I recently addressed a group of close to 300 parents and college-bound high school graduates in what turned out to be a very educational, eye-opening experience for me and everyone in attendance. The evening was designed to mentally and emotionally prepare both students and parents for the new and very unique experience of moving from a high-school mind-set and environment to that of a more challenging and demanding college encounter.
I must admit that I was very impressed with the outcomes and would highly recommend such an event for parents and students of every high school in the nation. The evening began with the high school superintendent sharing the objectives and agenda for this very unique event. I then presented our most requested program, “Productive Chaos,” as they felt this content certainly provided the ideal foundation for what they had planned for this event.
Following my presentation, several breakouts were offered, facilitated by a college professor, a career consultant, a high school counselor, and a college freshmen who was a graduate from this high school. The subject matter was certainly pertinent, the presenters were well-prepared and those in attendance were very interactive with their questions and comments.
They wrapped up the event with a panel discussion that provided captivating debate involving panel members, students, parents and special guests. For example, a local journalist asked the panel why the number of students interested in journalism seemed to be experiencing a continuous decline over the past decade. Both students and parents were quick to respond, and I think their answers should be shared with every newspaper, magazine, television and radio station in the nation.
Their remarks were certainly on the mark and very revealing. One parent reminisced about the media “back-in-the-day” and the role of public protector it played so well and so often. Newspapers and television/radio stations focused on protecting consumers from bad service, government bullies, and a wide variety of con men. They fought injustice and righted wrongs. They went to extremes to safeguard the “underdog,” “the little guy,” the “average citizen.” Government corruption was exposed, “Big Business” iniquities were revealed, and we felt safe and secure knowing we had a champion available at our beck and call at all times! You could hear the sadness in this mother’s voice as she realized that her media memory was, in fact, just that—a pleasant memory.
A student then shared his feeling that the day of the sophisticated, iconic TV anchor or the highly respected and trusted columnist was gone forever. He felt media personalities were very political, outlandish, and obviously more interested in generating dollars and a career than in protecting the public from greedy and dishonest characters in the community.
Other students shared feelings that today’s media has lost integrity, pride, and a longing for doing the right thing for the masses. There was little, if any, desire to pursue a career which left so many disillusioned and longing for more satisfaction. Most members of the media today can be described as liars, jokes, or disgraces to what was once a distinguished pursuit. The local journalist appeared quite stunned and offered no rebuttal.
In reviewing the many remarks on this subject, I truly longed for the days when a journalist was truly a journalist rather than a personality. I thought how nice it would be to see a reporter post a story with no fear of political pressure or losing an advertising dollar. Will our next generation move farther away from pride, respect, and integrity as they pursue a career? I think not. I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised in these young whipper-snappers. You should have heard them speak up in these sessions. I think they’re quickly moving toward a mind-set of being “fed up and not wanting to take it any more.” And they’re certainly intelligent enough to pull it off. They did themselves proud with their “give-and-take” comments all evening. In fact, they made the recent Democratic and Republican political debates look more like a meager “toddler tug-a-war” of mental midgets!
Have you seen the television game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” If you have, I’m certain you realize how much more today’s students are exposed to than we were at that same age. Listening to these high school seniors share their insights, dreams, and concerns left me with the feeling that they were already capable of “making a difference.” And they’ll do it regardless of the hurdles and speed bumps we create for them on what seems like a daily basis. I think we’re going to be okay. In fact, I’m downright confident that we will be. We’re in good hands with this next generation, and we should be offering more support, opportunity, and appreciation and less resistance, pessimism, and negativity. I know I’m going to. Why not join me?