Lance Scranton: Land of confusion
“Can’t you see this is the land of confusion, with not enough love to go around.”
If you remember the lyrics from this iconic ‘80s song by Genesis, you will likely understand and identify with the rest of this column. If you glance at the ‘80s reference and think to yourself, “I wasn’t even born,” then you’ve likely maxed out your attention span already. However, references to things that took place before your lifetime are the reason history is something to which you should pay attention.
Confusion tends to happen when we don’t pay attention adequately, and our minds wander to other places which don’t include what is happening right now.
It’s easy to understand the difficulties we are experiencing in our culture when so many of our social commentators are floundering around any kind of coherent message that might reflect a foundational set of attitudes that would help our country get back on some kind of path toward healing. If a handshake, and your word, don’t mean anything anymore, there is little hope, because low-trust cultures don’t survive long before becoming small pockets of self-interested groups who are constantly battling against perceived injustices.
A few months ago, Professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander wrote an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Enquirer which revealed their “overt racist ideology” when they concluded that the following cultural values have historically made our country an attractive place to live.
• Get married before you have children, and work hard to stay married for their sake.
• Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard and avoid idleness.
• Go the extra mile for your employer or client.
• Be a patriot, ready to serve the country.
• Be neighborly, civic-minded and charitable.
• Avoid coarse language in public.
• Be respectful of authority.
• Reject substance abuse and crime.
While these cultural values don’t seem overtly derogatory to any particular people or group, the authors have suffered a staggering amount of criticism for their “bourgeois” attitude. I hope I could ask a bunch of people if these seemed like good values to weave into our culture, and most would say “yes.” It doesn’t mean that each of us hasn’t failed at one or more, but the substantive point is that the values are worth striving toward.
Or, I suppose, I might be way off and it is not my place, nor anyone else’s, to tell people how they should want to behave. Could be that my values do not reflect the diverse fabric of life that goes on around our country. Or maybe people just shouldn’t be told what to do by anyone anymore.
As a career educator, I know we could avoid a whole bunch of what is currently plaguing our schools if we embraced most of these values. But, I might be confused, and maybe you can help me out, because I’m listening!
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.