Signs of the Apocalypse?

Malcolm Gauld is the president of Hyde Schools and coauthor of the parenting book, “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have.”

You know that recurring piece in Sports Illustrated called “Signs of the Apocalypse?” Well, when I first read about parents who wanted to prevent their kids from hearing President Obama’s address to the nation’s school children, that’s what I thought. Then I thought about it some more. I eventually reached a conclusion: I think it’s a sign of…the Apocalypse.

I’ve got two problems with this parental mindset. First: “Hey! It’s The President!”

Harry Truman once observed, “When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn’t for you. It’s for the Presidency.” If the President wants to talk to our kids, step aside and let it happen. I mean, he’s The President for God’s sake.

Lest you dismiss me as a bleeding heart liberal…the Hyde School faculty will tell you that I’ve been among their conservative minority for the past quarter-century. Without naming the other two in our school communities, I’ll just say that I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that the ideological bull’s eye on my backside has helped me hone my debating skills. No, my position on this is not party-driven. It’s just the stuff of Old School respect.

Second, parents, what are you worried about? Are you that unconfident of your parenting? And for those of you who are parents of high school students, have you ever looked into this thing called “letting go?”

Years back I heard a former head of a prestigious Episcopal day school tell a story about his trials and tribulations regarding mandatory attendance at daily chapel. Some at the school felt that the Episcopalian mission and culture were draining out of the school. So, reversing the more liberal policies on attendance that had evolved, this head dug his heels in and required all students to attend, no exceptions. In considering the religious affiliations of his increasingly diverse student body, he was particularly concerned about how the Jewish families might respond, especially the large contingent of Orthodox Jews who had enrolled their children. After a few months, he was surprised to discover that not a single parent from this group complained. While relieved, he was also puzzled. Eventually, one father’s explanation went along these lines: “We know what we have taught our children. We told them to attend chapel and be respectful. While they might hear some things that contradict what we’ve taught them, they don’t have to believe all of it to learn something of value.” Hmmm…what a concept.

Apparently, Obama’s aides convinced him to delete a passage that instructed students on how they might “help the president.” That’s too bad. I sincerely hope that the nation’s students do all they can to help the president accomplish his goals. That goes for their parents and teachers, too. Hey, while we’re at it, that goes for God, too. Whoops….

Onward, Malcolm Gauld