Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Convenience of Confusion

(The following is an excerpt from "Hope for America's Last Generation" written by Galyn Wiemers in 2007)
I AM A teacher, and I coach the boys’ track team at our school. Track practice takes place every weekday after school throughout the season. It’s always been that way, and probably always will be. One week I learned that a school dance was scheduled for Friday afternoon right after class ended. Because the dance was going to go well into the night, I told the boys we’d have track practice after school like usual, and they could head over to the dance when they were finished. I told them I was well aware of the dance, but practice was still on. I thought I’d made everything clear as the boys headed to their locker room after Thursday’s track practice.

On Friday, about five minutes before the last bell rang, I noticed a DJ setting up his sound equipment for the dance in the school gym. Since our track team practices right outside the gym, I knew the boys were going to be frustrated when they heard the music and saw fellow classmates dancing. I wondered if some boys might still be tempted to skip practice, so, for good measure, I decided to make one final announcement over the intercom as a reminder. The announcement was, “There will be track practice as usual immediately after school today for the entire boys track team.”

Right as the announcement ended, eight boys from the track team walked into my classroom dizzy with confusion. One boy conjured up his best look of bewilderment and asked, “Coach, do we have practice tonight? We were wondering because nobody really knows.” When I again confirmed that we did, another boy quickly asked, “What happens if we don’t come?” My reply was simple: “You’ll be punished.”

Confusion was not limited to this group of boys. Many members of the track team lingered in the hallway debating about whether or not there was track practice. One boy approached a team manager to inquire about it. The manager supposedly told him, “I think there’s practice…but it might be optional.” That was all that the boy needed. Now armed with words straight from the mouth of the team manager, he could claim ignorance to later justify the reason he followed his desires and went to the dance. As I left my classroom to head to the track, another boy stopped me to ask about practice. I looked right at him and said, “Yes, we have practice.” He went to the dance. The track boys who chose to go to the dance could actually see their teammates running warm up laps on the track outside as they walked into the gym. Yet these boys remained “confused” as to whether or not there was track practice.

When all seventy track boys showed up on Monday, I asked why twelve of them had missed Friday’s practice. The excuses varied but all came back to the same claim: they were in a state of ignorance due to so much confusion. Some insisted that I hadn’t made it clear. One blamed the manager for saying practice was optional. Others swore they forgot. And all the boys who went to the dance confirmed each other’s confusion by contending that there was just no way of knowing whether or not we had practice. Their strategy involved insisting on confusion. They figured if enough people said they were confused, I would have to accept it as a legitimate excuse. But I didn’t. The confused boys lost the privilege of
running in our first track meet.

As I stood there on Monday surrounded by the track team it became clear to me that, in life, people choose to be confused. I couldn’t have done anything more to get them to track practice short of picking them up and carrying them from the school to the track. (Even then some of the boys probably would have slipped away to the dance while I wasn’t looking.) After all my effort to communicate obvious truth, still almost 20% of the boys I spoke with chose to remain confused.

Today the people of the United States of America have become just like those junior high boys. It’s a growing cultural pandemic to be confused about what’s right, true, and moral. It’s hip to claim ignorance and say, “I don’t think we can ever really know for sure about things we can’t see.” In fact, claiming ignorance is the quickest way to avoid any kind of personal responsibility to know and understand the certain areas of life. But just because there so are many conflicting beliefs in this world doesn’t mean we can claim to be “confused” about what’s right without facing serious consequences. And just because certain areas of thought may baffle us doesn’t give us a free pass to skip over them. Just because some issues are hotly debated doesn’t mean we aren’t accountable for examining the evidence ourselves. We can’t hide behind our claims of confusion any longer. We must stop making excuses and admit that things can be known for certain. It’s time for us to quit being lazy and get busy gaining the understanding we lack. Like the track boys, the excuse of, “I just wasn’t sure which way was right,” is not going to cut it in the end.

Mr. Wiemers

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