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Thoughts on Responsibility

By Henry H. Goldman


Earlier this year our local newspaper, The Kansas City Star, ran a series of articles on poverty in the Metropolitan Area.  The "Metro," as it is fondly known, comprises the cities of Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas and the attached suburbs.  One of the articles really hit home to me.  The article featured a young man who was described as a member of the hard core poverty stricken.  At twenty-four years of age, he was the father of three children by three different women, had dropped out of high school without going past the tenth grade, could not find work, was unable to read beyond the third or fourth grade level, could not qualify for welfare and was otherwise unable to make a living.  His mother had moved away, he had no relatives and no support system. The City was supposed to take care of him.  The reporter had described him as bright and fully capable for taking care of himself, but he refused to try to achieve the high school diploma, had little ambition and blamed his situation on the schools which failed him, the society in which he lived, his family and, of course, the women with whom he slept.  He did not believe that he had any responsibility for the children that he had fathered; nor for their mothers.

The upshot of that series of articles in the Star suggested that it was society's responsibility to take care of this young man.  I must respectively disagree.  I serve as an adjunct professor of history and government at a local community college.  Many of our students are working adults, some of whom had not graduated from high school, but have taken on the responsibility of continuing their education so that they can be self-sufficient, move upwards in their organizations and take care of their families.  Others, however, seem to feel that the college and/or their professors should not ask them to take examinations, not to require research papers, not take attendance, just give them a passing grade, but do not require them to study or to learn.  I ask my students to prepare two research papers plus mid-term and final examinations.

I believe that I am fostering self-responsibility, without which no person can survive or become successful in today's or even tomorrow's economies.  It seems to me that each year my students become less mature, less capable of making rational decisions.  Oddly enough, I have twice heard from mothers who were displeased with the grades that their children earned.  Laws prohibit instructors from dealing directly with parents.  College students are presumed to be adults and to accept the consequences of their own behavior.  My colleagues suggest that parent intervention has become the norm, rather than the exception.  For reference, the youngest soldier to be wounded in the American Civil War was twelve years of age.  When I mentioned that in a class, one student said that she does not let her twelve year old cross the street by himself.  Young men and women in other cultures seem to be far more mature than those in the United States.

Let us see if those who are about to become our leaders in government, education and business are really prepared to occupy those positions of responsibility.  They have made their beds, why not let them lie in them? 


Henry H. Goldman is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group.  Henry got his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his Doctoral Studies at the University of Southern California.  He is a Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of Change Management (Berlin, Germany).  He is a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo, Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of course North America. He has also taught at Baker University: Lee’s Summit, MO, 2008, Adjunct Professor of International Business; National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton, 2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley, 2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China), Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.

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