Pictured on the front page of Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times were five teenagers. They were not under arrest, were not crime victims and had not participated in the Olympic Games.

The five were students at Whitney Young Magnet School, where they had earned perfect scores of 36 on the ACT, a college admissions test.

That’s almost as amazing. Teenagers were being recognized for something other than shooting a ball or getting shot.


Facebook is full of photographs of children playing sports. They don’t have to be superstars. You can see toddlers kicking a soccer ball, high school students running track, or children of any age simply posing in a football uniform.

Hurray for them!

I can’t recall ever seeing a Facebook post of a child reading a science book or solving a math problem.

Hey, I think it’s wonderful that people take pride in the achievements of their children or grandchildren.

If they sing, dance, play an instrument, we’re all going to know about it. Positive reinforcement is a great thing.

Yet, I can’t help wonder why we so seldom praise those same kids for demonstrating an ability to think.

Why don’t we take pride in their ability to write or voice an opinion on public affairs? Too controversial? How about a simple demonstration of their knowledge of American history? Too boring?

So post another photograph of that salad you ate for lunch, or of the dip you made for the Super Bowl party. There’s excitement.

Like most Americans, I’ve been awed by the ability of the high school students in Parkland, Florida, to wage a campaign for gun reform. They not only make their case more clearly than most adults, but they are doing so following the most traumatic event of their lives.

Are they unique in American history? Is their school, their community, superior to all the others in the nation?

Do we really think children have never before had anything interesting to say or an insight worth listening to?

We don’t care about the thoughts of teenagers unless they have been sexually molested, physically abused, drug addicted or murdered a dozen people.

If they manage quadruple jump at the winter Olympics, we will put them on national TV and feature them on the daytime talk shows. Isn’t it wonderful how much their parents sacrificed so they could represent our country?

When’s the last time you heard that about the parents whose children achieve academic success? Well, maybe those kids are not the best in the world and that’s what we tend to acknowledge in this country. You’ve got to be the very best.

We don’t even recognize the intelligence of adults unless they make a lot of money. If you don’t accumulate a lot of cash, you can’t be very smart.

But wouldn’t it be nice if one day we were to look at Facebook and find a photograph of a child opening a door for an elderly stranger, mowing the neighbor’s lawn or shoveling a sidewalk just to be nice?

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we made it clear to children that kindness and intelligence are valued as much as athletic performance and beauty?

Students across the country on Wednesday will join in a national walk-out to make schools safer and encourage politicians to find the guts to pass gun reforms that make sense. I don’t think you have to agree with them to appreciate the fact they are engaging in the democratic process and demonstrating faith in the political system.

We should applaud their efforts, just as we cheer at their athletic competitions. That’s how to make your community safer and the world a better place to live.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com