Lora J. Mackel
Spring has sprung, and it is time that young people's thoughts turn to ... money. That's right. It's time to pass a budget in both national and state capitols, to file taxes, and for young men to announce their intentions to enter the NBA draft.
"What?" you say. "The draft?"
Well in case you have been living in a cave and this column is your first encounter with civilization, our men's basketball team has become notorious lately not only for playing in the NCAA National Championship basketball game, but for the players that will leave the program to enter the draft before their four years of commitment are up.
This latest development, not surprisingly, has unleashed intense emotion in the community. Some have reacted with violent disapproval, but most students have supported the men. The general consensus of the undergraduate student population has been, "Hell, if someone offered me a million or more dollars, I would do it."
There has been more focus on the possible fiscal rewards awaiting the potential draftees than there has been on the moral, ethical or educational correctness of their decisions. It does not seem to matter that these men would be living out their dream, but rather that there will be a big payoff to justify their leaving school.
The focus of the debate begs the question, does our generation have the power to say no to money?
If popular culture is any indication of the values our society collectively holds, then the answer would be no. The craze of reality TV seems to trumpet the notion that anyone's moral absolutes can be corrupted if the payoff is big enough. Even if money is not the motivating factor, American youth is drawn to the heady promise of fame.
Anyone seen "Jackass" or "Popstars?"
Dramas on television have little to do with life outside the office. Even our entertainment suggests that life is just a means to a paycheck which is a means to the stuff we think we want. Family has faded, the job is now the only source of identity. It used to be that a job was a means to provide for a family. Now, the job has become more important than the family.
If our parents put us in daycare in the '80s so they could pursue the things they purported to reject in the '60s, does that not explain the attitude of the "young people" today? As children who spent more time in front of a television set than actually talking to our parents, it is little wonder that we care more for work and money than anything else. Somewhere along the way, the lessons about morality, and goodness and just plain doing the right thing got lost on the little minds that were corrupted with sophisticated advertising we were raised on.
Of course, the response to the whining about our existential crisis would be to shut up. We are lucky to be the first generation never to be touched by famine, drought, plague, war or depression. There is truth to that. The youth of today has never really been grateful because they have never had occasion to be tested.
Would we have the moral fortitude to endure hardship? If we lose the money and the material goods, would our lives lose their value?
Even though we have no reason to believe it, good times do not last forever. If we forget that teaching moral lessons is vital and important, the next generation will be more lost then even we are.
Morals and community values do not mean that we advocate the return of the nuclear family, but rather that we teach people to put others before themselves.
It means we teach kids how to be good, even if that means rejecting money and power.