We are turning into a bunch of whiny wimps.
The Columbia County school system is throwing away $8,000 to provide reassuring mobile billboards - ambulances - at varsity football games. But Phillip Hill's injuries came at a Greenbrier junior varsity game - and this $8,000 PR Band-Aid won't put ambulances on the JV sidelines.
Should it? According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 1.5 million middle- and high-school students played football last year. Five died from heart or lung problems, and eight suffered brain injuries.
Folks, we had more kids than that killed in car wrecks in the last year just in Columbia County. We have lost all sense of proportion.
Or how about this: The school system is buying a bunch of new buses to accommodate athletic travel. It's not a bad idea, as the school system takes more responsibility for getting athletes to sporting events.
But we're not just buying buses - we're buying air-conditioned buses.
Guess what happens next? As soon as the first warm days of spring arrive, we'll hear squeals that athletes are special enough to deserve air conditioning, but not the other 11,000 kids riding buses to school every day.
So school officials will fold, phasing in air conditioning - and its expensive maintenance - into the bus fleet. Never mind that cooling two buses would just about pay for a teacher's aid to work in a classroom; we'd rather keep little Johnny from breaking a sweat before he gets home and waddles in to play Nintendo.
What really has taken the whiny prize, though, is last week's non-story over fears of "gang activity" in Richmond County. The isolated actions of a few moms and dads across Columbia County not only make us all look like whiny wimps, but closet bigots, too.
Let's face it. When we heard about "gang activity" in Richmond County's Cross Creek and Josey high schools, the not-so-subtle fear being stirred was that our mostly white student bodies would be endangered on mostly black territory.
That's certainly the way a lot of Richmond County parents read it. And coverage and commentary on the story went way over the top, exaggerating dangers that weren't and giving voice to way too many irresponsible and ill-informed people.
One of the unfortunate targets of that invective was Columbia County Associate Superintendent Charles Nagle. Why? Well, when a couple of parents hyperventilated over the "gang activity" nonsense, Nagle told Harlem and Greenbrier High principals to give reassurance that the county would recheck its security measures.
Nagle also said any parent could keep his or her child out of participation in band or cheerleading if they felt like they had to. As a result, he got called names like "gutless" and "chicken."
But hang on a minute. Nagle is gutless because he didn't strongarm a couple of nervous Nellies? Imagine the names if he'd instead said, "I don't care if you are the mom - your kid has to play fluglehorn Friday, or he's outta the band." We'd be hearing how the mean ol' school system stomped all over "parental authority." It would make the whole dress-code debate seem like a Sunday school picnic.
There's a common thread here. Parents complain, and the school system caves.
It's time for all of us to toughen up. We claim to want a public school system that sets a standard for everyone and sticks to it, but then we overreact at any episode outside our normal comfort zone. We ignore school safety until someone gets hurt, and then load up the lawsuit bazooka and blast away.
What's really sad is that there isn't a single parent who'll look in the mirror and say, "Yep, that's me - I'm a spineless hypocrite" for not insisting the school system stand up to whiners.
Pogo was right. We've met the enemy and it's us.
Life ain't fair. Get over it.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.