By Kathleen M. Jacobs
ENTITLEMENTS. Rights. Freedoms. The words seem to have taken on a life of their own. They seem to ricochet, like steel pinballs kept alive by cushioned bumpers. But unlike the pinballs that eventually make their way through the flippers to land in the drain, these words seem to evade all efforts to contain and control.
On their own, they appear harmless, but upon careful inspection, they have taken on a near ominous note, primarily because they are singularly exposed, with no trace of protective clothing - no partnership with that seemingly allusive guard, responsibility.
Standing alone, with their naked disregard for accountability, these words - individually and collectively - are taking up residence with seemingly every sector of the American populace. However, there is one group who has not hopped on the proverbial bandwagon, has never occupied a space on that vehicle, has never even been invited to the party, and yet who remains the sole, deserving segment of our population who, by their very nature, should occupy every seat on the board: the children.
The children should be entitled. The children should be given the freedoms. The children should be endowed with all the rights. They - as most of us - linked those endowments with their counterparts "responsibility" and "accountability." But entitlements, freedoms and rights, while dotting every square inch of our map, have cheapened our values and morals, becoming so nakedly infiltrated into our society that they are a "dime a dozen," garnering little if any respect.
Researchers have found that while it may take an adult longer to learn a new skill or a new language, children are able to learn and adapt to new experiences and challenges more quickly than their adult counterparts. When taught by their elders how to be responsible, they quickly learn, or they suffer the consequences.
It's a simple concept, but perhaps made complicated by those who seek the entitlements, the rights, and the freedoms without accepting responsibility or accountability. To a child, this observation must seem incredulous, not to mention futile.
With the horrific tragedy that engulfed the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School and the other atrocities that have made recent headlines, particularly those involving children, isn't it time we protect those entitlements, freedoms, and rights with a shield of armor resplendent with the adornments of responsibility and accountability?
In the end, it's the children - it's always the children - who will lead. In fact, it was pre-ordained that way from the beginning. It's the children who remember what not to do in order to enjoy those entitlements, freedoms and rights that they learn at such an early age to embrace and fiercely protect.
How did we disconnect responsibility and accountability from those three powerful, yet costly, institutions that we have somehow managed to cheapen? How did we expect to get away with it? A child - every child - knows that in order to stay up past bedtime, you've got to eat all your vegetables - even the ones you don't like, particularly the ones you don't like.
Jacobs, a freelance writer, lives in Charleston, and teaches English at WVU-Tech in Montgomery.