Dear Readers: Through the years, people I don't know — probably nice and sincere people — have asked me for money. They've asked for money to buy a used car, to invest in a patent, to buy two water scooters, to move to Australia, to purchase a red Corvette, to fix a roof and to build a grow house for pot production. One reader had a treasure map he fervently believed was valid — and it may have been. He wanted $137,000 to finance his search somewhere in Guatemala!
These requests have been from readers, from folks who say they are readers and from others who, from experience, know that if they continue to ask for a handout, some citizen eventually will put a fiver in their outstretched palm. Many folks have made an art form out of begging for money.
A dozen years ago, the Fort Lauderdale newspaper stationed several shabbily dressed reporters at busy intersections in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. Each reporter had a piece of cardboard about the size of a breadbox, on which was printed in bold letters: "Will work for food." Every few minutes, a dozen-plus cars stopped at each red light, and the disguised reporter walked the line, flashing his or her sign. Some drivers rolled their windows down and gave the panhandling reporters their pocket change or more. After some four hours of panhandling, every reporter had collected over $100. Best of all, it was tax-free.
Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, begging for money is becoming a national pastime. Earlier this month, I received an email solicitation from a student (whom I don't know) at Boca Raton Community High School. The subject line read, "Please Help Me Reach My $500 Goal." The email stated, "I am raising money for Boca Raton High School (BRHS) NJROTC. Please help ... support our cause." The solicitation promised that donations would go toward team fees, tournament fees and travel expenses and suggested that I share the fundraiser with my "personal network of contacts." What impudence! When you sink so bleeding low as to ask perfect strangers for $500, you've lost your self-esteem. The solicitation concluded with a group photo of the most frightful-looking sack of students I can remember seeing.
Who teaches "internet begging" courses at BRHS? Are such courses required for graduation? Who teaches English at BRHS? The solicitation I received embarrassingly confused adverbs with prepositions.
I look at things from a perspective that's different from most folks', and this poorly composed begging email really got my dandruff up. BRHS is teaching students to beg for money rather than earn it, and instructors are being paid to teach begging techniques. Is this taxpayer money gone to waste, or is this a skill set that students will need after graduation? How sad that the School District of Palm Beach County and the convening authority at BRHS have approved this begging practice.
Because begging is spreading to other high schools that have segued into failure factories, our culture is experiencing a phenomenon called the "dumbing down of America." Classes in chemistry, history, English and algebra are too difficult for many American students, so high schools are teaching students to beg instead of teaching courses to help students become responsible, productive Americans. Today, when many students graduate from high school, they go straight to McDonald's or Starbucks, hoping to make $11 an hour. But thanks to their begging skills, BRHS students now know how to beg for $15 an hour.
I suggest that the Boca Raton teen who brazenly requested $500 for team and tournament fees and travel costs get a bloody job waiting tables, waxing cars or walking dogs. She could also stock shelves at Walmart, make french fries at Wendy's or sell memberships at a health club. And if this kid has a functioning cerebral cortex, she could consider tutoring young kids in math or English.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.