A Lotto about a Lotto

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 1999

The Bible says let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Well, I’m not about to start throwing any rocks.

I’ll pulled the lever of a one-armed bandit. I’ve wagered two bucks on a dog "to show" and I’ve cast a dollar and a hope on a lotto-lotteries.

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But I’ve also ridden in a hot air balloon, shot the rapids on a mighty river and chased grizzly bears around a garbage dump on a Volkswagen rabbit.

Like Forrest Gump said, life is like a box of chocolates – a big old Whitman’s sampler – and it’s fun to pinch and nibble at it. Sometimes you get fully satisfied but sometimes you bite off more than you want to chew and sometimes you get a belly full and sometimes deathly sick at your stomach.

The good things in life are those that fully satisfy. Everything else tends to make you a bit uncomfortable, wheezy and uneasy, and sometimes down right miserable.

As we approach Oct. 12 and ponder the right and wrong, the good and bad, the necessity or not of a statewide lottery, everybody has an opinion and rightly so.

A cowboy philosopher friend of mine always reminded me that difference of opinion is good "because that’s what make poor land sell and ugly women get married."

And that’s what will make the lottery pass or fail. So if you’re for the lottery, I beg to differ and no matter who wins or loses – some poor land will move and a ugly woman will wed.

Take morality completely away from the issue and then put it under the microscope.

Grades K-12 will not get a dime of the greenback windfall except for a stockpile of computers. (Didn’t Edison, Bell, Ford and the Wrights do right well without artificial intelligence?) The beneficiaries will be the befores and afters.

Four-year-olds will be marching off to manhood without ever having much of a chance at childhood. Why do we think our children must count backwards from 100 by the time they are two, recite the preamble of the Constitution by the tender age of three and read the complete works of William Shakespeare before they are four.

What happened to making mud pies, building tree houses and kicking cans?

There’s a book on the market title "I Wish I Could Give My Son a Wild Raccoon."

Isn’t that what we should be doing with our four-year-olds – developing in them a sense of adventure and a wide-eyed wonder of the world. These kids need to be curious. They need to explore and plunder and blunder. Childhood should be a time of discovery and exploration not at time for sitting up straight, forming straight lines and moving straight to the top of the class.

If the money from the lottery would earmarked for moms to stay home with their four-year-old so they could read to them, play with them and grow with them, then I might give the lottery a different look.

On the other end of the lottery spectrum, there’s the issue of free college tuition.

That, my friends, is not the responsibility of the state.

When we become parents, we accept the fact that it is our responsibility to prepare our children for their future and we know that college is a likelihood.

With all of the grants, scholarships, workships and "parent"ships available, any student who really wants to go to college can. Now, it might mean getting j-o-b on the side but it can be done. So, a lottery wouldn’t meet a need that cannot be met otherwise.

So, we don’t really "need" what a lottery would provide – no more than anyone "needs" the bounty of a lottery.

We might want a million dollars but we don’t really need a million dollars. Most of us can provide for our basic needs with what our jobs pay. Everything else is fluff or for show and for keeping up with the Joneses.

No, we might want a million dollars but we don’t need it. We might want our babies to go to school but they don’t need to. We might want someone else to pay for our kids’ college tuition but we don’t need for them to. We might want a lottery but we don’t need one.

And, another thing – the really big thing – the lottery won’t cure what is wrong with education in Alabama.

The wrong is in K – 12.

No amount of money is going to cure what ails education. What will cure education is putting the paddle back in the teachers hand, so to speak.

We have got to allow our teachers and administrators to discipline our children.

If a million dollars is invested in each classroom and those teachers still must contend with a dozen students who are intent on disrupting the educational process and making it difficult, if not impossible, for the other students to learn, that’s millions down the drain.

It is time we realize that not every child should be college bound. Don’t we need far more garbage collectors than we do brain surgeons?

A man who runs a auto body shop and enjoying it and doing a good job at it is just as successful as the man who pushes pills across the counter at the pharmacy or woman who lands the big business deal.

It is time we look at the individual needs of our students and do whatever necessary to ensure that every one has a chance at success. For some, it might mean attending college, for others technical school or trade school. For some it might mean working on an assembly line or picking up littler on the roadside. For others, it might mean drug rehab and for some, putting their sorry selves in jail.

But above all, it means giving those who want to learn the opportunity to learn and those who don’t out of their way and going another way.

And if a lottery would do that, then I would be for it. But the way I see it, the lottery is just a big, ol’ ugly woman sitting out there on her poor land waiting for a sucker to come along and bale her out and for that she’ll say, "Thanks, Alabama!"