Sending the Wrong Messages to Our Youth

By Fred Gaffney, Chamber President

The following op-ed was published in the Friday, January 10th edition of Press Enterprise.

This winter has already seen a number of weather-related school closings, delays and early dismissals in the area. School superintendents have the difficult and unenviable responsibility of making these scheduling decisions. Attempting to reach the appropriate balance between the continuity of the school year and the physical safety of students is further complicated by the potential wrath of parents, including the ever-increasing threat of legal action against the districts. The backlash from the parents seems to have more influence than Mother Nature in taking a “better safe than sorry” approach.

The negative impacts of suspending the normal schedule go beyond disruption of the learning process and the inconvenience to parents and caregivers. Cancelling school for cold weather or even the threat of snow suggests to impressionable young people that it is acceptable, if not the norm, to put off one’s obligations for the sake of personal comfort and convenience. The manifestation of this cultural belief is as clear as it is disheartening and frustrating to job providers. As President of the Chamber of Commerce, I have the opportunity to speak with area employers of all sizes. A common challenge is a deteriorating work ethic, particularly in younger generations. Employees think nothing of calling off work or not even bothering to contact their employers ahead of time due to personal issues that should not warrant them missing work. This practice harms business productivity and employee relations and further deteriorates personal responsibility and accountability.

Further, the nature and tone of response from some parents when difficult decisions are made encourages a lack of respect for those in leadership positions. In the workforce, decisions and direction, while not always universally agreed upon, need to be carried out. Demonstrating to young people that it’s ok to yell, disrespect and even disregard a decision that requires a compromise on the part of the individual will hinder that person’s ability to be productive in group situations throughout their life including family and the workplace.

Developing personal ethics is most critical at young ages. The Chamber’s Foundation works with area schools to promote positive work habits in our youth. Taking personal responsibility and meeting obligations in order to be successful often requires individual sacrifices and discomfort. Parents and all adults should be sensitive to the importance of these traits in how we convey them to our youth.