Posted by: bkivey | 5 November 2014

Passive Aggressive

There’s a radio spot on local stations that sets my teeth on edge every time it airs. A voice actor portraying a teen-age girl announces that “This may be the day I drop out” and “This may be the day I stop trying”. She goes on to enumerate the ways the community could have prevented her dropping out of school. People could have mentored her, read with her, helped her with homework. But the community failed her, so she’s dropping out of school. The tagline is “It takes twelve years to make a graduate, it takes about the same time to make a dropout.”

The point seems to be that everyone should involve themselves in children’s lives so they feel wanted and avoid the inimical consequences that will result from dropping out of school. Implied but not stated is the fact that high-school dropouts have severely limited choices, and are very likely to become a burden on society.

In the interest of full disclosure, I very nearly quit school at 16. I HATED school. It was BORING. The only classes I had any interest in were math, science, and band. Even then, the academic courses weren’t especially challenging, which pretty much left band. My boss counseled against dropping out in the strongest terms, and he was an adult I respected, but in the end it came down to the fact that I only had a year-and-a-half left of school, so I stuck it out.

Even so, this spot annoys the hell out of me.

In the first place, where are this girls’ parents? Is it not the parent’s responsibility to be engaged with their child’s education? Why didn’t her parents read with her or help her with homework? Why is raising a child apparently everyone else’s responsibility but the parents? If this child’s parents are so remiss in their duty, that’s an indictment of them, not society.

In the second place, how is it my fault if a complete stranger makes poor decisions? Presumably this girl hasn’t spent her life in a social vacuum. She’s spent her entire life around teachers, parents, and other adults whom she could ask for guidance. Surely she has met at least one adult whom she can trust for advice. It may be that she knows peers who’ve dropped out, and can see how that worked out. It’s unlikely they’re paragons of financial success.

In the third place, I resent being manipulated into feeling sorry for someone who’s self-selecting for failure. Yes, I was once well down the drop-out road, but I was looking to make that choice for purely selfish reasons. I didn’t implicitly blame society for forcing me out of school. I’m sure that if I’d dropped out, people I respected would have been disappointed in me, and my life would have been meaner than it was, but any consequences would have been no one’s fault but my own.

I understand that there are circumstances where a teenager may feel that their best choice is not to be doing something they dislike, and there are homes where parent’s are disengaged from their children’s lives, but the superficial aspects of the spot aren’t what truly annoy me. The really irksome message is that people don’t lead their lives.

The girl in the spot is the personification of the passive mindset that’s drilled into people when personal responsibility becomes a government program. People are taught that life is a spectator sport, and the individual has little or no control over what happens to them. And because the individual has no control over their life, they aren’t responsible when bad things happen to them. By the same token, good things can only happen when other people act on the individual’s behalf.

The girl in the spot is annoyed that as she was standing around and becoming increasingly disengaged from school, people weren’t rushing up to her to see to her welfare. Apparently in her decade or so of school, it never occurred to her to take a modicum of initiative and engage other people for help. The implied attitude of the girl embodies the mindset of a growing percentage of the Western population, while the people who use the passive masses as a power base are becoming increasingly aggressive at demanding that the shrinking number of people who have initiative and ambition pay for those who don’t.

Indeed, it seems the only time some people are active is when they’re roused up by some community organizer to demand more stuff from others. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to lead their lives, rather than have their lives led for them?

West Hills Clouds

Some interesting clouds over the Portland West Hills after a rain.

West Hills Clouds





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