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Whatever happened to???

This seems to be how most people, regardless of their age, shuffle through life given our collective customer service-based mindset.  But is it really the way forward?

In the wake of finishing reading and grading the first round of student learning team projects for my three courses this semester -- a two-week project in itself -- I ask, whatever happened to the good old-fashioned work ethic and related consistency?  

I cannot tell you how many undergraduates I meet each year who have no readily apparent or discernible work ethic.  Yes, a select few do, and they tend to do well in their university work.  They will probably do well just around the corner in later adult life too.  But most young people I come across each year do not have this quality as far as I can tell.  I have now taught and worked with college and university undergrads for over 20 years, and the problem, while perhaps more pronounced than ever before, is not entirely new.

My own view is that if work ethic and consistency are not present by 18, they will not suddenly appear as if by magic for most people once they graduate at 22 or 23.   There is a certain window of time in and with which parents or caregivers must work to instill certain positive core values and habits.  Clearly many such figures have dropped the ball on this particular point with their offspring if we are brutally honest about the situation. 

Sure, an abundance of largely fleeting and disposable material goods along with the latest chirping-burping digital toys may be, or may have been, present.  The trappings of membership in the now vast middle class to which everyone aspires.  

But the more important intangibles that permit someone to succeed throughout life, rather than drift aimlessly, seem absent.  How very sad.  

Again, if we are clear-eyed with ourselves as a society, no attempt to impose such values from the top down will change things.  As with so much else in life, the related concepts of positive work ethic, consistency, and even dependability start in the home.  As a much loved and respected Sociology professor, an Afro-Caribbean, once told us during one of the three courses I took with him at community college way back in the early 1990s, "You cannot legislate attitudes."   Parenthetically, he moved onto a large university in Tennessee, not too long after our paths diverged, where he still teaches.  One of the more interesting, engaging, and outstanding professors from my early student days.

Returning to the point at hand, sharing this particular set of related observations on work ethic will, no doubt, cause righteous indignation to well up in the throats of many readers.  Some might infer and/or snarl certain things about yours truly, as that is their right, but there we are. 

Shooting the messenger, when we don't care for the message, rather than taking a deep, hard look at our personal and collective selves, seems to be the preferred way of doing things.  Or, to take a rather more Girardian* approach, we attempt to discredit and/or destroy a designated scapegoat in order to restore our missing sense of (social or personal) harmony.  Human nature if you will.

-- Heinz-Ulrich 

For more on Renee Girard, click here.


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