Student Work

What America Yesterday Can Teach America Tomorrow

Written by Michal Steiner   DVGS 10th Grade


Education was not something readily available to many children in the past. In fact, many children today are still deprived of a quality education. Every day more than 63,000 students are truant, undermining the access to knowledge and the vast global library of information. Migrant workers coming toAmericahad to constantly work to provide even a simple education for their children, and the children were grateful. Now, children go to school and are less concerned with learning than with what their best friend is wearing or what their classmates think of them instead of school curriculum or the virtues the school promotes. A child born into slavery during the American Civil War was grateful, just for the chance to peek over their young master’s shoulder as he or she learned to read, write, and do arithmetic. They peeked because it was actually against the law to teach a slave to read and cipher. Learning was a luxury very few of them were able to experience, and each one who did was grateful for the chance to progress their learning. As a young child, my parents dotingly taught me to prepare me for future learning. Yet, when I entered high school I regarded school as a playground for older kids. All that mattered to me was hanging out with my friends, having a good laugh, and not taking life seriously. I began to feel depressed, unworthy of life itself. I was like a paper cut to everyone around me, just there to inflict pain on them because I was a nuisance, completely unproductive. Because I performed so poorly at my school, I was transferred to an academically stricter school, and my grades soared much higher. Now I truly understand how important education is and how young people need to take advantage of the opportunities given to them, because they will be so grateful later in life.

Also, in this day of environmental turmoil, people continue to take their resources and the earth itself for granted. An example is our water resources. Many underprivileged people are grateful for one cup of clean water a day, whereas most middle class people in Americafreely dump it down the shower drain on a daily basis. A five minute shower takes more water than most average people in a developing country will use in a day. Our planet is suffering, and yet we have been so careless in wasting our resources and being ungrateful for the natural beauty that once surrounded us. What we have done is not wrong; we did not realize in the past that industrialization and agriculture would be so detrimental to the environment. However, what we are doing now is wrong. We continue to harm our planet and the environment, selfishly wanting more and more for us. My father would say it is sort of a “god complex;” everything is available to us and seemingly all for us, but it’s not. This is a truth we must realize in order to create a more sustainable society full of people who do not take the earth and life itself for granted.

Many people in the past took their parents into their homes as they reached old age. This was their way of expressing their gratitude to their parent’s for raising them, and providing money for their childhood and education. They did not leave their parents all alone, suffering from old age, to fend for themselves. Instead, they set an example for their own children, and showed how thankful they were for their parents. Shipping the elderly off to a nursing home is selfish in most cases. They feel isolated and excluded, unable to make their own decisions. Nursing home abuse is not a rare thing, and only about 20% of these incidents are reported, mostly due to the fact that the elderly don’t have the mental presence required to report them. My own grandmother lives in a nursing home, and is in stage 6 of Alzheimer’s disease. I would be livid if I ever found out she was treated in an unsuitable manner. Yet, who would be to blame? The nursing home or the people close to her? It goes against morality to stand by and watch something so dreadful happen to a powerless individual.

Sallust, a Roman historian said “Ambition breaks the ties of blood, and forgets the obligations of gratitude.” There we have it: a major American problem! We have so many people aiming for the top, and they never look down to the people before them or the people without opportunities. They forget that these are the people who led them to where they stand today. Yes, progress and improvement is never a bad thing, but for selfish reasons it loses its purpose. We have people now, who seek out instant satisfaction and who miss the feeling of achievement produced by delayed gratification. Our forefathers did not work so hard to create a nation for ungrateful citizens and immigrants alike! You can draw from pools of knowledge, but who will actually do something? Our nation needs to learn from the past how to be grateful for what we have here and now, drawing an irreplaceable sense of gratitude from our ancestors. By doing this, the US will finally have found a nation-wide community of people that can be a true model for the world as we have been in the past.