Who is responsible?

Bird Droppings October 25, 2011
Who is responsible?

Several weeks ago I was involved in a debate of sorts on the issue of public versus private education; it circled around and about really going not too far. Just a few days ago I picked up our local paper and a letter to the editor caught my attention. It was a blast at public education locally and how we were not growing and how we did not need a school bond essentially a penny tax on sales for new schools and how some of the thirty to forty year old buildings were good enough in their day and were still good enough. There was no growth and 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 supposedly better educations. The federal law, No Child Left Behind even was mentioned and how students from our county could go to another county if our schools who did not meet the standards which really was a stretch of the law. All over not wanting a school bond past. I find it interesting as you drive around our county and see thousands of homes, many vacant and cheap now with housing bubble burst all of which eventually will have families in them with children who go to school.
In so many parts of the country people take attitudes similar to this person who wrote in to the local paper and school systems then have problems. But as the individual pointed out it is up to the public, up to the voters who elect school board members and pass the 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. Our school board meetings other than specific executive sessions are public and open for community involvement and our current superintendent is even having public forums for parents to give their views and to hear directly from parents and the community. 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. How is responsibility defined? I quickly typed the word into my faithful computer and Dictionary.com came to the rescue.

“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”. 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. It could be the guidelines and structures that give direction, 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 this quote by Walter Anderson, it was one of those. Walter Anderson the writer and editor of Parade magazine and he interviewed and discussed life 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 who for art fans is well worth throwing out, who also in his art dealt with anxieties and fear all of his own making. Walter Anderson the artist from Mississippi was periodically institutionalized for schizophrenia and other mental issues. This man Walter Inglis Anderson painted with a passion not unlike Van Gogh’s later works. So teachers if you need a good reference source when looking at American artists look up Walter Inglis Anderson.
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 doing whatever 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 whoever is the strongest and most powerful is in control and you have a dictatorship.
Usually he would back out of the discussion when it left him as an individual by himself. He wanted freedom and no one else really mattered. 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 accepting responsibility, it is that too many people do not want to be involved. They do not want the responsibility of choosing, of interacting, or of involvement. 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. It was not because of quality of education but because of desegregation. Many white students did not want to go to school with other ethnic groups.
Today while that is still an issue subverted to a racial slur here and there, so often it is hidden within the pretext of religion as so many schools are billed as “Christian” schools. Many home-schoolers are home schooling because of religious reasons and the idea that public schools are to secular and much too public. Couldn’t help but think of that famous Karl Marx quote, “Religion is the opiate of the 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

I always seem to be seeking a monastic life in the midst of society. 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. So it is a new week ahead and so much happening on the world front and locally. So today please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.
namaste
bird