Unprompted: Girl Scout Cookies Have Returned 

The Girl Scouts are selling cookies again. It’s an annual thing, and they are everywhere. It’s hard to avoid them, even harder to walk by without buying cookies. Who can reject a cute little girl standing out in the cold begging us to buy cookies?

I think the proceeds benefit the Girl Scouts, which is fine, but I suspect somebody else is cashing in along the way. I think whoever makes and packages those cookies gets a cut, but I don’t have details and am not in the mood to investigate, so let’s just let it go.

I always relate to the cookie drive because many years ago I said something on television about how the girls’ moms were doing much of the selling. The girls were the front, but it was the moms pushing the sales activity. They bring the girls to our front doors and push just a little too hard, in my opinion.

Anyway, I said something about that, made the comment that I would like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies … from a real Girl Scout, not her mom. The next day when I came to work I was met with a lobby filled with Girl Scouts loaded with cookies to sell. In the next 30 minutes I was forced to put my money where my mouth was and purchased 312 boxes of Girl Scout cookies — from real Girl Scouts.

There’s nothing wrong with this except that in too many cases parents are doing for their children what the children should be doing for themselves. As a former schoolteacher, I had to grade many papers that I knew the students didn’t write. It was sensitive correcting papers that had been written by mom or dad. But as their teacher, I knew what these kids could and couldn’t do, and the stuff they were turning in as their own was not their own. Is it any wonder that while graduation rates are high, achievement rates are suffering?

On the college level there’s computer software to identify papers that have been plagiarized, of which there are many — otherwise the computer software wouldn’t be needed. Many college students didn’t do much in public school so they decide to transfer that nonachievement to a higher level.

The most recent statistics show high-school graduation rates nationally at 83 percent. Educators were eager to congratulate themselves. But testing revealed that only 37 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in reading and barely 25 percent in math. In many school districts these numbers would be considered a victory, but they are much lower. At one high school in Washington, the graduation rate was 76 percent, but only 4 percent of those graduates met basic reading standards. It’s no wonder that industries with job openings can’t find applicants who know anything.

There’s a culture loose in our society that rewards children for nonachievement. Take sports. I played sports in high school and remember how difficult it was to win a letter, or patch, or trophy of any kind unless I really did something — which I never did. The rewards went to the athletes who proved they were worth it.

Jump ahead 40 years when as a father I took my kids to soccer, football and other athletic activities where everybody who showed up got a trophy. One of my children who admittedly doesn’t have an athletic bone in his body has several gold-plated trophies to show for it. Why? Well, it is current thought that anyone who makes the effort should be rewarded. When you show up at a sports field where a contest is about to take place you may see a table weighted down with glistening trophies. Everybody is going to get one.

Odd how one can start talking about Girl Scout cookies and then get off on a rant about how our kids aren’t learning enough. Perhaps there’s no connection. But it’s worth a look.

Next year instead of taking cute little Mildred around the neighborhood to sell cookies, send her out by herself to sell celery and carrots. If she comes back with a lot of orders, start saving your money because she’ll be unwittingly preparing herself for Harvard. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor, who retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.

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