Your history shapes who you are, it doesn’t make who you are

Posted: June 28, 2010 in Blogging, blogroll, Community, education, Family, Life, Relationships, School
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Last week, a couple of things happened that got these wheels turning.  One made me a little sad but proud at the same time, and the other just frustrated the hell out of me (apologies to those who thought they had already beat the hell out of me or scared the hell out of me– there was still a little hell left) because of the sheer ignorance.  Both are important to you and your future.

First, General Stanley McChrystal submitted his resignation as the leader of our nation’s efforts in Afghanistan.  He did this after an interview he gave to ROLLING STONE magazine.  Both McChrystal and his aides were caught being unflattering and insulting to the current administration.  When I heard about the story, and later when I read the story, I was sad.  It’s not like I have a problem with criticizing the President.  I have done so for years, throughout the last three or four people to hold the office.  Before that, I was too young to know what I was talking about.  It isn’t even as if I have a problem with criticizing one’s boss.  I’ve done so for my entire working life.

But I never did so in front of the customer!

What General McChrystal did was wrong.  He should never have allowed his complaints be printed.  If that meant that he didn’t do an interview, so be it.  He was sure to get his 15 minutes after he retired.  At that time, he could have said whatever he wanted to say.  That a General would engage in those kind of shenanigans at all made me sad.  The dumbest of generals is still a bit brighter than most people.  You just don’t get to that position by being dumb.  So leaving aside the seeming stupidity of saying something to the press in the first place, what about the merit of what he said?  Is there any merit to what he said?  I’m not going to get into that debate here, but it is sad to think that there might be any merit to his comments and now we might be losing his insight. 

Of course, I was proud when I heard that he had come back to Washington with his resignation in hand.  I was proud because he did the right thing.  He walked in, took his butt-chewing, and was able to walk out with his head held high.  When I retired from banking, I did so because I wasn’t as passionate as I once was about the job.  I got to a point where I just didn’t care anymore.  So I left.  I left where my word and my name still meant something.  I left after having trained a capable replacement and talking to my “special” members who had been getting special care from me.  In the few times that I have gone back to check up on things, I noted that the system that I had established had been little changed since my departure.  I know, nothing compared to what General McChrystal went through, but I can relate to leaving a place with honor.

You will leave many jobs throughout your life.  I can almost guarantee that you will leave some badly.  I’ve done it many times over.  Sometimes I left more honorably than others.  The times that I left with honor have helped me move onward and upward to better places.  The times I left without honor made me look at myself and work on what I could have or should have done better.  I use those bad experiences to shape my future behavior.

On the event that had hell shooting out of me in frustration (think of any of the demons in Supernatural, especially as Sam Winchester exorcises them), this stemmed from a video posted on Facebook.

There is a teacher out there in Los Angeles that is a self-described activist.  His issues are fighting against budget cuts to schools and fighting against the Arizona illegal immigrant law.  In my opinion, he is a kook.  His videos give the impression that he has never read the text of the law.  That is my first problem.  I have no issue with people who have an argument that is backed in fact, logic, and having read the damned bill.  Some may not like Arizona’s law because they feel that it oversteps federal authority.  Fair enough.  But his arguments are ludicrous, and worse, he is a teacher.  He indoctrinates kids every day to his point of view. 

On Facebook, his video was posted on the union page with a tagline that he won a civil rights award.  I commented that he, and the Fox News anchor that interviewed him are both loons.  The poster of the video replied that I am a union basher, and backed up this assertion with a snippet from an earlier post from here.  So far, no problem.  He’s right.  I stated that unions don’t care for children, and as a teacher I am against union domination.

My real problem comes when other teachers use tactics like cherry-picking words from a post (like this one), taking them out of context in order to make personal attacks.  This is always the last refuge of a weak argument.  But these people deal with kids.  They teach kids that this is a legitimate debate technique.

In the interest of full disclosure, two teachers had problems with THIS post:

In particular, they have a problem with me stating that students who don’t go to school or those who abuse drugs, alcohol, or who are violent and are kicked out of public school are dumbasses.  They missed the point of the post where I am supportive of these kids when they try to make themselves better.  These are the teachers that are in our public schools.  These are the teachers that are shaping your future.  These are the reason I tell you to question everything.

I would like for many of these teachers to have to deal with the students I choose to teach on a daily basis, but I don’t see why the students should be punished for the sins of these teachers.

I have spent a while working as a teacher in the correctional system.  I teach at Juvenile Hall.  Believe me when I say that working there pulls at the heart-strings and makes a person think hard about the choices they have made.    During my time, I have seen young kids who are terrified because of the reality of what Juvie is.  I have seen kids who have made horrible choices in life and have found themselves cut off from the loving and nurturing that your family and my family give to us.  I have looked in the eyes of teenagers that will not see the light of day as a free person until they are senior citizens.

Note that I know that these kids have all made decisions that have put them in the place they are.  I get it.  But to me, these kids are still kids.  They aren’t irrevocably broken.  I’ve seen kids make some good decisions when everybody around them tells me that they won’t.

So if our goal is to make these kids into productive citizens, we have to start by acknowledging where they have been.  These kids know they made mistakes.  When we pretend that these mistakes never happened, we reinforce the illusion that “the Man” is out to get them.  When we make that leap, we are giving mixed signals.  On one hand, we tell them that they have to follow the rules.  On the other, we tell them, once they get caught that we won’t talk about the mistake they made.

You are the culmination of all of your experiences.  That doesn’t mean you can’t change your future.  It doesn’t mean you can’t become anything you want.  We all have memories that we would rather not remember.  But doing so cuts out a huge part of who we are.  When you make a mistake, financially or in life, embrace it.  Own it.  Learn from it.  Don’t repeat it, but never, ever forget it.


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Stanton, William Stanton. William Stanton said: Your history shapes who you are, it doesn't make who you are: […]

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