From time to time, I’ll hear -- or read -- something that will spark a memory of something -- or someone -- that occurred more than fifty years ago. Such was the case a while back when I began thinking of a schoolmate I knew when I was in the seventh or eighth grade. He was a likeable, good-natured young man, but one of those kids that, at least when it came to school, was here today, gone tomorrow.

When it came to missing school, he offered no excuses for his absences and was always in trouble because of his truancy. It was like he just couldn’t understand why everyone was so torn up about it, especially when one of his parents, usually his dad, had to come and pretty much bail him out from being expelled, an act which, no doubt, would have tickled him to death. But apparently, as far as he was concerned, since he loved to hunt and fish, a good day in the woods or down at the river bank, was just as important -- and a lot more fun -- as a day of memorizing the multiplication table or learning how much wheat was harvested in Kansas in 1948.

Despite his apparent philosophy that learning could occur in places other than a stuffy old classroom, I always figured he must have been pretty smart because he somehow always managed to make decent grades. Although I haven’t seen him in years since he moved to another state, Indiana, I think, as far as I know, he grew up to be a fine, upstanding, hard-working citizen. 

As a teacher some 25 or 30 years later, I thought of him every once in a while because I was forced to deal with several students with that same attitude about attending class. Regardless of what was planned for a particular day, if they decided to not show up, they just didn’t show up. Of course, the difference with them and my former classmate was they always seemed to have a valid excuse.

Of course, it was an approach to life that I constantly railed against. Matter of fact, I always preached to my students that “showing up” was half the battle; that half the goal for success was “being there.”

 Apparently, however, my way of thinking (although I still think I’m right) is in the minority because what got me to thinking about all this in the first place was an Ethics and Workplace Survey that ran in USA Today. It seems that 59 per cent of 4,035 adults, 18 and older, responded that it was perfectly OK to take time off from work without divulging their reasons.

To me, that’s an alarming statistic. I don’t know where this survey was taken, but since I have several former students gainfully employed … somewhere, I hope most of them believe they should show up every day. To my knowledge, none of them are elected officials in Washington, D. C. That’s about the only place, at least in my opinion, that a statistic like this could be rationally explained.

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