Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Young'uns Is A Frustrating Bunch Of Folk And I Think It's Our Fault

I had a student come up to me yesterday with one of those dangerous questions: "Hey, you wanna see somthin'cool.?" I gave my standard response: "Will it get me fired?"

Yesterday, I was lucky. It was a young'un with a 1929 twenty-dollar bill. The bill was a national currency note issued by a bank not a federal reserve note. I know little about the value of old currency. I do know that one should not fold it. The young'un did not. It's tough to explain that a single fold mark means that the bill is now worth less than half of the value he could possible have gotten for it.

After school, I was talking with a few young'uns about the national debt and North Korea as they researched to prepare speeches for upcoming student congress competitions.

Last night, I judged a talent contest of sorts. About thirty young'uns sang  for a crowd of about five hundred people. Some of them had an amazing amount of talent and passion. All of them showed courage; few things for a high school students are tougher than performing in front of one's peers.

After I got home, the college girl wanted some help with a philosophy and media class. There was a little Mill, a little Kant, and a little Virtue Ethics. The latter subject makes me glad that I venture over to Dr. Blanchard's new blog.)

Somewhere in all that mess, it hit me that we--teachers, school administrators, parents, business people, politicians, everyone in society writ large--have failed the young'uns. We tell them to search for happiness without telling them that it's not just a giggly feeling but the ultimate end and that one has work to develop character to appreciate it. We preach the greatest good for the greatest number, but we seldom tell them to examine whether the harms caused by getting that good are worth the gain. We've spent a lot of time telling them that money can't buy happiness but then bombard them with messages that stuff will satisfy.

If I may be permitted a cliche, they know the price of everything but the value of nothing. There's little virtue in that result; it's not a maxim that we would want to be universal, nor is it going to provide happiness for most. In fact it's going to produce a society that continues the politicized trends Conor Friedersdorf describes:
In my experience, politicized people on the right and left don't behave in precisely equivalent ways. On the right, they're more often like Andrew Breitbart: His professional identity was as politicized as imaginable, he had no problem when innocents were hurt as collateral damage in his ideological crusading, yet he was unfailingly kind in his personal life to his many liberal friends. Whereas on the left, Olbermann types are comparatively rare, but it's more common for individuals to behave as if the political is personal. Did you know April is Don't Have Sex With Republicans Month? Or take this post, in which a writer abandons a childhood hero upon discovering that, in addition to being a renowned neurosurgeon, he is an outspoken conservative.


Pat Powers said...

Tell that kid to hand onto that note. Bank issued notes are extremely collectible.

LK said...

I did. I also told him to keep it flat. It bugged me that someone would give him something like that and not tell him how to take care of it even if it wasn't mint to begin with.

Pat Powers said...

Depending on the bank, denomination and rarity, it could be worth hundreds or more.