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By Carolyn L. Primm
The scene was Norman Rockwell’s America. The lights glowed on the tree. Christmas music played in the background. A young family gathered around the tree adding homemade decorations. When, somewhere out of the North Pole came the confident refrain from small lungs at peak volume, “Police La Dee Dah! Police La Dee Dah.”
“Ummm,” interrupted the mother, “I think that is supposed to be Feliz Navidad.” The child believed differently! His teacher, that indisputable fount of knowledge, had taught him the song, and it was definitely, without any potential question, “Police La Dee Dah!” Wanting to encourage her child’s celebration of authority, and realizing that Police La Dee Dah, did make much more sense to a five-year-old, the mother smiled and let him sing on.
Ask any child between the age of four and eight what they hope to be when they grow up, and that child is likely to name a person in a helping profession. Policeman, firemen, soldier, teacher or nurse. These helping professions are in the top ten of “What do you want to be?” professions for young children. Some say children choose these professions because these professions are easily identifiable by their uniforms. Others believe that children name these professions because they have seen these professionals in action. Whatever the reason, people in the helping and protecting professions are seen as heroes by our children.
For this and many other reasons, I am saddened when there is talk of lowering funding for law-enforcement, education, or health care. I understand that some of those making these suggestions say that they prefer programs that help people avoid trouble rather than programs that fix those who have entered into trouble. I am in favor of any program or tactic that produces healthy, respectful and law-abiding citizens. But no program can be effective when respect for authority is not garnered first. Children, who are taught to respect authority by adults who effectively model authority, make the best citizens and the most cooperative and respectful students. The early teaching of respect for authority is effective when that teaching comes from a genuine atmosphere of trust and love. Even when they do not like the rules, children are thankful for the boundaries that provide protection and create an atmosphere of fairness to all. Children who experience this protective and directive authority in their homes and community have seen these rules aid them and others to live together in health, safety and harmony. There are always a few bad apples with the wrong motivation in every sector of society. Without sufficient funding and community support, however, the burdensome workload can drive even the most patient and loving professional into less than effective practices. Helping professionals are not paid well enough to do their work for anything other than their love for humanity and their desire to make this world a better place. So, this Christmas if your child wants to sing, “Police la dee dah” at the top of his or her lungs, I suggest you join in the celebration of those in law-enforcement who keep us safe, the health professionals who keep us healthy, and the teachers who love our children only a little bit less than we do.