Pro patria, pro pueris

Pro patria, pro pueris.[1]

As I’ve written before I’m increasingly worried about how our society in the US has come to view itself. We are full of claims about American exceptionalism but can’t rationally back them up.

The unquestioned philosophy of US exceptionalism has the unintended consequence of causing us to fail to strive. Societies perform best when striving for a collective goal. WWII. Sputnik. These were moments in US history when we engaged collective action. People took their mutual responsibilities seriously. Today, it seems, we lack a reason to strive. In a sense we are unwitting victims of our own success; and the threats to our economic and social security are subtle and slow-acting. It’s not to nuclear holocaust that we’ll succumb, but to the slowly decaying competitiveness and irrelevance. As T.S Eliot wrote: “Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Our collective ambition is in decay. We’ve been etherized by countless distractions - social technology, pro sports, Dancing with the Stars, and stupid cat videos. Our attention has been stolen from us by the unethical purveyors of “entertainment.” Succinctly, we’re not serious about the sorts of things that will ensure our country’s success.

Kids and a window to the future

If we wish to glimpse the future we need only to contemplate our young. Are our kids driven to distraction by SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat? Then we will all soon live in a society that is so distracted that we can’t look each other in the eye.

Are our kids falling behind in our international education rankings? Then we had better resign ourselves to a second class status on the international stage.

None of this is irreversible, of course; but we need to analyze cause and effect to create a world in which we prefer to live.

###Restoring the formulas of success###

Success and hard work are inextricably linked. Contemporary media over-emphasizes serendipity in the path to financial success; but for the majority of us, the only way to get there is by hard work, orientation toward goals, and academic preparedness. We need to begin to draw the connection between striving and eventual success - however defined - in children from their earliest moments. Parents must praise kids for authentic hard work and reserve praise for what’s truly praiseworthy.

###Where there’s scarcity, competition will follow###

The worldwide economic upheavals and the political strife over healthcare, Social Security, and other social support points out the serious scarcity of opportunity. Whether our kids - and the adults they become - seek it or not, they will participate in a society that is increasingly competitive. Nothing can be gained by shielding children from this reality. Instead, we should be equipping them for competition in academics, music, sports and other pursuits.

###Inattention###

Nothing that is unattended-to develops in a positive way. Just as a closed system tends toward chaos, inattentive parenting yields disordered kids. Children need direction, gentle nudges in the right direction, discipline, consistency, and help with goal-setting. Trusting schools and recreational soccer clubs to do the long-term work of child development is misplaced. Parents must simply make development of their children their top priority. Are you reading about child psychology? Are you doing thier homework with them? Are you reading books yourself; or are you playing with your iPad? Are you looking out keenly for their strengths? Are you modeling for them the behaviors that will equip them for success?

What’s good for kids is good for our country.


  1. For (the good) of country, for (the good) of children.