The Most Important (and Challenging) Job of All?

If you said President of these United States or CEO of the most iconic and “valuable” company in the world, Apple Computer, you would be very wrong. “Most powerful” or “most influential” might apply, but not “most important.”

PARENTING

The most important job in the world, by far, is birthing, educating, and responsibly raising children to grow into accountable, productive citizens of this planet. Parenting/mentoring is the most important job of all!

Most people pondering the question just posed would likely agree with the above answer. We are accustomed to the expression, “grass-roots movement,” a phrase prevalent in today’s news, particularly when applied to forms of social protest. Having spent seventy-four years plus as a member and active observer of the SHB, the Society of Human Beings, I conclude that the majority of mankind’s domestic and global ills can only be cured by administering a strong dose of self-help…at the grass-roots level.

With society and government so immersed in top-down solutions to our economic, social, and personal problems, it is refreshing to encounter people who feel that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” My message has nothing to do with tea-party politics or any other kind of party affiliation. I am speaking to the need for a more enlightened, educated, and responsible citizenry as THE long-term solution to so many of the problems which, today, we attempt to legislate, regulate, and subsidize away.

Just as I believe that education in America will best be served by “better students” arriving in our classrooms as opposed to “better schools” and “better teachers,” I propose that society will best be served by nurturing “better citizens” for the ranks of society and not by “better jobs” and “better opportunities” from our industries and government.

And just how is such a grass-roots effort of that magnitude going to occur? The unavoidable, but correct answer is: One very young person at a time….and it will take time, a lot of time. The key to it all is responsible parenting/mentoring of our very young.

The two-adult, intact family unit – a household in which children are raised by two mature, responsible adults is the best vehicle for achieving the stated goal. For you successful single parents, note that I stress the word, best. Obviously, there is a CATCH 22 involved, here: Before mature, responsible children happen, there must be mature, responsible adults to enable them, and those adults in charge were once malleable young children themselves, also vulnerable and in need of wise adult guidance. Yes, this represents a stiff challenge, but a way must be found to break into the endless circle of poor mentoring and poverty which, today, seem to be driving our society into a downward spiral.

An Interesting Experience at the Front Door

The other day, my doorbell rang. I put down my book and opened the door to find a middle-aged black man, nicely dressed in casual clothes and with magazine subscriptions to sell which could help his personal cause. He had quite a line of patter which hinted that he had come up the hard way and was now making a better life for himself – very laudable. As part of his pitch, he asked me if I ever had to go door-to-door like he was doing. I thought for a moment and truthfully replied, “Yes, when my company had been “downsized” and I was out looking for a job!” Once or twice over the years, my knocking-on-doors job search was accompanied by a palpable sense of desperation when the economy was really tight, no one was hiring, and our savings account was rapidly being depleted.

The man asked if I were aware of poverty areas in the greater San Francisco Bay Area – places like Oakland, CA., and I assured him that I was quite aware. He commented on the lack of youthful opportunity in those areas, and asked, “What do you think is required to remedy the situation?” My initial reply: “The situation IS complicated.” I thought for a few moments and then added: “Since you have asked for my opinion: I believe that one of the major problems faced in some regions of Oakland and other major cities with poverty/crime problems is the predominance of one-adult households raising multiple children – usually a mother with no father.” I suggested that, “The positive influence of the intact family unit is THE ultimate gateway to youthful opportunity – for any youngster, anywhere.” I was giving my honest reply to this man’s direct question – a reply which reflects my long-held belief that the combination of poverty and insufficient adult supervision and mentoring is an untenable combination, especially where that is the norm in any neighborhood.

I told him that, being retired, I could not afford a magazine subscription that I do not want, but that I would donate five dollars to help him out. It was an interesting and clarifying moment for me and well worth the donation.

It (the Situation) IS Complicated! Some Statistics

The circumstances surrounding high poverty/crime areas are varied and complex, but statistics shine a glaring spotlight on the positive influence that an intact, loving family has on the future prospects of the children. 8% of children raised by married couples live in poverty compared with 40% raised by single mothers. Within those statistics exist plenty of single moms (and dads) who are doing an exemplary job raising kids under difficult conditions: Statistics deal with trends, not with individual cases, but the trends are quite clear.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial observed the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s controversial report issued while he served as an assistant secretary in Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan’s study which focused on the black family and the increasing number of fatherless homes determined that, “The fundamental problem is that of family structure. The evidence – not final but powerfully persuasive – is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.” Moynihan was vilified by many liberals of the day for his report. The response of the Great Society in Washington was to penalize marriage and subsidize single parenting, and that is a typically top-down Washington “solution” which so often actually makes the problem worse.

The Journal article goes on to cite these more recent statistics: At the time of Moynihan’s report, 25% of black children and 5% of white children came from a fatherless household. Today the numbers are 70% and 35% , a startling increase, particularly within white families.

Raising responsible, accountable, and productive children is very difficult in today’s demanding society, both in black communities and white enclaves – even in two-parent families. When only one parent is present to shoulder all of the attendant responsibilities, the task becomes overwhelming with the additional burdens imposed by widespread poverty in the environment. Such conditions make breaking the vicious circle of poverty doubly difficult.

Although I believe in marriage as the best alternative, that, for me, is not the heart of the argument, here. The real issue has more to do with two adults entering into a long-term compact of mutual commitment and responsibility with a strong focus on the welfare of their children. Ideally, such a mutual commitment is accompanied by an honorable and sincere desire to provide a better opportunity for their kids than they themselves experienced – even though considerable self-sacrifice is required.

When these attitudes begin to take hold in our society, we are on the right track. I believe that WAS the way it was, and not that long ago in this country. It would take a few generations for such a grass-roots effort to show positive results, but don’t count on government solutions alone to solve the problems we experience any time soon.

Recently, the great astrophysicist, Steven Hawking, was asked what human trait he would like to see modified or eliminated: He replied, “Aggression.” While I agree with him, I would add, “I wish to see restored the once prevalent notions of personal honor and integrity… and parental accountability.” I continue to hope.

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