By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
A recent local news story struck a responsive chord with me, and I’m sure a lot of other people here in metropolitan Chicago and elsewhere. The issue: A breach of ethics and poor judgment among some high school seniors involving a mandatory requirement to perform 24 hours of community service as a prerequisite for graduation.
As I’ll explain, this instance of “kids behaving badly” has another perspective.
Here’s what happened. As reported extensively by Chicago media, around 40 graduating seniors from Oak Lawn Community High School allegedly paid a classmate to forge a signature on documents related to the completion of the community service requirement. View this report from the local CBS television affiliate for more details.
Yes, these kids messed up. They made a mistake, and they’ll pay for it by not being allowed to don the cap and gown with their peers — those kids who actually spent the required hours at a nursing home, pet shelter or local business. (Sidebar: The reportedly forged signatures were those of a golf course manager; come on! What’s so hard about helping out at a golf course?)
Clearly, these students tried to get away with something. But in the end, they violated a standard and brought shame on themselves, their families and their school.
But too often today, it’s mainly the younger generation — the so-called Millennials — that get bashed for lacking the same morals and character as those of us from previous generations. In the case of a handful of the 2014 graduating class of Oak Lawn High School, that’s true.
In an effort to support my contention with more than anecdotal evidence, I ran a variety of Google searches and found lots of reports about kids lacking ethics, especially while online, as found in this Mashable post citing a Harvard University study.
However, a decline or lack of ethics transcends Millennials. Here’s an example.
When Susan and I moved to our home in the Avondale neighborhood 14 years ago, we noticed neighbors two houses west had restricted parking signs in front of the home. The City of Chicago allows this privilege for residents with disabilities — in essence granting that person the right to park there.
The issue: We rarely, if ever, saw a car parked in that spot. Later, we learned that two elderly women lived in the home and secured the restricted designation so their son — who visited a few times a month — could park in the space.
Was this a breach of ethics, an absence of moral principles governing good citizenship and conduct? Without question, and from two people who were part of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”
As I’ve stated many times in this blog, those of use who are serious about the practice of public relations prescribe to maintaining the highest ethical standards at all times. Those of us who earned the Accredited in Public Relations credential pledge that we’ll provide ethical counsel.
Hopefully, the Oak Lawn High School students embroiled in this issue learned a lesson. As for our elderly neighbors, they sold the home and moved years ago. Shortly thereafter, the parking signs were removed from the ground.
Here are two other posts from The PRDude that reference the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago: