by Kenneth M. Krone
The discontent of youth has given rise to a 20th century “Children’s Crusade.” “Oh my, from the mouth of babes,” exclaims many a bewildered adult. You, students of Roosevelt High, are also children of the world.
Nurtured in the bosom of hypocrisy, you can see the double standard, and you rebel, either out of conviction, or for the hell of it.
The world does truly extend beyond the walls of our school, and you are a part of it like no other generation. Perhaps to you, school is a non-essential accessory to that big world out there, representing mostly the worst of it.
Roosevelt, like most public schools, is more or less, a replica of the society which created it. What’s good and bad about Chicago, America, and the world is what’s good and bad with Roosevelt.
However, rather than taking on the outside world, for many of you, your school becomes the scapegoat. You localize your anti-social behavior, and your school becomes the whipping boy on which you vent your frustrations.
This era of questioning and protesting those values and institutions that some perceive as being illegitimate and unjust, has led to a new higher level of disorganization, confusion, and indiscriminate rule-breaking. Thus, the typical quantity of instances of anti-social, unlawful, and immoral behavior is at an all time high.
You the students, have been taking advantage of the current situation by “getting away with all you can,” with little regard for the justice of your behavior.
You have been acting against people, and their institutions, but you have accepted little of the responsibility for your behavior. Too often you have been living a “negative existence” by engaging in disruptive, anti-productive activities, later taking advantage of the resultant confusion, and accepting non of the blame for it.
I shall cite some specific examples here at Roosevelt of what I speak. Of course, there will be disagreement as to how widespread they are.
Many of you students frequently come unprepared for class. Typically you lack paper, pens, pencils, books, assignments, locks, gym outfits, projects, etc. This has, in some cases taken on epidemic proportions, resulting in a poor educational environment in the classrooms.
Your day-to-day dishonesty is a shame on you. Stealing each other belongings, cheating on tests, refusing to admit to others or yourselves the truth of a self-debasing or self-incriminating fact – your working definition of truth is “that which the involved parties can be made to accept or to believe.” You are making wilderness into a jungle.
Harassment of Teachers
There is a widening policy of harassment of teachers – the most vulnerable of your establishment – oriented authority figures. You have been playing off one against the other, relating to them with the minimum amount of respect, as the situation requires, ignoring deadlines for turning in forms, assignments, coursebooks, moneys, etc.
This has place a spiraling burden upon the teachers, for they must put forth an added effort on administrative trivia and follow throughs. As a result, teaching quality inevitably declines – less innovation and more blandness. You, therefore, rebel further by cooperating less, leading to further deterioration. Where does the spiral end?
Put your own house in order, first. With so much concern about “environmental violence” (pollution, etc.) let us examine our immediate situation.
Our lunchroom is truly a sore spot in our environment. The lack of consideration for the other person’s right to dine in a state of relaxation, in a wholesome atmosphere, is being infringed upon.
The intentional spilling of food and drink – yes the wasting of our limited resources – is a despicable crime against humanity. The fact that one-third of the world’s people are undernourished or are starving to death is not in itself a logical argument against your actions, but it does indicate a great hypocrisy in in your life style.
We gave in to your demands for autonomy in the lunchroom and you proved that you cannot accept the responsibility.
Lack of responsibility
The destruction and removal of property not belonging to you alone is every bit as selfish an act as “American Imperialism.” If you have guilt, you have committed an act of selfish gratification.
If you have ever stolen a book, if you have intentionally destroyed a piece of school property, if you have stolen a purse or wallet, you have violated the “power to the people” principle. You have taken the power derived from ownership, from the people, for yourself.
Class cutting, tardies, and unnecessary absences are running rampant. But in the long run you will suffer. Too often, instead of working to reform and improve classes – by constructive criticism, positive suggestions, continuous follow-ups, and accepting responsibilities for successful failure, you withdraw, later only to strike out in a negativistic way.
Do the rest of you commit these selfish, irresponsible acts because of some lofty reformist principle, or because of a chronic unwillingness to tackle the responsibilities of being a student?
These are some of the examples of your lack of responsibility. Granted that not all of you are guilty on all counts. There are considerate people at Roosevelt and to those I am indebted and humble.
Parents partly to blame
The society that is ours is mostly the handiwork of your parents and their contemporaries. Our school (whose job it is to pass on the accumulated knowledge of our culture to you) should be of great interest to your folks. Far too many of them, however, are not sufficiently concerned.
The exceedingly poor turnout at our open house is a symptom of their indifference. You may or may not be getting short-changed in your education, but most of your parents will never know. And they are the ones who can demand improvements the most readily, by virtue of their taxpayer and voter status.
If some teachers seem unqualified to teach, if some students lack textbooks, if some rules are unfair, if some courses are irrelevant, let your parents be part of the reform. They helped to make the “mess,” they should at least wring the mop.
Administration and some faculty party to blame
In some ways, we educators can be justly blamed for some of Roosevelt’s ills. For one thing, we tolerate much of your anti-social, anti-educational behavior without holding you accountable.
If you have committed an act defined as wrong by our existing code, you should pay the price, whether it be detentions, suspension, or whatever. An unfair rule or practice will hopefully, not long stand the test of time. But the power to force change must never be solely a game of power politics.
We are mistaken in being so accommodating to many of you students When you mess up the lunchroom, you should clean it up. When you break or deface school property, you should pay for repairs. When you frequently come unprepared to class, you should be punished. You should be held accountable for your actions.
Society emphasizes education
You stand to be big losers. Our times dictate that to be a financial, social, or moral success, you must be knowledgeable. Whatever your political belief or social philosophy, knowledge is power for you. Learn all you can to work toward your own Utopia.
Hard-boiled institutions do not get changed overnight. The irrelevancies of our educational matrices will take a long time to change. The matrices themselves, a reflection of “the system,” may take far longer. In the meantime public education, although mediocre, is not worthless, and it would be in your best interest to get what you can from it.
Whatever the individual does, he should be held responsible for this actions. It is a privilege to be punished for what one believes in. Stand up and be counted when the chips are down. Be strong and honest in setback as in victory.
A society which does not hold its citizens accountable for their actions, will find itself insecure, unstable, unjust and unmanageable.
You, the upcoming generation who must inherit and manage the society, must first look at yourselves – your life-styles, your attitudes, your philosophies and your day-to-day behavior.
I fear you’ll find yourselves as hypocritical and selfish as those people and institutions you oppose. Some of you have noble ideas – why not be a living example of how people can live and work together in peace, co-operation, brotherhood and selflessness.