II interrupted his college career, he was torn between his sense of duty to country and completing his degree. He chose country over self and was one of the youngest O.S.S. agents ever recruited. After serving in both the European and Pacific theaters, he won a spot in the prestigious graduate school of banking at the University of Washington. He graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Despite his achievements, one of my father's biggest regrets in his life was that he did not complete his undergraduate degree. One of his last requests to me before he died was to put the proceeds from his life insurance policy into 529 college investment accounts for his grandsons.
There were certainly times during my high school and college career that I rebelled against the rigors of the program. But it never would have crossed my mind to cheat my way through the problems I faced. It worries me that cheating seems to have become normal and expected as a way "to get by."
Things that you work to earn you appreciate all the more. Clearly, there are kids out there who have no sense of appreciation for the extraordinary number of blessings that this nation and their parents are giving to them.
Contrary to what the liberal chattering classes have been filling our children's heads with over the years, there is no constitutional right to anything but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no guarantee of happiness, only a right to pursue it. Life and liberty are the assets that carry us onto that road in pursuit of happiness. It is the liberal mindset, though, that has our children believing in government-provided outcomes. The cheaters at these colleges seem to not appreciate the opportunity they have been given and what's more, they probably believe it is owed to them somehow.
Clearly, we as parents are failing miserably in making our children aware of precisely how blessed they are. We are too busy handing them material gadgets without thinking of the consequences.
Here's an example. There is not a teenager today who is not physically attached to a cell phone. How many of them, though, must pay for the bills or do the parents write the check every month? When my parents allowed me to have my own phone line in the house, I thought I was in heaven. Little did I know that this was a budgeting lesson I was not soon to forget as I had to meet the payments to keep the phone.
Giving your 16 year old a car? Then have them pay for the insurance, gas and maintenance. Living on a budget sure did cut down on my cruising mileage. My first car was a green 1978 Ford Mustang. Most of my friends had BMWs, Porsche's, Mercedes, but I loved that little Mustang like it was my child because I had to pay for it and take care of it. I appreciated it.
This Thanksgiving, I have a prayer for our nation. Rather than just making this holiday just about football and food, count your blessings. Not what you want to achieve, own or accomplish, but what you already have. Be humbled and thankful for those who helped provide those opportunities and those who have died so that you could enjoy those opportunities unshackled by tyranny.
Spending our short time on this Earth embittered because of what we perceive we are owed, scheming our way through shortcuts or justifying both ends and means is an empty, pathetic, meaningless, ungrateful existence. We come into this world and are given the extraordinary gift of life from our Creator. What we chose to do with that gift is entirely up to us. Having a thankful heart is a good start.