Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cap In Hand

In this article about high school sports we are told that kids will learn some crucial skills from participating in sports. They list advantages such as positive mentors, leadership skills, a success mindset, and the importance of the "3 P's"--persistence, patience and practice.

Remember these things as you read the following story...

This morning, on the way home from Church, we saw a string of bouncing teens holding up poorly written signs advertising a car wash to raise funds for a sports team. We assumed it was for football since that is the sports-god around here.

Aside from the signs (with their guilt inducing appeal to community loyalties),  and the fact that a combination of our exorbitant property taxes and the parent's pocketbooks can't seem to finance the sports scene around here, our initial reaction was "at least they are working hard" (and at least the girl's were not wearing bathing suits, as far as we could see).

Then we got to the next major intersection.

Standing on the medians were two men (probably fathers) and on the corner one very sober and uncomfortable looking adolescent. They were all holding signs and cups. The signs said "Please Donate to Our Team" or something like that.

There was no name of the team (I presume I was supposed to know it) and the "our" was most likely meant to include you and I. These sports teams belong to the whole community, right?

The irony of the whole situation hit me.

We are told that our kids should play team sports because they will learn how to work hard, push themselves, work in a team situation, they will gain self respect and responsibility, yada, yada, yada.

Irony. Ten miles closer into Houston you will see people standing on the medians with other sorts of signs, cups in hand. Or brandishing spray bottles on towels while they offer to wash your windows for a buck. Or even the grown ups waving large colorful signs, and dancing to unheard music while they advertise for a nearby business. All of these people struggling to make ends meet.

Yet, here on the corners of our relatively affluent neighborhood they stand, signs and cups in hand, imploring help from passing cars. Apparently, the publicly funded school sports teams need extra money* to buy whatever (uniforms, equipment) and rather than have the kids come up with a plan to WORK for that money, we teach them to stand on a corner and BEG for it.

It is all too easy to imagine the sight of that adolescent, cup in hand, as some sort of foreshadowing.

And what about all the benefits of school sports?

Persistence? Well I suppose. Patience? Yes, definitely. Practice? Practicing what?

Success mindset? Don't think so.

Let's try a few other words. How about ENTITLEMENT, HANDOUTS, MISPLACED PRIORITIES.

I have a sinking feeling that my property taxes are being wasted at the local schools.

Can I ask for a refund?

But seriously. I could (or someone could) write a book on all the implications of this scene, and all the causes that lead to it:

  • Why do after school sports trump after school jobs? 
  • Why can't kid be found to mow lawns, spread mulch, power wash the walls, chop the wood, move the rocks? When and how did these become jobs for adults? 
  • *What do kid's learn from having a $58 million football stadium built for them? 
  • Where do they go from there? To university life, where things are handed to them again. And then to REAL life where it all has to be paid for, whether in the form of student loans or in taxes. 
  • And student loans! Another form of handout, especially since so many can't ever pay them back. 
  • Actually, if we are questioning the value of high school sports, we need to question the value of college sports. Often the high school sports are touted as the way to get the kid into college, but what is end point of college sports? To feed into professional sports? Life time fitness? Money? But if college sports bring so much money into the universities, why do tuitions keep increasing at such astronomical rates? 
  • What about the FAITH we put in institutions to form youth into mature individuals who are self reliant enough to support themselves and generous enough to share with others? 

What about an antidote? I have two ideas as a start. One serious. One MOSTLY serious.

1. Read this book as a family. His story is inspiring. His mother is remarkable.

2. Learn to sing this song and teach it to your children (said with tongue in cheek...sorta):

Cap In Hand by the Proclaimers
Another irony: this song comes out of the birthplace of Adam Smith, author of The Wealth Of Nations, and lyrics describe Scotland's descent into socialism.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

On Debate Questions Asked By News Personalities

Scott Walker informs Megyn Kelly: Abortion is not necessary to save a mother's life

I don't mind hard questions being asked, I don't even mind BAD questions being asked. I just keep hoping that candidates will learn to recognize the difference between a BAD question and a hard question, and respond accordingly. 

Asking candidates to explain their demonstrably controversial statements, or their political/business decisions or failures is par for the course....they better be able to explain or they have no business on stage. I don't expect even FOX News personalities to baby the GOP candidates. 

But when they are asked BAD questions...the ones with a faulty premise, or those with the implied answer in the question (When did you stop beating your wife?")... I expect the wizards of smart to recognize it and be able to parry gracefully. In this day and age (with youtube and 24 hour news cycles, twitter and Facebook), a politician worth his or her salt should be able to do this. 

To me, the glaring example of a BAD question in Thursday's debate was asked by Megyn Kelly to Scott Walker. While I think his answer was good, he did not address the false choice that she put up there. 

Megyn Kelly asked: Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion? 

I know we can make the argument that abortion is almost never medically necessary to save the life of the mother, but that would be accepting the premise of the question...then you are stuck with "Well if it WERE medically necessary, then what?"

But lets instead rephrase the question.  

In other words: When the life of the mother is in danger are you really going to make her husband watch her die rather than end the pregnancy and go home? 

Or in still OTHER words: Shouldn't the doctor be forced to choose the life of the mother over the baby? 

Or in STILL OTHER words: Shouldn't the doctor be forced to choose the life of the human who is wanted, who has an advocate in the room, who can be seen and heard, over the one who isn't wanted, advocated for, or seen? 

Should we pass laws that tell a doctor which patient to save in an emergency situation in which he must choose to save the life of one patient over another? 

Is there such a law? What if one is male and one is female? What if one is old and one is young? What if one is black and the other hispanic? One a legal resident and the other an illegal alien? Would any of these people support a law that told the doctor which of his patients he should save in these cases? 

Oh that would never happen you say? But WHAT IF IT DID? What is the doctor to do? 

I believe it was Mike Huckabee who set the discussion on the right track. What does science say now about the beginning of life? Is the organism at conception a unique human organism with separate DNA from the mother? Is there any scientifically identifiable point at which that organism becomes MORE there a point before which the organism might turn out to be something other than a unique human person with unique DNA? If not, then we must accept conception as that moment and treat that human being as such. All other moments (from leaving the hospital back to the point of viability) are not decisive in the identification of the organism as human. 

So, the dilema: 

Life of the mother VS Life of the baby

is no different from 

Life of the (name the minority) VS Life of the (name the non-minority)

Once we begin seriously asking the above questions we have truly lost our own humanity. One life is not greater than the other life. All are precious and deserving of the protections of any decent society (Constitution or not).