Across Canada, educators and parents are speaking out against a troubling trend.
They’re tired of the media circus over minor irritants like bullying, drugs and teen violence. They’ve banded together to fight a far more insidious scourge — one that threatens the very fabric of our society.
That scourge is political ambition.
“We’ve got to get them while they’re young,” says child psychologist Bea F. Skinner, “before they start sweet-talking other kids out of their lunch money.
“Before you know it, they’re lobbying for longer recess times and shorter naps. Soon they’re running for class president, and by then it’s almost too late.”
In the later grades, these same kids are holding rallies behind the school, buying votes with promises of reduced homework and cafeteria reform. It’s an addiction, one they’ll carry with them long after they leave school.
“Some take the plunge directly into big-time politics,” says Skinner. “Others experiment with the milder stuff, like school boards and municipal councils, but it’s almost always a prelude for more serious trouble.”
Eventually, she says, a few discover the lure of Parliament. And that’s where their life usually falls apart.
“No one ever thinks their kid will become a politician or, God forbid, a senator,” says parent Betty Pandering. “You just assume they’ll stay on the right path, work hard and become a bookie or cab driver or something.”
Pandering, whose son recently served two years for filing false expense claims, blames herself for his poor choices in life.
“We were just too kind and lenient,” she says, holding back tears. “We instilled a sense of entitlement in him. We should have known better.”
Skinner says kids sometimes leave school without succumbing to the lure of politics. But then they land shady careers that naturally lead to unsavoury choices.
She calls them “gateway jobs.”
“Lawyers are a good example,” she says. “You spend all your time defending clients, you think you can convince people of anything.”
Lawyers, she says, are experts at explaining away all sorts of bad behaviour.
“It’s a natural fit.”
Corporate executives and bankers are also susceptible to corruption, she says, but the worst of the lot are journalists.
“Self-righteous maggots,” Skinner says. “They spend all their time slagging politicians for the criminals they are, but you know it’s all just an act. Give them a chance, and they’ll crawl right into the gutter along with them.”
Betty Pandering says schools can help curtail political ambition by banning school elections and taking the emphasis off leadership.
“We’ve got to stop encouraging students to be better citizens and to contribute more to society as a whole,” she said.
“That just fills their heads with dangerous ideas.”
Pandering wants stricter broadcast standards, as well.
“TV stations should be discouraged from sensationalizing politics by airing speeches and debates. There’s already enough garbage on TV, why must our children be subjected to this nonsense, particularly in prime time?”
In the end, she says, we all must be a part of the solution. Society must send a consistent message to kids across the board.
“Ask not what you can do for your country,” she says. “Just keep your head low and your nose clean.”
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s
commentary editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.