Who is responsible

Bird Droppings March 2, 2011
Who is responsible?

Several weeks ago I was involved in a debate of sorts on the issue of public versus private education. Yesterday I picked up one of the local papers and a letter to the editor caught my attention and it was a blast at public education locally and in Georgia. How we were not growing and how we did not need a school bond for new schools and how thirty to forty year old buildings were good enough in their day and were still good enough now. There was no growth in academic achievement so why should we not be putting money into operating costs and not buildings.
Then the writer extolled the home schoolers who sought better education and also private schools where students received better educations. No Child Left Behind even was mentioned and how students from our county could go to another county from schools who did not meet the standards. This was all over not wanting a school bond issue passed. I find it interesting as you drive around the state and our county and see literally hundreds of homes really thousands that went up during building boom all which eventually will have families in them with children who go to school if trends of movement to the south continue. Trying to answer the question of why not use forty year old schools with where do you put all the new kids.
In so many parts of the country people take attitudes similar to this person who wrote in and school systems have problems. Currently in Wisconsin the governor is cutting education funding to a point classes will be enlarged and fewer teachers needed and of course less of the support materials that keep classes going. But as the individual pointed out it is up to the public up to the voters who elect school board members and pass bond issues the responsibility is in the hands of the people. Another comment was made about curriculum and how school boards made decisions without community support. School board meetings in general are open to the public and for community involvement and our current superintendent periodically has public forums for parents to give their views and to hear directly from parents and the community. As I think responsibility is a very big word.

“A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.” John Dewey, Democracy in Education

We as individuals are responsible if we choose to be and to the extent we chose to be through voting and through communication with elected officials in all levels of government and society.

“The social force that binds you to your obligations and the courses of action demanded by that force;” Dictionary.com

Responsibility is a social entity a “force that binds” and being a part of a social group of society then implies responsibility to an extent. Rules and parameters that exist to protect us from each other often are the guidelines and structures to give direction to a society. Perhaps in a way we are guided too much some might say.

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” Walter Anderson

Often as I research an idea early in the morning through books and the internet I find coincidences and several years ago as I found a quote by Walter Anderson it was one of those. Walter Anderson is a writer and editor of Parade magazine and has interviewed and discussed with leading figures around the world. His book Courage is a three letter word has been an inspiration to many dealing with anxiety and fear. But as I searched I also found another Walter Anderson in the bayous of Mississippi a painter and artist that is worth throwing out who also in his art dealt with anxieties and fear of his own making – periodically institutionalized for schizophrenia and other mental issues Walter Inglis Anderson painted with a passion not unlike Van Gogh. So teachers if you need a good reference source when looking at American artists.


In the end as I read the sentence on responsibility it could have been from either the author or the painter “I am responsible” and it is us who need to face up to that.

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession, a duty.” John D. Rockefeller

One of my former students was an advocate of anarchy always wearing the popular rock logo on his wrist bands and all over his books notebooks and even his skateboard. When talking with him about the concept he would always go in a circle. What if we did have anarchy and you were only responsible for yourself sort of doing what ever you wanted. As I thought I could see where youthful idealism could manifest itself in such a philosophy. But what if where do you stop in a society where there are no boundaries and soon it is who ever is strongest and most powerful is in control and you have a dictatorship. Usually he would back out when it left himself so he wanted freedom and no one else really mattered really in effect he did not want responsibility.

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will — his personal responsibility.” Albert Schweitzer

“The salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

As I read and think this morning it is not so much going back to that starting letter to the editor about excepting responsibility it is that too many people do not want to be involved. They do not want the responsibility of choosing, of interacting of involvement, of communicating with others and of course not sticking their neck out. That letter mentioned the growth of home schooling and private schools. I found when I moved to Georgia in 1972 public schools were in peril in some communities students were leaving in droves. This was not because of quality of education but because of desegregation. The white students did not want to go to school with other colors. Today while that is still an issue so often it is hidden within the pretext of religion as so many private schools are “Christian” schools and many home schoolers are home schooling because of religious reasons – public schools are to secular and far too too public for this select group of people.

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

For me and my seeking a monastic life in the midst of society I come back to it is up to us in the end we are who responsibility falls too. Be it about education and or the zoning of a piece of property. But it requires involvement and it requires thought. This week is almost gone and there is so much happening on the world front and locally. So today please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

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