Tuesday, April 29, 2008

all the world

so much art 
in all the world 

painter a master 
writer a laureate
musician a maestro 

each patron an 
insatiable hunger 

craving to be fed. 

(c)R. Burnett Baker 2007

An Introduction:  You're Damned Right I Am!

During my years in retail management I've hired countless employees, many of them young college students.  A few years ago one young lady in particular opened my eyes to what seems to be a common denominator of late teen, early 20's men and women:  They don't have strong (if they have them at all) opinions.  About much of anything. 

As often happens in the workplace, we would all talk about the latest news or entertainment, philosophies, history or current events.  Through the course of a day or week I would bring up subjects or make statements about historical events or people, and at times I'd be able to weave the conversation into the products we sold, or the countries from which those products came.  (We sold unique products from all over the globe).  I thought of some of these little talks as "educational".  They mostly thought of my screeds as rantings of a middle-aged, bitter retail hack who probably couldn't succeed in a "real" profession. 

At times I would ask about what was going on in their academic lives:  What were they studying?  What courses were they taking?  What "new thing" did they learn that day in class?  What were their future ambitions?  More often than not I got blank stares, shrugged shoulders, or just non-committed answers like, "uh, nutin' much, I guess." 

One fine day I was on a roll and this young lady I mentioned looked at me and said, "You're VERY opinionated, aren't you?"  I was instantly annoyed with her.  I replied, "You're damned right I am.  And it would do you well to get a few or your own!"  And I meant it. 

Too often in this age of politically correct sensitivity people are afraid to express their opinions.  If they have any. After that brief encounter though, I wondered what percentage of college students today have no real opinions?  I wondered if my college student employee was really representative of most college students?  I doubt it.  

But it's disturbing to think that many of them don't have opinions.  They don't know when John Kennedy was assassinated.  Don't know what December 7th represents. They've never heard of Neil Diamond or Paul Simon.  They can't even tell you who the Vice President of the US is.  I've always enjoyed Lay Leno's segment "Jaywalking".  Probably because I've seen it in action in my daily routine.  It's funny, but serious and potentially disturbing for the future of the country. 

We simply cannot afford to give birth to children and nurture them in collective ignorance that inevitably breeds stupidity. If they don't gain basic knowledge about life past and present, if they don't formulate opinions about past or current events, and if they don't learn to express those opinions, then our freedom-loving lifestyle in this country could be in jeopardy. 

Without critical thinking skills, opinions we can express, and the confidence to express them, we cannot be free, and will not be able to understand why. 

So this is my forum to rant.  And rave. Or just muse if I must. It's a place for my opinions, an opportunity to offer my take on any given subject and perhaps engage in dialogue with those who happen upon this blog.  I'll even amuse myself with my own poetry from time to time.  

After all, it's cheaper than therapy.