The century is only 14 years old, but we already know the Worst Platitude of the Century. No other platitude can possibly come along for the next 86 years that could be more inane, insipid, or banal.
No, the worst platitude is not “It’s for the children.” As nauseating as this one is, at least a large segment of the population sees it for what it is: a featherbedding ploy by greedy groups that gorge on school taxes. While not germane to the subject at hand, I’ve listed below for the fun of it some of the eaters of school taxes.
The National Education Association (teacher union), the American Federation of Teachers (teacher union), the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the American School Counselor Association, the National High School Coaches Association, the National Association of School Nurses, the School Nutrition Association, the National Association for School Safety and Law Enforcement, the Association of Educational Publishers, the National School Transportation Association, and, last but not least, the National Council for Educational Support Professionals, which is an arm of the NEA and includes, to quote from the NEA website, “Secretarial, Clerical and Administrative Services; Office Assistants, Bookkeeper, Accounting and Financial Assistants; Statistics, Payroll, General Office Assistants; Registration and Records Attendants; Telephone Operators; Nonmanagerial Supervisors.”
Pop quiz: Do the above groups have an incentive (a) to make schools as lean, efficient and productive as possible; or (b) to make schools as fat, inefficient and unproductive as possible?
If you answered “a,” then stop reading now, for the rest of this commentary will be over your head.
Unlike “It’s for the children,” the Worst Platitude of the Century does not have obvious lobbying or political groups behind it. That’s what makes it so insidious and effective.
So what is the Worst Platitude of the Century?
Drumroll . . .
The Worst Platitude of the Century is: “Give back to the community.”
Burp! Excuse me, but this triggers more indigestion than Brussels sprouts.
The platitude is so ubiquitous and unctuous that I can’t even watch a golf match on TV without some corporate CEO or PGA or USGA official bragging about giving back to the community. I can never figure out what he took that he is giving back. Maybe he is giving back to the community the $10 that I paid to park in a dirt lot at the Accenture Match Play in Tucson last week, or the $5 that I paid for a pretzel. If so, then why is some bigwig taking the credit? Shouldn’t I and other attendees get the credit?
This question is even more relevant in view of the fact that the PGA and USGA are treated as nonprofits under the tax code, in spite of the stratospheric pay and perks of their top executives and the big business that professional golf has become. Maybe the bigwigs feel guilty about this.
Are you treated as a nonprofit by the IRS?
The platitude of giving back has become de rigueur in corporate advertising, because an assortment of leftists, progressives, liberals, fascists, corporatists, mercantilists, crony capitalists, Marxists, and just regular goo-goos on the left and right have succeeded in making “profit” a bad word, a synonym for “theft.” The same with “success.”
The “thinking” goes like this: If a company makes a profit, or if someone makes more than someone else, then they owe their success to the community at large and should pay back some of the money they took from the community. Tellingly, this extreme communitarianism is not applied to those who work for the government or receive government largess. As such, you won’t see the U.S. Secretary of Education pledging to give back to the community some of the taxes that he took from the community for his own pay, pension, swank mahogany office, and government limousine and chauffer. After all, he’s a public servant (burp!) who works for the children (burp!).
Even more strangely, those who made the best of what they received from the community are expected to give back to the community, while those who made the worst of what they received from the community are not expected to give back to the community. Public education is once again a case in point.
Student A, for example, works hard in public school, gets high grades, earns a college scholarship, and goes on after graduation to a high-paid job. He is expected by the platitudinous to give even more back to the community than what he will pay in higher taxes under the progressive tax code and what he will contribute to the social good by being an educated, productive citizen. Student F, on the other hand, in return for $140,000 of free K-12 education, picks his nose in class, misbehaves, gets poor grades, and ends up after graduation in low-paid jobs, where he gets more back in government services than he pays in taxes. Yet it is Student A and not Student F who is expected to give back to the community.
A community that swallows such intellectual Brussels sprouts is a community doomed to decline and indigestion.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.