Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why do so many people go wrong?

"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism."
- Charles M Schwab, American industrialist (1862-1939)

Those who argue against this claim that pe0ple are naturally lazy, thus they must always be prodded and pushed to do their best.

There is, of course, absolutely no evidence that people are naturally lazy.

If laziness were natural, it would have to be demonstrated in children. Children who are brought up in healthy environments (intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally healthy) have an abundance of energy and want to use it at every possible opportunity.

Lazy people are adolescents or adults. Only sickly children seem lazy, and that is never by choice. Adults developed that characteristic during childhood. This can happen through constant reinforcement that the child is a nuisance, never does anything worthwhile, is stupid, is negligent of responsibilities, has no identifable good qualities and has nothing good to look forward to in his or her future.

An adolescent may also seem lazy if he or she has a learning problem, so can't adapt to the teaching style of school, can't read much of what must be read for homework, can't understand instructions regarding responsibilities at home, can't remember them and receives little or no positive reinforcement of his or her value as a person. These are circumstances over which the child has no control.

In fairness, a person should not be held responsibile for circumstances over which they have no control. And yet we do just that in our society. We blame people for being poor, for example, in the twisted belief that they have been somehow responsible for the misery of their own life circumstances. We say we don't blame them for being poor, but our public policies regarding poor people say otherwise.

We also blame people for what they don't know. The basic premise of our legal system is that ignorance of the law is no defence against violation of the law. As we do not teach basic laws to all children, giving them notice of what they are expected to abide by, this premise is patently unreasonable.

By the same token, we blame parents for the faults and troubles their childrent find themselves in. No matter how hard parents may try to do their best to raise their children well, if they don't know the responsibilities of parenthood and the basic needs and developmental progress of children, something will go wrong with those kids. What goes wrong may not show up until they are adults, or may not even show up until their own children grow up.

There is no known benefit to keeping people ignorant, unless the purpose is to enslave them. Yet only a small percentage of young adults know what they need to know to be good parents when they have their first child.

If an industry does not practise quality control in the manufacture of its products, that industry fails. Yet many children grow up in an atmosphere of parental ignorance.

This is a fundamental failure of society. But one that may so easily and cheaply be fixed.

Prisons are filled with people who are socially underdeveloped or maldeveloped. Mental institutions are filled with people who are emotionally underdeveloped or maldeveloped, and doctors treat with medications many patients whose primary problem is that they can't cope with the circumstances of their lives.

Our educations sytems teach people how to get jobs. They don't teach people how to live lives. They don't even teach people how to hold onto the jobs they get (this is simply expected of a new employee).

People are not born with attitudes, they devleop them based on the circumstances in which they live. Attitudes, like many other life skills, must be taught or they will develop by accident of circumstance.

All of this requires only small changes to our education systems. We have the knowledge and the skills already, we only need to teach them to everyone. If psychologists can fix broken people, the same knowledge and skill can be taught to young people before they break.

It only takes enough people to understand and speak up.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give every person what they need to live a confident and competent life.
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