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Children are being taught the incorrect message

As I read the front page article 'Saving Trees' (Jan. 3 in the Lake Oswego Review), it was apparent to me that Jeff Parker is the epitome of a major problem in our society today. He believes rules and laws are meant to be broken, and, if you have enough money, you just do what you want to do, and pay the fine if you get caught.

In the last 30 or 40 years we have done an excellent job of teaching children that what is wrong is getting caught. If you do something wrong and don't get caught, you are 'home free.' If you know what the punishment is, you weigh it, and if you can afford the fine or take whatever the action is, you go ahead and do what you want, whether it is right or wrong.

The area of education that has been badly neglected by many parents and some educators is the teaching of conscience. Telling a youngster, 'Don't let me catch you cutting school' says precisely that. Go ahead and cut school, but don't let me catch you. A parent needs to say, 'Don't cut school!' Adults also seem to think it's alright to run a red light if a policeman isn't around, or you don't kill someone. Even with the new law that drivers under 18 cannot use handheld devices while driving, the interviews of young people on the TV news suggest that no one will abide by the law. That attitude begets higher fines and increased efforts to enforce the law.

If we continue in this direction, we are asking for a police state.

Laws are made for the benefit of people, and good citizens abide by laws.

If the laws are bad laws, they should be changed, not just broken. If no one abides by any laws, we have chaos. Our nation has experienced too much breaking of laws, from presidents down to the average citizen.

We tend to concentrate on punishments to get changes in behavior, rather than preventing the bad behavior in the first place. That is where conscience comes in. We must begin to teach conscience.

Jeff Parker does not seem to respect the laws, the city of Lake Oswego or his neighbors. He only wants to do what he wants to do, no matter what anyone else thinks. This is usually called selfishness. I'm glad I don't live next door to Jeff Parker!

Margaret Anderson is a resident of Lake Oswego.