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Laura on Life

What Is Not Earned Is Not

September 27, 2011
Dysart Reporter

By Laura Snyder

In America, every person is entitled to a public education. Whether they decide to learn anything or not is totally up to the individual. It's a free country.

There are times when a 4th grader would trade it all for a chocolate chip cookie.

In my home, my children are guaranteed three square meals a day. Whether they eat it or not is up to them.

My ten-year old would willingly trade his dinner, especially the vegetables, for almost anything else.

Yet there are people in this world who would trade everything they own for a chance at even a basic education or the guarantee of even one meal every day.

Why is it that our children are so unappreciative of the things they are given? Because these things are given to them without any requirements or caveats. Nothing is asked of them in return for these rights. They are not required to make a minimum grade in order to retain their right of free education. They are not even required to behave themselves in school to retain that right.

In the same way, children are not required to do anything to "earn" their meals. Yes, my kids have chores, but I do not withhold food if their chores did not get done.

In fact, if either of these rights are impinged upon, no matter the child's performance in either regard, the parent is seen as a criminal, in America.

I am in no way suggesting that these rights should be taken away, but there is compelling evidence that it could turn our educational system around if education had to be earned. Something should be asked of kids who want an education. Not money. Not favors. Something that a child can contribute: a good attitude, a willingness to work hard, good behavior. They should be concerned that this amazing right could be taken away if they don't follow the rules. Some say a child can be suspended if they do not follow the rules. But suspension, by its definition, is only temporary. For those children who practice "regular suspension," it's merely a vacation in which no other student can indulge. A bonus for being disobedient.

In countries where education is a privilege rather than a right, there are no disruptions in the classrooms. The kids know why they are there and that it may be their only ticket out of poverty. They are happy to be there. They want to learn. Distractions are frowned upon, not reveled in. Intelligence is revered, not reviled.

The same can be said for those poor children who only get one meal a day, if that. Many times, they have to earn it with some small service. Then, they eat every scrap on their plate whether it is their favorite or not.

Spinach, broccoli and beets go down as fast as Chicken McNuggets and French Fries would.

No, I am not a proponent of starving my children or depriving them of an education. What I'm saying is that, ironically, if these things were not guaranteed, our society would try harder to achieve them. They would be valued.

In America, a college education is not guaranteed. It is not a right, it is an option; an option that should be coveted by anyone who wants to make a good living as an adult.

Unfortunately, many American parents have not only insisted on their children going to college, but they have also guaranteed it by funding it for their children.

Again, it is something that is being given to young adults with no expectations; only the hope that they will see the importance and perform accordingly. Unfortunately, it is not enough that a parent desperately wants a decent life for their child. The child has to want it as well. If they want it, they will invest their own time and money as well as their blood, sweat and even some tears.

The myth that one set of parents should fund multiple children's college educations is perpetuated by colleges and university. If there is a balance on the account, the administration immediately turns to the parent, not the student. But if a parent asks for a list of the student's grades, they are told it's none of their business because the child is over 18. Apparently, this means that college students are old enough to do without their parent's guidance, but not old enough to do without their money.

Colleges are facilities dedicated to the pursuit of making money, as any business is. They have no stake in your child's education. If a child decides to party through all four years, riding on the very edge of a passing grade, the colleges couldn't care less. What's worse, the student's parents would never even know. Your tuition money buys only your child's right to be there.

If a student has not had to pay his own way through college by way of part-time jobs and loans, it is difficult for that student to place the proper value on it. Even after a diploma has been issued, what incentive does he have to go to work if Mom and Pop are still paying for everything?

It is inherent in humans. They do not value what they have not had to earn. I'm simply saying: Don't make it so easy.

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at Or visit her website for more info.



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