The hottest school issue

By Don Aslett

Over the past 40-plus years of speaking, consulting and doing workshops for school in-service days, conventions, and educational gatherings, I often ask the question, “What is the single most important truth a student must learn to be successful?” From Alaska to Florida, I never receive a confident answer. It doesn’t matter whether I am talking to teacher’s aids or principles, Ph.D.’s or football coaches. They all look down or stammer when I pose the question.
So I answer for them. Every child should leave the classroom committed to the reality that “I am responsible for my own outcome”–emotionally, spiritually, physically, morally and academically. They must learn that the truth that their condition in life isn’t the fault of teachers, the media, parents, bankers, Obama, the weather or their hometown football team. “If I’m the one who messes up, I clean it up.”
If people lived that single code, by natural outcomes they would do well in life, even if they could hardly read, write, spell or hammer a nail. Responsibility for actions (or lack of action) is the best teacher.  For example, the “Adopt a Highway” mentality sanctions entitlement. To clean up behind anyone is to answer for others’ foulups. It plain reinforces bad behavior. The sign should read, “Adopt a Habit!…” of being responsible for one’s own behavior. As long as the janitor, teacher, boss, parent, counselor, banker, doctor or government takes care of our problems, we will keep having them. And many of these helpers will enjoy profit from our predicaments—at our expense, of course.
As a professional janitor, I clean up behind many able bodies. With regard to schools, it should take only one trained professional custodian to clean school restrooms. Students could and should clean up the rest of the school. Kids old enough to go to school are also old enough to clean up after themselves. No doubt there is value in math and reading, and they may need some curriculum attention too—but a little balance in teaching personal responsibility will go a long way. In the case of students cleaning up after themselves, it would slash the school budget, save on supplies, cut sickness, reduce depression (pilot studies show all these outcomes are possible) and my guess is, become the favorite activity in the whole school program! And this valuable training would soon carry over into the home, work and life.
I’d call it Self-Reliance 101.

Don Aslett of McCammon is the founder of The Museum of Clean, 711 S. 2nd Ave., Pocatello, and still enjoys giving tours to all visitors. Check out the museum’s website at