When I was a kid, Halloween was a time of costumes, trick or treat,
and — for those more willing than I to brave the wrath of their father
– a time for soaping windows and, yes, turning over outhouses. (Did I
tell you I grew up in the country? And, yes, we did have an outhouse for
quite a while!) If truth be known, Daddy and his rules kept me out of a
lot of trouble when I was a kid. Thank goodness.
I loved Halloween so when my kids were of that age, I engaged them in
the excitement of it all. One year however, my view was changed. Not
of Halloween but my view of what the adults were doing to the kids and,
as it’s turned out over the years, what they have done to every aspect
of our society.
When my children were in their early school years in Los Angeles, our
city park was having a Halloween party and costume contest. You know –
funniest, scariest, most elaborate, etc. The kids, being my kids after
all, relished being part of the competition and devised great outfits
with the glee of aiming to win. It was, after all, a contest wasn’t it?
I dropped the kids off for the party and a couple of hours later,
picked them up. Gone were the smiles for the thrill of it all.
Instead, they experienced the beginning of cynicism with the realities
of what was happening to their (our) world.
I saw they had their sacks of goodies and indeed, they each had what
looked to be a prize so I was curious about their reaction. My youngest
told me all about the party and the costume contest and that they each
had won a prize. But then the bombshell: “But Mommy, it doesn’t mean
anything. Everybody won a prize.” She may have been 5 years old, but
she wasn’t stupid.
Ah yes, PC even then. Self-esteem, even then. It wasn’t called
that, of course, but there it was. I’ve never forgotten that moment
with my children and never forgotten the look of disgust and sadness on
their faces. It was even worse than finding out about Santa and the
Easter Bunny because this was different.
Santa and the Bunny are wondrous parts of family and societal
traditions and the motive behind them is one of love and joy and
caring. Children know this and even when they lose the wonder and face
reality, they understand and cherish the memories. Indeed, that they
carry it on with their own children years later is indicative that they
do understand the simple beauty of these traditions.
The fact that the costume “contest” was a farce was not in the same
category. In the contest, their innocence had been betrayed. In fact,
they had been lied to by adults whom they trusted. Children of
preschool and early grades usually believe that adults are honorable.
In this case, when the adults said it would be a contest, the
children based their understanding on what a contest is — a competition
for excellence based on whatever are the guidelines. But those
children, mine certainly, could see that if everyone got a prize, it was
not a contest. It was, as my child said, “stupid, and the prizes don’t
mean anything because everyone got one.” The whole thing was a lie and
I was angered this was done to my children.
I talked to them about that and assured them that their competitive
natures were good and important and — despite the stupid things that
adults do and tell them — they should never change.
But that experience brought back a memory of when I was 10 and
belonged to a 4-H Club. We played games at one Christmas party and I
won. And won. And won. Finally, the leader took me aside and
suggested that I let some of the other kids win. I hated it and didn’t
because I just couldn’t. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right.
But as I learned through the years, fairness and rightness have
become less important. The poison of that attitude has permeated every
facet of our lives and society.
There are kids’ sports events where teams are told not to win by too
high a score, where allowances are made for others’ impairments so that
pure competition does not exist.
I recall one of my children suffering an insult during an academic
scholarship interview. She was asked why she thought she deserved a
scholarship since her mother (me) had a high-profile job in the media
and must be rich, so she had no business nor right to be in that
competition. Forget that financial need had nothing to do with the
guidelines; she had top grades and deserved to be there and to win. She
was there; she did not win.
She retained her dignity and manners and got through the meeting but
told me about it with anguish and embarrassment — not for the loss of
the opportunity but for the betrayal and for the incredible insult of
the “adult,” an older businessman who should have known better, a man
who pitted her against her own mother.
My child was the winner, however, for she went on to go to the
college of her choice on her terms and without any “free money” (and
strings) from adults still playing the betrayal game. I admit I found it
a nice feeling to think “up yours” to people I would never invite to my
home for dinner and to whom I did not want to be indebted.
This betrayal of our children apparently has no bounds, and it goes
so much further than a costume contest. I was the Americanism Chairman
for the Junior Women’s Club in my L.A. neighborhood a few years ago and
we decided to have a patriotic essay contest for junior-high students.
I contacted the local schools and got enthusiastic support until I
mentioned that the contest would include the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders
in the local parochial school. Oh no! said one of the
public-school principals. We just won’t be able to participate if
those children are part of the contest.
Eee-oooo! What’s that all about? Why did I figure out that the
principal just didn’t want it to be a real competition? There’s more of
that betrayal again. He wanted it nice and easy for his kids — who, by
the way, generally performed below the level of the Catholic School
students. But why let facts get in the way?
The contest did come off as scheduled after we allowed that publicity
of that nature would not serve the district well.
What about today? How does the betrayal continue? Where doesn’t it?
Though, it is most evident in our schools. Not only have we allowed the
dumbing down of subject matter, the elimination of important subjects
(phonics, penmanship, civics, geography, art, music, languages and
others) but we have allowed our children to be used as guinea pigs for
new teaching methods, almost every one of which has played out to be
ineffective and destructive — think “new math.”
The only positive side of these experiments has been increased
business for the companies producing them, higher incomes for the
academics who dream them up and more jobs for trainers to teach the
teachers how to teach our children in ways that do not educate them.
We all pay for these fiascos and betrayals. We pay higher taxes, we
deal with more and more powerful teachers’ unions and educational
administrations, and we pay with the lives of our children who cannot
read, spell, do math or reason. It’s a deal that infuriates me.
Look at the faces of children on their first day of school. They are
usually excited, fearful yes, but thrilled at the anticipation of
learning. And adults betray them. We do not teach them well, nor
enough, nor properly, nor appropriately. We socially promote them and
allow them to graduate without the skills that 13 years in a school
system should guarantee.
How about this for a betrayal: San Francisco schools in 1997, in an
effort to put its curriculum on a par with university admission
standards, approved changes which would require more math and science
classes and higher requirements for languages and arts. Overall,
required graduation credits were increased from 220 to 240.
Everyone thought it was wonderful and the plan got lots of good
publicity. Except for one thing: The district didn’t extend the class
day nor provide the classes. As a result, fully 30 percent of the
seniors scheduled to be graduated in June 2001 are not qualified for
that diploma because they never took the required classes!
So! What to do? Why of course, lower the requirements for
graduation so the kids can graduate! And the district voted to do just
that on Oct. 26! What a concept!
As for the kids who managed to meet the higher standards — well they
will get diplomas for “outstanding achievement.” The kids who only met
some of the requirements will get “separate honors.” And those who just
didn’t manage any of this will get a diploma and graduate anyway.
In other words, they all got a prize, just like the Halloween party.
There it is again, the stench of that adult hypocrisy. The
superintendent of schools is reported to have said, “A wise educator
once said, ‘When children fail, it is the adults who have failed.’” On
that, she’s right. I have only one question. Who will get fired for
The silence is deafening but the lesson for our kids is clear. They
have been betrayed again. Silly me to hope for more.
in my inaugural column for World Net Daily, I wrote about my Fleet Week experience onboard the aircraft carrier, the USS Constellation. It was a wonderful watching the daily operations of planes taking off and landing in daylight and at night. We knew there was danger but it was exciting.
On Sunday, during my San Francisco radio program on KSFO, I pulled a piece of wire copy off the machine because it referred to a Navy jet fighter crashing after a carrier takeoff near San Diego.
I glanced quickly at the story and saw that the pilot was lost in the accident. I decided to read the details to my audience.
I should have read it first, for as I read it cold, I realized that the plane that had gone down had taken off from the carrier USS Constellation. “My” ship. That pilot may well have been one of the guys I said hello to when I was onboard.
My voice cracked as I recalled that Capt. Kelly had told me that after the ship left San Francisco they were headed south for a month of exercises.
The plane, a single-seat F/A-18C Hornet, went down off of San Diego at about 7:20 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20. The plane crashed during routine training operations.
The pilot was Lt. Daren Jewell of Oak Harbor, Wash. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he joined the Navy in 1996 and has been a member of Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (the Vigilantes) since April. He was stationed at Naval Station Lemoore in Southern California.
In my commentary, I noted that the pilots are all young and fearless and in fact, need to be for the work they do. It is exciting and challenging and dangerous. Always. Sometimes that is brought home cruelly. Lt. Jewell was 26. My prayers are with him and his family.