Saturday, May 31, 2008

Confusing needs with wants

Almost from birth children in our society are taught that they need what they want. "I have to have this." Advertising constantly tells them they deserve the latest toy, video game, clothes and so on.

The reality is we really need very few things. We need food to survive. We need air to breath.

We don't need a car. We don't need a lot of clothes. We don't even need a TV. These things are nice. They make life more enjoyable. I am grateful that we are to afford these, but I recognize that we don't need them. From an objective point of view these kinds of things are really luxuries.

This attitude spills over into the field of education. Politicians and teacher unions constantly claim they need more money to improve education. They can have $9,000 per student, or $24,000 per student, and they still claim they need more money.

One of the local high schools is a great example of confusing needs with wants. The high school recently built a very fancy theater. When I was growing up most high schools have a stage at the end of the cafeteria. This gave the students a chance to be in a play or musical. But my local high school spent millions of dollars for a brand new theater.

Yesterday I noticed they are rebuilding the track. The quarter mile track around the football field, a fairly typically setup, was a nice dirt track. I've jogged around it and enjoyed it. But now the school is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, to put in a rubber track.

These kinds of expenditures are not on needs. They are on luxuries. During a time when money is tight in California, this kind of spending is wrong, irresponsible, and I'd even say it is almost criminal.


One of the reasons I like homeschooling is we are able to teach our daughters the difference between needs and wants. They watch little TV and have few outside influences telling them they deserve lots of toys, games or clothes. When they start talking in terms of they need a game, we gently remind them that they don't really need it, but if they want it, we'll find a way for them to earn the money to buy it.

Needs vs. wants - it isn't a hard lesson to teach, but it seems many people, especially those in government, haven't learned the lesson.


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5 comments:

Sebastian said...

I am constantly amazed how much the absence of tv viewing contributes to a lack of needing unnecessary stuff. We've had entire trends come and go before we even noticed them.

KJ said...

This was a really great post. Thanks.

kj said...

This needs vs. wants thing has been on my mind since yesterday. I have had this problem with McDonald's and Burger King toys lately. My son wants the toys and wants to see the movies.

Why is Iron Man being market to kids? Doesn't the main character start off as an illegal weapons dealer? Anyhoo, my point is that a "needs vs. wants" talk with him could potentially solve my dilemma.

That's what I should have said yesterday about your post.

Nodin's Nest said...

Not going to daycare or preschool and not wtching any TV with ads, my son has yet to say " I want or need anything" except food. He has no concept of licensed characters or that megastores exist full of things mommy could waste her money on. He's only 3 1/2 so not sure how long I will be this lucky. We make alot of things together and I think in his mind he thinks that's the way it works.

sgaissert said...

What an excellent post. One of the things I love most about homeschooling is that I get to see my daughter developing into her true self -- style-wise and interest-wise-- not becoming a human-sized billboard advertising the latest trends.