Sometimes, there are problems in teaching and coaching, Sometimes, the problems are more with the parents than with the kids. I wrote the following in November of 2005.
He was a young man who played baseball for me early in my career. He was bright, personable, and had the chance to be a good player but he never lived up to his promise. One day in history class, I caught him cheating. It wasn't a big deal. In fact, it was an extra credit current events quiz; if he missed every question, it would not hurt his grade. I caught him red-handed. He took a zero and his punishment. That was the end of it only it wasn't the end of it. His mother came to see me. She was a very nice lady and not angry. This is what she told me:
"Coach Hawley, I know you think you caught my son cheating yesterday but Coach Hawley, you were mistaken. The reason I know is that my son told me he didn't do it, and Coach Hawley, my son can't lie to me."
Look again at what the lady said. She didn't say he would not lie or had not lied. She was saying it was impossible for him to lie to her. I was dumbfounded. I had watched her son cheat, I had confronted him, he admitted his guilt, and he accepted the consequences. According to her, everything I had observed was invalid and overridden by her son's testimony.
Let me preface my thoughts with the admission that I have no children and I know it is a tremendous challenge. I would tremble at the thought of being responsible for the soul of another human being. However, I can't help but believe that mother was setting her son up for failure. I know she loved him with all of her heart but she was giving him carte blanche to pass off every deception ever concocted by a teenage boy. I am glad my mother had no such belief in my inability to deceive her. I shudder to think of what I might have done knowing I could weasel my way out of trouble, at least until Dad came home. All children need adults to make sure they understand the importance of integrity. In covering honesty with my students, I make the point that cheating is lying and theft. It makes every grade you have suspect if I catch you even one time. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "What upsets me is not that you lied to me but that from now on, I can no longer believe you." After the incident with the young man, I am sure I doubted every word to come out of his mouth and probably was correct to do so. I have no idea whatever became of him. My hope is he learned the lesson that truth is essential to a fulfilling life. I also hope he didn't devastate his mother along the way. Coaches and history teachers are interchangeable- mothers are irreplaceable.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Honesty is such a lonely word."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org