It's late summer, almost Labor Day, and for those with school-age children, it is time to get back to school, back to activities and back to routine. After 11 weeks of vacation, routine sounds more welcoming and stable than oppressive and stifling, as it did at the end of this past spring.
My oldest child began middle school this fall. There is much more freedom in middle school than in elementary school. No two schedules are the same. Instead of groups changing classes en masse, everyone goes their own way.
There are student lockers -- with locks -- and after-school snacks can be bought at the snack bar. With these additional freedoms come more responsibility, more homework and the chance for students to begin testing their wings.
Marybeth Hicks' new book, "Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid" (Regency, 2011), has been released at a perfect time, just when all the students are back in school and parents are re-evaluating their roles and their children's responsibilities.
We have heard that we are not supposed to be friends, but parents -- but what does that mean? Should we rely on rules and discipline, understanding and awareness, or a mixture? Adolescents need structure -- but how much is just enough but not too tight? What is the right balance and harmony for parents and parenting?
What influences our children? How can we understand the environment that they deal with on a daily basis?
The first section of the book focuses on shining light onto and heightening awareness about what is happening today to imbue our children with "attitudes of dependence and entitlement." Hicks writes, "The ultimate manifestation of the socialist worldview is our young people's desire for security over liberty."
Hicks quotes facts, figures and speeches to provide real data regarding where we are and what is happening to our nation's children.
For example, one might think that economic education would be important to citizens of a nation that is deeply in debt and destined to get further in the hole. Hick provides data regarding the next generations' understanding of our national economy.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics, last measured economic knowledge in 2006. "On the subject of national economy, only 36 percent of high school seniors could identify the federal government's primary source of income (that would be taxes, kids), only 33 percent could explain the effect of an increase in real interest rates on consumer borrowing," Hicks noted, "and a scant 11 percent could analyze how a change in unemployment rates affects income, spending and production."
Hicks shines light on the state of creating a nanny state. Not content to expose what is wrong, Hicks also provides an antidote for today's parents, reminding us of Benjamin Franklin's advice: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
Her solution -- to raise children that who will reject any government or system that attempts to reign over them. Her theory, that raising children who develop into adults who understand that trading liberty for supposed state security is not an even trade, will keep our nation on the right track.
Hicks lists three categories of civic virtues. Civic virtues to guide personal conduct: self-discipline, forbearance, humility and moderation. Civic virtues to guide public conduct: honor, civility, independence and reason. Civic virtues to guide the nation: citizenship, magnanimity, fidelity and reverence.
In "The Blessing of a B Minus" (Scribner, 2010), by Wendy Mogul, Ph.D., adolescence is described as "a time of change with no blueprint or guarantees. It's tempting to think that we should protect our teens during the desert crossing of adolescence. But that's not our job. Our job is to guide them through it."
In some ways, our centuries-old nation is in a similar sort of adolescent phase -- awkward, unsure, given to conflicting actions and emotions. It is a phase that is challenging and frustrating, but one that cannot be skipped. It's important for us to get involved, become active, but also understand that natural consequences, the lessons of living, are sometimes most important.
This fall, take a minute to re-evaluate where we are, in raising children and in raising a nation.