Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Advice for my kids

Note:this first appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record.

Rules (of thumb) to live by

As my children get older I've been forced to think more about the advice I give them. I figure I've got this window of opportunity while they're still listening, I don't figure it's going to last much longer.

Soon, they'll become better-than-average bright teenagers. Then they'll know everything, and discover that the grownups are so stupid they can't hardly stand them.

Understand, I am not being holier-than-thou. When I was that teenager I had all the answers, and a vast contempt for the adults who couldn't see them. Now all I seem to have is a set of disturbing questions.

I miss those answers!

What I have now is some rules of thumb I'd like my kids to remember. Not accept on faith, that's not what a “rule of thumb” is for. I just want them to keep them in mind, because they worked for me (some of the time) and too often I paid a high price for learning them.

Some of them, in no particular order, are:

*Regularly read and listen to the opinions of people you disagree with. Force yourself to wade through the arguments of people whose politics you despise. Sometimes you find that you have points of agreement with them, sometimes you gain insight into why they think the way they do. And, you can't fight their opinions if you don't know them.

“We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don’t,” Frank A. Clark, newspaperman.

*Remember, any debater who uses sarcasm, ridicule and insult to make points is not trying to convince the opponent, but the audience. And always, always, always remember that sarcasm, ridicule and insult are often highly effective tactics, but say nothing about the truth of the argument, and are often used to hide the fact there is no argument.

*In any conflict between logic and experience – go with experience.

Q: What is the stupidest thing that walks this earth?
A: An adolescent with an above-average IQ.

This is not a contradiction. Any bright kid can see for themselves they are smarter than most of the adults around them. What they cannot see is that experience counts for something. They can't, because of course they don't have any.

And I have to say, I see some pretty tall juveniles around these days.

*Never trust a gambler who claims to give you the best odds, an investment broker who says he can consistently do better than the market rates, or a politician who claims not to enjoy the power and perks of the job.

“You can't cheat an honest man,” is not just a W.C. Fields joke, but sober truth. Every classic con game relies on an element of dishonesty in the victim, the desire for something for nothing. And that includes cons run by Wall Street hucksters in expensive suits, and politicians promising the moon in a basket.

Have you looked at the list of Hollywood sophisticates and big city slickers Bernie Madoff took in?

Makes you want to ask, “If you're so rich, why ain't you smart?”

*Read! A man who won't read has little advantage over a man who can't read. If you're a reader, you'll never have a reason, or an excuse, to be bored. If you've got nothing to do, books are easy to come by, and if you can't get hold of one you can think about ones you've read.

*Listen to that little voice in your head that says; don't walk down that street, something bad is going to happen at this party, that person is bad news.

*Never make irrevocable decisions when tired, hungry or intoxicated. Consider whether “being in love” is a form of intoxication.

*Before dismissing sayings, proverbs, and old wives tales, you might consider how they got to be such old wives.


  • At 6:56 PM, Blogger dchamil said…

    And why do con games require an element of dishonesty on the part of the victim? Because then the victim is to embarrassed or too legally vulnerable to complain to law enforcement!

  • At 5:07 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Unfortunately this is also true in the case of scams, especially scams directed against older people.

    One that's been appearing in police reports up here in the northern tier of states (and I wouldn't be surprised if it were happening in the southern border states as well) is the "grandchild stuck on the border" scam.


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