My husband is an attorney and he is fond of a saying about lawyers in small towns: “If you have one lawyer in a small town she will starve- if two lawyers, they both will prosper”. That says something not only about lawyers, but also about people in general. Just as it takes “two to tango” and “tea for two is nice”, it takes two to get into a good fight, legal or otherwise. More about that in a bit.
When I was in college way back in the 70’s there were about 200 million people in this country and now there are over 300 million people. That is a huge difference in the amount of human beings this fertile land of ours is being asked to support. In terms of education, the total number of students in public schools peaked in the 1970’s and then went down for a number of years before steadily increasing to 1970 levels today (National Center for Educational Statistics).
So what does that have to do with the price of tea in China or lawyers in small towns? Here’s the point: as we push more and more eighteen year olds out into society whether into college or the job market, the American workplace is becoming a very crowded environment to live in. Put another way, there is less and less room at the “inn” and not everyone is going to be very comfortable. Just like the lawyer who has a very peaceful existence as the sole litigator in “Whoville”, when more lawyers move in, more and more fights start; and there certainly is a proliferation of fighting in our Dear Country today. It does not have to do with the fact that “Whoville” has two lawyers today (it most likely has ten) but that the neighboring metro area is about twice the size it used to be.
Short of some unspeakable catastrophic event befalling America, the population is not going to decline. Times have changed in the sprawl of over-population. Which means we are just destined for more fighting – fighting for jobs, for goods, for real estate, for the “American Dream”! Or are we?
The President (and others) say the solution is more jobs which are, by the by, on the way…soon. Does anyone truly believe that all the people in this fruited land who want a decent job, who desperately need a decent job, are going to get one in the near future? How many full-time jobs have gone to part-time? Does anyone really believe an economic stimulus from the government will end all the fighting?
I was having breakfast at my favorite Jersey Diner today and my usual waitress noticed the front page of the “Daily News” that I was reading. Her comment was, “It looks like some Middle Eastern country in a revolution. Why do people not learn that a little basic kindness goes a long way to cure all the fighting?” Why indeed. That made me think of the short piece that was making the rounds a few years ago, “Everything I needed to know about life I learned in kindergarten”. The drift of the article was that all the lessons about being kind to one another were learned in kindergarten. Apparently not for enough people.
The population is not going to regress and the government is not going to come riding in like the cavalry to save the day; so, whatever shall be done? Take a serious look at the job market these days. Many citizens in various states have lost full-time jobs and are now working two to three jobs without benefits. We do not know what jobs will be available for our country’s children in the future. Maybe our students are not really learning those basic lessons about human relationships in a competitive and over-crowded society that allegedly are learned in kindergarten.
Our already over-burdened schools, in this 21st century, challenged with academics, social and emotional issues, are fraught with societal issues with little backing. Maybe those lessons should be incorporated into the curriculum all the way through High School. Maybe, all the “skills” that we are emphasizing in our current curriculum are not teaching people anything about how to live and be successful in today’s society. Or are the schools being successful incorporating these lessons and they are not being supported by society? Is society saying, “We cannot teach civility, ethics and all that; it’s too close to religion.” What is of highest importance in an over-populated, competitive, over-crowded society? Is it civility and getting along with others? We need to start “thinking outside the box”- maybe throw the whole box away. At least it seems so from looking at the front page of the newspaper this morning.
Dr. Carolyn Koos