Many people cringe when they see the word “discipline” because they are confusing discipline with punishment. Discipline is something you do for someone; punishment is something you do to someone.
Discipline is the missing quality in many people’s lives. Individuals who have never been disciplined consequently do not know how to discipline themselves. A welfare experiment in Wisconsin beautifully brings all of this to light. Their ground-level experience teaches that the single biggest obstacle to work isn’t a lack of skills, but a lack of discipline.
A column by Cokie and Steven Roberts published in The Dallas Morning News reported that Wisconsin’s then-Gov. Tommy Thompson said, “Most people do want to work, but they don’t know how.” And the only way to learn good work habits is through practice — getting out of bed, showing up on time, finishing a job … and then coming back the next day.
One thing has become crystal clear in the Wisconsin experiments, namely that just sending welfare recipients to work isn’t enough. Many lack the resiliency or resources to cope with calamity. A car breaks down or a babysitter fails to show up, and their resolve dissolves. Instead of taking a bus, they take a day off.
The Wisconsin experience, according to Cokie and Steven Roberts, teaches two hard truths: to break the cycle of dependency, work is necessary, but it also is expensive. The British philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said, “All work, even cotton spinning, is noble.” So is burger-flipping.
The only “dead-end job” is going to the mailbox to collect a welfare check. However, someone who has never held a job and who has never been taught responsibility or how to set the alarm clock or catch a bus needs someone to teach them “how” and require them to follow through. If all states considered Wisconsin’s findings and made changes accordingly, more people would be at the top!
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