Aug 122009

By Frank Wessling

You have to admire the young people today who manage to be good students despite the chorus of distraction that surrounds them.

It has been only a couple of generations since a college student could go off to school with no more than a suitcase and laundry bag. Not today. Now the common carrier for student needs is a trailer towed behind the family van which itself is stuffed with electronic gear and special furniture.

Even high school students are encouraged to believe that the latest iPhone application and the newest fashion in shoes bring more personal satisfaction than knowing the periodic table of elements or the outline of American history.

News that students in this country keep falling further behind their peers in other countries should not be a surprise. The priorities pushed in front of our children do not include the discipline of study and the joy of learning. They center more on the quick thrill of getting fresh toys and fashions.

Current advertising campaigns urge students to “trick out your dorm for max entertainment” with computer equipment that plays the latest games. Or make yourself “back-to-school cool” with a variety of decorated jeans. And make your “countdown to college” include the mandatory television with assorted movies and games.

Most importantly, “get unlimited calling and texting” phone plans so you need never be alone with your thoughts pondering new mysteries of life.

If God is found in the quiet of our hearts, we do our young people no favors by setting them up to be overwhelmed in the noisy clamor of modern commerce. And they need our assurance that friends are acquired through a friendly, helpful personality rather than by what we possess or how we look.

Since our culture requires a constant stream of buying and selling, along with the barrage of advertising that keeps the stream flowing, we can’t stop the distraction machine. But we can help our students keep a healthy balance by modeling different priorities for them. Admire their work and achievements rather than their looks. Make study space and time a priority in the home routine. Listen for the excitement of discovery in serious subjects and reward it with attention.

Good students are made, not born. The adults around them are the principal creators.

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