Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Defense of Bootstraps

I'm darned if I can track it down now, but yesterday I caught in passing a brief audio clip of a Barack Obama exchange with a nursing student at a recent rally. The 19-year-old young lady explained, between sobs, that she was putting herself through school. Obama responded, not with "Wonderful! You should be proud of yourself! With your dedication you'll be a great nurse!", but with words to the effect of, "We'll see if we can't get you some help with that soon."

Senator Obama, I have two adult children and two teenagers. My husband and I can ill afford to subsidize college for all of them, although we would love to see them go. And guess what, Senator?

We don't want your help.

We've both been through college. We each had a little parental help, but mostly used a combination of earned scholarship and grant aid, student loans (which we were paying off for a long time after), and old-fashioned sweat equity. We can remember plenty of "sponsored by Daddy" types who crashed and burned after three semesters of boozing it up. We know there's a direct relationship between the amount of effort required to obtain a thing and the value that thing holds for the owner.

We don't want our kids to have a free ride through college. We want them to appreciate the value of having earned the trip there for themselves. We want them to recognize that the privilege, once gained, must be maintained through diligence and hard work. We want them to learn to make good use of their time as they balance work, study, and lesiure time. We know this is not a skill that comes naturally to most people, and that it will not come at all unless the end in sight--the sheepskin--is desired enough to supersede for the time being less critical desires.

We've seen a year's worth of unearned grants wasted, to the moral and educational detriment of the student. We've also had a teenager earn and maintain a full scholarship for three and a half years (so far), taking on part-time jobs to supplement her personal needs and keeping up with a demanding GPA requirement, a full academic schedule, public service, and an Honors enrichment program all at the same time.

We're now watching a heretofore unmotivated high-school junior as the realization slowly dawns on him that there is life beyond next week and he might want to explore his long-term options. Before this fall, he dabbled idly in his talents and interests and gave little thought to using them professionally; now he's actually considering where they might take him. We'd like to see this newfound realization lead to a college degree, but we know that his previous academic sins will impose the need for additional effort if he is to get there.

When he dons the cowl, we want him to look back at his time in college with pride born of personal accomplishment. We want him to look to his future with the sense that he can take on the challenges that await him, not to live his life waiting for Daddies biological or governmental to walk him through every difficulty. And Senator, those are things your entitlement mentality can not give him.

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Blogger mrsdarwin said...

You tell 'im, C! I'll be paying off debt for a good ten more years, but by gum, it's my education.

I do have to say that I will always be grateful to the older couple who graciously helped me out so that I didn't have to take out personal loan my freshman year. I hope I'm able to emulate their generosity one day.

12:20 PM  
Blogger CMinor said...

It's lovely that they helped you out, and that they have your appreciation. It's actually the "handout for everybody" ideology that irritates me, not the availability of help from diverse sources.

While trying to track down the clip I mentioned, I did find a YouTube of an Obama meeting with another nursing student. In brief, Obama looked caring, worried about the student's needs, and fussed over her at the end of the interview when she burst into tears. Of course, she burst into tears because her school financial adviser, who was also present, had just outlined a solution to her problems--without any help from Obama.

Guess which of the two men was lauded ad nauseum in the comments?

7:38 PM  

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