Recently I spoke with one of my former students. He’s accomplished quite a bit since graduating from high school thirteen years ago. He was an outspoken person even as a teen. He had definite opinions about justice, equality and other political issues. It did not surprise me that he would eventually enroll in law school, earn his degree in jurisprudence and become a lawyer working for many of the causes that excited him when he was in high school.
I was quite happy when he called me. He spoke of the teachers and other adults who had influenced him. The common thread that they all shared was an interest in helping students like him to not just obtain skills for living, but also to develop themselves as mature adults. Many of them kept in touch with this student over time as I had also done. They provided guidance and encouragement that helped him to ultimately achieve his goals. They let him know that they truly cared about his future.
I was contrasting this approach to helping young men and women to become the best versions of themselves with what has been happening with Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who shot three people during a protest and then was found not guilty in a sensational trial. Kyle received a chance to proceed with his life with an verdict that might otherwise have landed him in jail for most of his life. Sadly, it does not appear that he has conscientious adults guiding him to the next phase of his life. Instead they appear to be using him to propegate their political views.
This is a time when Kyle should be preparing for the adult phase of his life. Instead he attends political rallies and is featured on television as a spokesperson for gun rights and other issues. While I believe that he is more than free to have a platform for his beliefs, I have to ask what he is going to do with his life once his fifteen minutes of fame are gone. Who is counseling him or even cares enough about him to guide him to the next step in his life? He seems to just be living from one day to the next without a plan and there is no adult who appears to care enough to help him find direction.
He first insisted that he wanted to be a nurse, but failed to apply to any educational institutions where that might happen. He spoke of going to various universities or junior colleges but never enrolled anywhere. He seems to be a person who is adrift, tantalized by attention and publicity but without anything to anchor him when he is no longer a fad. Why would the adults around him do this to him? Why would they use him for publicizing their own causes? They have to know that one day Kyle will be old news with nothing to offer and then he will have to find a job without the requisite skills that most work requires. Instead of making him a flash in the pan star at rallies a person who was concerned about his welfare would be encouraging him to determine what he really wants to do and then show him how to gain the knowledge and certifications that he will need for that work.
I am decidedly not a fan of Kyle Rittenhouse, but I am also a devoted educator and part of my work has always involved helping even the most lost souls who came to me. I am known for finding the best in my students regardless of how they have been in the past. For the life of me, I can’t understand why nobody is taking Kyle aside and being honest with him about the things he must do to insure that he will be able to take care of himself in the future, with or without fame,
I think of David Hogg, the student from Parkland High School who became a vocal advocate for gun control after an horrific shooting at his school. David has proclaimed his views on television, in essays and on Twitter, but at the same time he also enrolled in college and earned a degree. He seems to understand that ultimately he will have to make a living and that his crusade may or may not keep him in the limelight. He certainly continues to voice his views, but he also quietly prepares for his future which I suspect has been supported by adults who understand the realities of life.
It is heartbreaking to me when I see young people being misguided or left to their own resources. It is the duty of each generation to consider the needs of the young folk who follow behind them. Whether we mentor them or teach them or simply advise them we should be honest about the everyday trials that they will one day face. If we have done our jobs they will be prepared for the worst or the best that happens to them. Providing less than that is wrong.
I wish all young people well, but I sense that there may be difficult times ahead for Kyle. Political winds are as fickle as the weather. Stars today are ignored tomorrow. Everyone needs a backup plan and so far it does not seem that anyone has helped Kyle Rittenhouse find one. Once again adults are leaving him in a dangerous place where he is not yet ready to be. Shame on them.