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The Last Bastion of “Caring”

Why I would rather see my son grow up to be Pete Rose than Neville Chamberlain.

Last month I wrote about the future of my own quest for knowledge. In the center of the post was a quote by Charlotte Mason:

“The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education, but how much does he care?”

These words have haunted me all month. In fact, they have given me much hope, despair, and fodder for the mind. I hope you do not mind if I write about some of my thoughts as part of The Great Conversation.

In a way I have walked through the month with these words ever before me. I thought about them in our own Morning Time, during church, hiking, watching television, and reading books.

I have thought about them the most at the baseball field where I get a chance to watch students practice, compete, win, and lose. The interesting thing is that I get to see kids from homeschools, private schools, elite schools and public schools. In fact, our community holds the title of most private schools per capita and since “we” play baseball on several types of teams including a public school one, I see it all. I suppose “I” do not actually play baseball but I do try to influence the umpire.

What I have found is an alarming amount of “I Don’t Care.” Yes, of course, the parents care. The mythology of the baseball dad is rooted in reality. Many dads hover behind the catcher, with me, issuing orders to their sons. I am only there to make sure the umpire is honest, I swear you did not hear me saying, “Are you kidding me, Alex, hit the ball.” I have seen parents’ fight- a good friend of mine was once hospitalized by drunken dad, and I have seen the umpires call the police to make sure things didn’t get out of hand, and one year the umpire kicked all the parents on our team out of the park for being obnoxious. Seriously, Ump? The parents care.

But what about the kids? Do they care? I imagine somewhere deep down they care but they have been educated to hide that carefully. It does not seem to matter what team they are on except maybe the ultra-elite teams, the kids do not seem to care. They are the rough beasts slouching towards the future, without hope.

I am convinced it is this lack of hope which causes this malaise and I am convinced it is their education that is siphoning the hope from them, even to some extent from the homeschoolers. I think maybe it is the whole structure of socialization that may be causing some of it. A student has to be extremely brave to care in our culture.

My son came home very discouraged after a loss the other night, which is not a surprise, but he was discouraged because the coach said, “Did you have fun? That is all that matters.” Alex did not have fun but thankfully he knows that things besides having fun still do matter, even winning.

I have taken an unpopular stand on athletics in the past. What does it have to do with education, anyway? I believe it is one of the last bastions of ‘caring’ that our culture allows; a stronghold that is quickly deteriorating. Athletics give us a place to care. You know you love Remember the Titans, Chariots of Fire and Rudy.

I would rather see my son grow up to be Pete Rose than Neville Chamberlain.

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