Picture your son or daughter as meeting the criteria of this want-ad that appeared in the Williamsburg Chronicle in 1925: “Boy Wanted” by Frank Crane:

• Wanted – A boy that stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight;

• A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for;

• A boy who listens carefully when he is spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business;

• A boy that moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible;

• A boy who whistles in the street, but does not whistle where he ought to keep still;

• A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks;

• A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl;

• A boy who does not smoke cigarettes and has no desire to learn how;

• A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang;

• A boy that never bullies other boys nor allows other boys to bully him;

• A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I don’t know.” And when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry,” and when he is asked to do a things says, “I’ll try;

• A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time;

• A boy who is eager to read good books;

• A boy who would rather put in his spare time at the YMCA gymnasium than to gamble for pennies in a back room;

• A boy who does not want to be “smart” nor in any wise to attract attention;

• A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than to tell a lie or be a cad;

• A boy whom other boys like;

• A boy who is at ease in the company of girls;

• A boy who is not sorry for himself, and not forever thinking and talking about himself;

• A boy who is friendly with his mother, and more intimate with her than anyone else;

• A boy who makes you feel good when he is around;

• A boy who is not goody-goody, a prig, or a little Pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life.

It appears that the author of this want ad laments a lack of quality young people in his world. Do you think we, as a culture, have improved our child-rearing skills in the last one hundred years? I recently read a newspaper article comparing the USA to other countries. The article stated that Americans have the largest waistlines, longest work weeks, fewest days off, flimsiest family ties, highest incarceration rates, highest drug use, highest medical bills, biggest defense spending, and the highest debt. Regardless of how or why America is in this situation, it will be up to our kids to deal with these issues. We need to raise them to be smart and energetic.

You may believe that schools are the answer. And that quality programs on the TV and the Internet will give your kids some effective education. To answer the question raised above, I do believe that parents are doing a better job now than in the past. They certainly are more involved in their children’s lives. All the miles on the family car can attest to parents’ participation in music, sports, tutoring and events. However, we still need to do better and it’s not all up to Mom. My dad’s generation believed that their (the dad’s) job was to “bring home the bacon and put a roof over your head” They also believed that “children should be seen and not heard”. How did that work out? (if you are wondering, reread the previous paragraph.)