In the many articles I have written about how children become educated, a recurring theme has been the role parents play in educating their kids. I am so consistent in my position, because it is indisputable that parents are the first and most important educators in their children’s lives. Having said that, they aren’t the only people who impact a child, so anyone who thinks I absolve schools of all responsibility in educating children would be wrong.
In fact, I will be forever grateful for the role outstanding teachers and coaches from the Covington schools and Wittenberg and Wright State universities played in my development. Many of them have been integral in whatever success I may have attained. Their impact has been life-altering.
But, the fact remains that the two most important teachers I ever had were my parents. Chances are great the same is true for you.
My parents didn’t teach me how to construct a well organized paragraph, conduct a valid scientific experiment, or solve an algebraic equation. They left that to my very capable teachers. But, what they did teach me was just as important, if not more so. They taught, and more importantly, they modeled the importance of understanding the difference between right and wrong and acting accordingly; the value of hard work; the obligation of being reliable and dependable; and the need for honesty. Just as importantly, they taught me there were consequences for bad behavior.
It is their lesson on honesty that is the head scratcher in these volatile political times.
You see, my parents didn’t qualify the importance of telling the truth with an affiliation with one political party or the other. They never told me that it’s OK to lie if you are a Republican, but not OK if you are a Democrat, or vice versa.
They simply said, “Don’t lie, and if you do and we catch you there will be hell to pay.”
This important lesson is nowhere to be found in today’s political climate.
Perhaps being a practicing Independent allows me a perspective that I would not have if I was blindly devoted to one political party or the other, because I am shocked by how often people’s response to dishonesty seems to be determined by their political affiliation. I watch intelligent, reasonable individuals become apoplectic when a member of the political party they despise lies, but they become unconcerned, and sometimes even supportive if the lies are told by a member of their preferred party.
This is not surprising behavior from politicians, but it is rather disheartening to see the number of normal, everyday people who seem to have adopted the same response to politicians who lie to us.
I don’t understand it.
If there is one verifiable fact in the political world, it is that members of both parties lie — a lot. They make promises they cannot keep, they levy charges they cannot substantiate, they provide us the exact opposite explanations for the same events, and they fabricate stories that are easily refuted. But, a surprising number of people seem to believe that only members of the other party engage in reprehensible behavior.
We’ve even reached the point that the media has apparently determined there is a quota of lies that our political leaders are allowed. They tell us, for example, the President “lies all the time,” which requires them to repeatedly fact check him, yet they don’t seem to be nearly as interested in Elizabeth Warren’s fewer, verifiable false claims about her heritage or employment history, both of which she manufactured to make her life story sound just a little more impressive in an effort to be elected to the nation’s highest office.
Apparently, she hasn’t stepped beyond the media’s approved lie threshold just yet. But shouldn’t that threshold be zero?
Now, understand, I’m not referring to partisan comments politicians utter all the time that are based on their political beliefs and which are certainly open for robust political debates. I’m talking about the comments members of both parties make every day of which there is verifiable video, audio, or written evidence that they are being dishonest.
When did that become OK?
I’ve even heard intelligent, responsible adults use the excuse that a political opponent lied first, more often, or more egregiously, as if that then excuses the lying response that follows. When I hear that, I am reminded of my years as an elementary school teacher and principal, when a student guilty of doing something wrong would defend his behavior by saying, “Well, he did it first!”
Seriously? Have we really devolved into using excuses that our children use?
I’ve got a better idea.
How about if we return to simpler times when the rules our parents taught us about lying were so clear? How about if we reset the acceptable quota on lying to zero? Then, how about we all hold our political leaders, all of them, accountable for every lie they tell us?
Now, that would be change I could believe in.
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.