What are we entitled to in this world? Well, if American, our constitution entitles us to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and a few additional things added over the years, such as a fair trial (ostensibly), the right to vote (again, suspect after this past election), but I digress…
A recent event, broadcast in the local news has been eating at me for weeks. Here is a brief summary: A bus driver taking a busload of kids home from school, finds that he has a pair of exceptionally rowdy students on board. (Habitual offenders, as it turns out.) When he attempts to stop their fistfight, they turn on him, cursing and hitting, and creating extreme havoc. In response, the harried bus driver kicks them off the bus, leaving them to walk home through the snow, roughly half a mile. The children are aged 11 and 12.
As you may have guessed, the parents of the two children were incensed. They called the school. The principal then officially reprimanded the bus driver. (So far, so good.) The parents then called the television news. After the story aired, the bus driver was fired. Within a week, the firing was not enough, and the parents brought criminal charges of child endangerment against the bus driver. He now faces time in court and up to a year in jail if convicted.
Have you guessed where my loyalties lie by now? Bear in mind, I’m no card-carrying member of the Elmer Fudd Party–no Wight Wing Wadical tendencies here–I’m about as bleeding-heart as they come. And I have children of my own. But child endangerment?? Come on. Yes, he should have been reprimanded, but he didn’t strip them naked and make them walk home through a blizzard. They had coats. Plenty of kids in my neighborhood walk a mile to school and back every day. And these kids were being wretched little shits–fighting, using extremely foul language, and threatening the bus driver. Where is their accountability?
Oh, right. I forgot. “Children are our future, Mary.”
Well, duh! My point exactly! Who do you want taking care of your country’s affairs in your old age? Foul-mouthed kids that think they rule the world and can do no wrong? Kids whose parents overreact and rise to their defense, bailing them out of trouble and crying “unfair!” even when the kids are clearly in the wrong? Have you ever driven a bus full of kids? Been in charge of all those kids, of getting them home safely every single day, being hyper alert at all times? Have you even ridden on such a bus? Well, I can tell you that children turn into wild little beasties on the bus, far away from teachers, restless after a long day of sitting and learning, all-too-aware of the one, lone adult (otherwise occupied) who is in charge of keeping control of 50+ kids–kids who often spit and curse and fight, yell at the top of their lungs and write grafitti on the seats, rip holes in them, press their used gum into them. (Bear in mind that if you are the driver, you are solely responsible for the condition of both the kids and the bus.)
What do you think these children learned from this experience? I think they’ve learned that they can fight and swear and be disrespectful, and if anyone tries to rein them in or make them accountable, they will get their story put on the television, they will get excessive sympathy that negates the issue of their own bad behavior, they will get a grown man fired (such power!), possibly even put in jail, and their parents will defend them and pick up the pieces, no matter what they do. What will these kids be doing with this knowledge five years from now? I wonder.
I have an ongoing struggle with our current society’s attempts to foster a feel-good attitude among our nation’s children. Posters throughout the schools promise: “YOU’RE SPECIAL! JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE YOU!” Well, I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t. You may be special to your mom just because you’re you, but you ain’t special to the world just because you’re you. You can become special, by leaving the world a better place than you found it, you can bring enlightenment, or peace, or understanding to people around you or the world, and thereby become special, but I’m sorry, you ain’t special without at least a little effort on your part.
And all of us, every one of us, should think about that bus driver’s side of the story. We should remind our children how to behave on a bus and how to be respectful to those in charge of their safety and security, and we should hold them to it when they fail. We should put ourselves in that bus driver’s shoes, and we should walk a mile.