By Roger Barbee
In his book, "The Wild Blue," historian Stephen E. Ambrose explores "the men and boys who flew the B-24s over Germany" during WWII. He writes about the crews and how they formed bonds in order to be an effective unit.
"Before being assigned to their crew, most if not all of them had never known anyone else in their airplane. All they had in common was being in the AAF, an unquenchable desire to fly, a never or seldom spoken patriotism, and - overwhelmingly - being young. Most were twenty-two years old or younger." Ambrose writes of Lt. Richard Farrington of St. Louis, Mo., who enlisted at 19 and was piloting one of the massive bombers before he could vote. Farrington is not alone.
While reading about the possibility of using selected students as school bus drivers in Shenandoah County and reading some opposition to that idea, I thought of the "men and boys" in Ambrose's book and a particular lady I met last summer. Some responses to the idea of student drivers that were posted on the Daily's website pointed out the immaturity of students today. Another writer stated that a student would "likely text with a bus full of children." One more wrote that in no way would she allow her young children on a school bus driven by someone so inexperienced.
All of the stated opinions are valid and honest and signed by the writer. The point here is not to argue these folks' opinions, but to explore briefly what we have done as a culture to our youth.
When I met Mrs. Foltz last summer, I asked her about growing up in the valley and she shared some of her experiences. One opportunity that allowed her to earn needed money was driving a school bus while a student. Now, guessing her to be about my age of 66, the bus she drove would not have been as mechanically well equipped as buses today. I wonder if her bus had power steering or air brakes? The roads she drove on were not as good as they are now. I think the roads she drove on were narrower, curvier, and had more potholes. And, there were no cell phones or other communication devices when she drove her route. However, she managed, as did other student drivers, the job and is deservedly proud of her tenure as a school bus driver.
How is it that we as a culture have come to not trusting our youngsters to drive a school bus full of children, worry about them driving on Interstate 81 if we allow them to drive at all, manage their own finances, or make important life choices?
I am not an expert on this or anything, but I think we as a culture have shortchanged our children by several ways. Our children are what we have made them to be, and I see the product each day in school. For instance, I tire of hearing parents discuss their rights and the rights of their children, and this is, for me, one mark of an ill society.
Instead of seeking what we can do for the common good, too many of us are intent only only what we can get, what edge can we gain for our child, and what we are owed. In my experience, each of us is owed nothing, but owe much.
Another point is that too many parents over-protect their children. Failure is a great teacher and this lesson is best learned by play and sports, those great and, at times, hard teachers. However, too many parents are quick to attack a coach or moderator instead of telling their child to work hard and be patient for success. That leads me to my last point: what we want, we want now. I guess the advances in technology have already spoiled us. However, in my experience, life is not an instantaneous pleaser. Anticipation is a fine teacher. Any child will gain much by waiting for something desired.
In a lifetime (Mrs. Foltz and Lt. Farrington), we have gone from a country that entrusted its freedom to fighters who quit high school to join a service, fly large planes endangering their lives, and students who were trusted to drive a bus full of children. Perhaps if we stress our responsibilities to our families, our schools, our communities, and each other instead of arguing for our precieved rights, we will once again trust our youngsters to be rightful citizens who contribute instead of take.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.