Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Breakdown of Codes of Conduct

In an earlier blog I wrote that when I was a “kid” riding in a wagon hauling shelled corn to the town elevator, I tossed a handful of shelled corn in the air just as it happened a car was passing. My dad was driving the tractor pulling the wagon I was riding in. To my surprise and terror, the driver of the car stopped my dad and told him what I had done. Dad said nothing except ask if I did it which I admitted. When we got back home, my dad wisely and justly changed my attitude towards misbehavior of that type with his razor strap. I’ve made many other stupid mistakes but I never made that mistake again. I treasure this razor strap as one of many unforgettable legacies passed on to me by my dad. Most of my age peers agree that we were fortunate to grow up in an era of which there were codes of conduct in almost every family and in the community as a whole.

When I became a head coach in the public school system, I had a written policy or code of conduct for my athletes and would be athletes. Each kid had to take this policy home and return it signed by someone that was responsible for him. Back then it was always parents. One part of the code was each athletic team participant agreed to no smoking or drinking during the season of the sport being played. To my ignorance, I did not know that some in the community were already using other drugs. The code was simple and all participants agreed to abide by this code of conduct. Anyone, star player or board members son, was dismissed for the season if caught smoking or drinking. In my first year at Heyworth, we looked forward to a great season with some experienced players. Unfortunately, one football player who played on the basketball team the year before I was hired to replace the football coach who also subbed as the basketball coach, did not come out for the team because he preferred to smoke and drink. That was his option. Also, my tallest player was dismissed without comment when I walked into the Heyworth American Legion one night and found this young man with liquor in one hand and a cigarette in the other. We exchanged greetings and Monday the player did not return for practice. Kids have their own priorities, all adults can do is offer guidance.

I was hired to get the best out of my players and win if we were capable. Despite starting out at 2 and 5 and absent two known smokers and drinkers, we ended the season at 17 wins and 9 losses. The community supported me with no question. Today, I would probably be fired my most schools who “look the other way” if their players use drink, smoke or use drugs.

It was with further dismay when I read that a Bradley basketball player caught with an illegal substance and disciplined by the NCAA is being strongly defended by Bradley University and the basketball head coach. What a shame. The President of Bradley University should be embarrassed but evidently isn’t because winning at all costs and by any means is now standard procedures for most university presidents, their board of trustees, the athletic director and coaches.

I agree that all people should be given second chances. In the case of athletes who agree to a code of conduct, they get a second chance next season. If a senior, they move on to the next step in their life. There will be many written and unwritten codes of conduct and they will get as many second chances as those in charge will permit.

We have for many years moved toward becoming a sometimes pathetic society. Permissiveness is standard operating procedure. Discipline is disregarded and often administered against the wrong participant. In the case of Bradley, the second string player is looked at by the University as a victim and now the Coach and Bradley Administration defends him because he broke the law. Now the NCAA has to defend their policies. Didn’t Coach Jim Les have a code of conduct that the players agreed to before they were given their scholarships?

All types of excuses are made to defend wrongdoers including the wrongs committed against young children by a permissive society. No one can be rightfully dismissed temporarily from some sectors of society without contributors or taxpayers paying for the legal actions. Defense attorneys are among the happiest well to do people in the United States. Cheaters abound like the ones who were involved in backdating their stock options so that they or their colleagues could make a bigger profit at the expense of their unsuspecting stockholders. The WSJ says these well paid attorneys representing these wealthy cheaters applaud and advertise for the extra lucrative business.

Some kids at almost any young age, kill, bully and beat up others, pitch objects at moving vehicles, steal and terrorize and are sometimes described by the JS and others as “these are just kids, what do you expect”? I have blogged before that I am a proponent of the “broken window” theory. Our jails and prisons are filled with many second chance young people who, when their entire records can be exposed, show that they had too many “second” chances. We should all know by now that our kids are constantly testing as too what society considers right or wrong or what they can get away with, to formulate their own lives. Our permissive society that appears to be heading for socialism and pacifism has created a situation where the disarray of many of our classrooms, neighborhoods and streets are in control of those who had too many “second chances”.

As one lady emailed me “As always, a man that has the courage to stand up and be counted.” My thanks to her and others for giving me the courage to write, speak and act hoping to make this community a better place to live.


Randall L Emert Sr said...

Excellent! Too bad Jim Les may not read this. He should and so should many parents. The ones who only show up at school after "Johnny" as been charged and scream their kid has been wronged....again.

B. Ridley Critz, III said...

Yes, I agree. Must be our ages. sigh The world is changing, and like most who live past 60, it always seems as if we are coasting downhill to hell -- which we likely are.

Cheryl Shelabarger said...

I may not be a fan of the "razor strap" but I fully agree that the youth of today are in big trouble.

The best gift my Mother and Father ever gave me was this advise:

"The day that you think you are smart enough to move out of our home and into your own apartment, is the last day you will ever live in this house. You shall either sink or swim. We suggest that you learn to swim fast and furious."

There were many times over the years that I really hated that "no revolving door policy". But in the end, it was the best thing they ever did for me. I have the same policy with my six daughters, and it has worked equally well for them.

I insisted on college educations, jobs and rules. Amazingly, they all are strong, independent, educated women with good work ethics and moral standards.

Hmmmmmmm, kind of looks like love and discipline actually DO work.

Ben said...

I understand your sentiments about the lack of discipline in today's youth, but I must disagree with your take on drinking/smoking and athletics.

Why should the fact that somebody smokes, in and of itself, make them ineligible for a high school athletic team? If the smoking isn't affecting the person's health enough to be detectable on the court/field/ice, how is it the coach's business?

I realize that I've only addressed one 'forbidden practice', and one ill effect of that practice, but I think that the same logic transfers well across the scope of various drugs/problems. Of course, I welcome a healthy discussion on the merits and applicability of said logic. :)

Merle Widmer said...

I could probably have stated it better but I don't believe I mentioned a particpants health or ability. The code of conduct was agreed on by the particpants and violated willingly. I know that it is probable some of the team members did smoke and/or drink and got away with it. When one star athlete died of substance abuse at the age of 55, I understand he greatly regretted his early "getting away with it and not being caught" use of life threatening substances. It was explained to the kids (young people) and parents the consequences of the violation of the agreement and I enforced it and was supported by the community, administration and the school board.

I was told in college that my job as a teacher and coach was to develop young people into responsible adults.

I agree with Randall, Boyd and Cheryl in the fact that we have many codes of conduct but when we don't enforce them early on in a kids development, it is many times enforced by much harsher penalties. Our early in life permissiveness results in more incarcerations in the U,S. per capita than any country in the world.
Thanks for all comments.

ben said...


I understand and/or agree with most of that last comment. I don't, however, agree with your proposed reason for our disgustingly enormous prison population.

Prisons are full because of /too much/ discipline, in a manner of speaking. If petty/nonviolent criminals weren't in jail, most of the problem would be solved. As long as we continue to treat jail as a cure-all punishment we will continue to have a large portion of our society behind bars (becoming less useful and more bitter with every passing year).

Just in case you're wondering... I think prison has just two 'valid' purposes.
(1) A location for the incarceration of those who cannot be prevented in any other way from continuing to commit crimes that hurt others.
(2) A location for the rehabilition of those who are not able to be rehabilitated in a more 'real-world' setting.
I realize that my stance is pretty idealistic, but I'm young enough that I feel justified in pushing for what is right rather than what is possible.

digitizedmind75 said...

I agree with what was said in this entire post. I am 31 and even I see the change in society from what is was when I was a kid to what it is now. Both of my parents loved my brothers and I very much, but they would not hesitate to use stricter means of punishment if the rules were broken. Of course the degree of punishment was directly tied to the rule broken, but isn't that how society works?

When I was younger my friends and I feared and respected all adults. It was normal for any one of use to get into trouble with a friends parents and then those parents would tell our parents, which of course led to even more trouble. It was a community thing and it worked effectively. We all knew that there were consequences for every action and decision and we tailored our behaivor accordingly. Nowadays kids have no fear or respect for adults or the law. They know that certain elements of society have given them the upper hand over everyone, including their own parents. They have law enforcement coming into schools and telling the kids that if their parents spank them or use any type of violence against them, that the children are entitled to notify the authorities. I understand the need to protect children from chronic abusers, but it can be done in a way that doesn't castrate the parents ability to parent or societies ability to enforce the law with the proper punishment.

The problem with today's society is there are too many people who have bought into the idea of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. All I can say is if the rod would have been spared on me I would have made alot of bad decisions in my life. That fear of the consequences kept me more on the straight and narrow than I realized at the time. My parents would lecture me on the value of hard work, following thru with your obligations and commitments, and in showing the proper respect for others. Where is that being taught with the majority of the children today? From what I see the kids of today quit when it gets to hard, have no accountability for what they do wrong, and fail to show respect for others. This doesn't apply to all, but it is more prevelant that it was when I was a kid.

When I was younger I always told my parents I would never be like them towards my kids, yet I find myself teaching the same lessons to my children as my parents taught me. Hopefully it will have the same effect.