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Making Good Choices — By John Reed

Making Good Choices
I am writing this from western Virginia, in the cabin of a rented houseboat on a beautiful mountain lake. As I sit here on the boat enjoying a glass of Oakhill ‘17, I think about what led me here. Critics will decry my bragging of my status, a clear case of racial and class privilege. Oh well, so it goes. More letters to Tommy…
It’s true, I am definitely privileged. I had two married parents during my formative years. After age 12, my single mother made certain I understood hard work in school would pay off later. I was privileged to have a rewarding career, with one of the most robust government retirement systems in the country.
Those looking for faults will decide everything I’ve done was due to some other reason than my own personal choices or those of my family. Never mind my high school is 95+% minority. Never mind most of my teaching assignments have been in heavily minority schools (and all dirt poor).
This isn’t to gloss over the many obvious inequities that exist in our society. Anyone just now claiming to support equal opportunities has apparently been asleep for the last 400 years or so, or they just want everyone to see how “woke” they’ve become.
I’ve argued here before, though, that the vast majority of good or bad outcomes in a person’s life stem from choices they or their family have made. Sure, outside influences may limit or drive those choices at times. But I’ve known enough kids who have left their challenging situations for successful lives to know it’s possible.
Conversely I’ve seen some who had every opportunity to succeed make choices that have resulted in negative outcomes. There have been some truly unfortunate and unnecessary events lately, most of which were preventable. Some were clearly the fault of poor training or deliberate evil actions on the part of police.
Most cops try to do a good job under the most trying circumstances imaginable. Anything we can do to enhance their training, their safety, and their ability to keep the rest of us safe is worth the investment. Part of that investment needs to be helping kids (and grownups, too) to make better choices. There will never be enough police to turn every life around, no matter how much training they get.
Like any other institution, there are some bad apples wearing a uniform….just like teachers, the clergy, Boy Scout troop leaders, the occasional idiot makes the rest look bad. And too often those idiots have been protected instead of removed.
However: If parents, churches, and schools don’t get through to those people who choose poorly, why should we expect law enforcement to pick up the slack?

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