If you don’t have something nice….

In keeping with the lighter fare on the blog in these summer months (summer in England being decidedly relative, btw) I decided to post Tom Friedman’s essay from today’s times http://select.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/opinion/27friedman.html?hp.I really liked this piece and think it is an important read for all parents, especially at this time of year when we find our children more in our direct care and when they are watching us most closely and most often (especially we fathers who are taking much needed vacation time to “spend with the family”).  I often find myself asking what I would like my son’s to be when they are grown.  Like all parents, I want them to be healthy and happy and find a career and family life that fulfills them.  My wife and I work very hard to make those hopes a reality.  However, how often do I say that what I really want for them is to grow into moral men, kind and compassionate, who treat others with dignity and respect?  It is so easy to forget, in our hyper-competitive, globalized world, that raising moral children is what we are really tasked with, not children who can get into Harvard or do graduate work at Oxbridge.   I am reminded of Cato’s famous line that the most important service a citizen could render to the state is raising his son correctly.  Cato of course knew exactly what he meant by “correctly”, ie a noble Roman, who had made all the particularly Roman virtues a habit of his soul.

Friedman’s piece gives us hope that if we raise our children well, they will also be more competitive and more likely to succeed in the world which we are giving them.  That is no small matter or hope.  However, it does remain largely beside the point. 

One Response to “If you don’t have something nice….”

  1. Mark Grannis Says:

    I understand why Friedman would fear anonymous retribution on the internet for imagined slights in the real world. It’s a commonplace that two people in their cars are often less patient and forgiving with each other than they would be face to face. (Think about it: When was the last time you saw somebody flips someone else off with no car involved?) E-mail flamefests follow the same pattern, and unfortunately I’ve seen some terrible stuff on blogs. I don’t even watch political “talk” shows anymore because of the shouting.

    This week I stumbled onto William Bennett’s 1998 book, “The Death of Outrage.” I’ve enjoyed Bennett’s writings over the years, but I think the suggestion that Outrage was in extremis back in 1998 is somewhere between quaint and uproarious. It seems to me we live in an Age of Outrage. Cable news is largely about outrage. Lacking much capacity for empathy or self-critical thought, we refuse to cut strangers any slack (and by the way, the vast majority of people count as strangers). It can’t end well, can it?

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