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Great Neck Notebook: December 13, 2011

Price of Success

Every few days, Great Neck is mentioned on the evening newscasts of the major television networks in connection with the widening SAT cheating scandal. More and more schools (and communities) are being implicated. It is cold comfort to know that Great Neck isn’t the only place this went on.

When I mentioned the scandal to my son Josh, who attended high school in Great Neck in the late ’90s, he told me that “kids try to take shortcuts and cheating is easier than studying.”  

The most disturbing part of this whole story is that adults (parents) enabled their children to “buy” good test scores. Apparently, our young people are learning that success may be purchased at whatever cost is expedient.

There will always be those who seek shortcuts—the easy path to success (winning).  People cheat to get ahead in business (think Bernie Madoff); people cheat on their spouses and have affairs (think Bill Clinton); professional athletes cheat by taking performance enhancing drugs (think Barry Bonds).

Having raised three boys, I know that it’s not easy to say “No.” But if parents don’t stand up against cheating and lying, who will? If teachers and administrators turn their backs and pretend not to see what’s going on (think Penn State), who will speak out? How will our children learn the values of honesty, hard work, and integrity if we don’t model that behavior? If we don’t teach them that honor is the only success that matters.  

In the words of Rabbi Dave Wolpe, “Our children have friends, they need parents. They have stuff; they need soul. They have wealth; they need wisdom. They embody entitlement; they must treasure honor.”

Children who are denied nothing, learn nothing of value. For better or worse, the lessons of our youth become the habits of our adult lives.