Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Bruiseless Society

     I talked earlier about generational conflicts, especially how Baby Boomers don't exactly have our best interests at heart. Mike reviewed a book called Generations at Work that dealt with the differences between generations and interaction between generations. He commented that the Millenials (born after 1980) will have a tough time with rejection, since their Late Boomer/Early Gen-X parents spoil the crap out of them and protect them from every real or perceived harm.
     On Friday, had an article on Public schools trying to woo back homeschoolers. Basically, budget cuts and decreasing population in some rural areas have public schools short of cash so they're trying to reach out to home-schooled kids. It's tastefully done, even if it smacks of desperation. Some are offering to teach creation and read the bible in English class to get the religious homeschoolers. Others go the intelligent route and offer unique classes like forestry or music. Now, I'm not against home-schooling. If you feel you're capable of doing a better job of teaching your kids then by all means go ahead. Unfortunately, some also use homeschooling to isolate their children. One parent said, "There would be the moral issues that our children would have to face with all the others who aren't taught the way they are." Is she planning on keeping her kids locked up in her house the rest of their lives? Parents have roughly 18 years of direct influence over their children to steer them in the right direction. Once they move out, it's up to them how much they interact with their parents. If you don't let your kids learn right from wrong in real situations while you can still interact with them every day, they're going to be in for some rude surprises when they enter the real world.
     Speaking of college, more and more schools are taking over fraternities and sororities. Colgate University is buying all of the Greek houses and is disallowing any student organization that meets in a non-University owned property. The college will ban alcohol, enforce behavior, etc etc. I know a lot of fraternities have a bad reputation, but they're not the Delta house from Animal House (even though most would like to be). I did a lot of growing up in my fraternity. I learned to take responsibility for myself and for an organization. I was off the campus meal plan, I was out of campus housing. I paid rent, I called BellSouth to get my own phone line hooked up, and I learned that if you make a mess, you'd better clean it up yourself. My brothers and I ran budgets, made repairs to the house, managed a cook, and ran a full-time organization of 40-60 men.
     Across town, at Emory University, the school already owned the Gerek system. Sororities were not allowed to have houses - they had lodges which were glorified meeting houses with maybe 5 bedrooms. Fraternities were spotless and ornate buildings. One fraternity was suspended for having a food fight. You think these students learned the kind of responsibility we did? When they graduated, most moved back to Mommy and Daddy and left Atlanta (it didn't help that they had $120,000 of education to get a $30,000/year teaching job). Not all Emory students were irresponsible, but if they had control of their lives after college, it was because they were independent before college.
     Are we raising a generation of spoiled brats? I don't want my kids to get hurt, either, but I'm certainly going to make sure they learn the lessons of life. Am I just thinking this because I don't have children yet? Are we just too rich to retain the ability to let our children become grown-ups?


Mike said...

I don't think kids today are spoiled in the sense their rich parents buy them everything they want, although many are spoiled in that way. I think kids today are being raised in a way where parents shelter them from rejection. They are socially advanced through school. Nobody gets an F in school. Nobody keeps score at their little league games. They are told it's the effort that counts. They are taught self esteem in schools. These kids are going to have a tough time when they enter the workforce and the baby boomers and Gen X'ers don't give a crap about their self esteem.
Many parents today revolve their whole lives around their kids. You know them. The kids are in soccer, little league, swim team, band, piano, etc. Every night the parents are running their kids somewhere. Many activities conflict. I know a guy who coaches little league. He has a bunch of kids who just show up for the games. They can't go to practice because they have other activities those nights. This is a bad example for the kids. They aren't learning time management. When I was young, if I had two activities that conflicted, my parents made me choose one but not both. Sometimes I hated it, but now I see they were teaching me a valuable lesson which is you can't spread yourself too thin. Kids today aren't learning that. They think their parents (and later their bosses) will adapt to their needs first.

ORF said...

Mike, I couldn't agree with you more about the idea that kids are all being raised to be total pussies. My father, who spent nearly 20 years in elementary education administration but has now been out of it for about 15, recently had an opportunity to return. He passed, primarily because he could not bear to think about having to suffer through any more parent meetings where they had something disparaging to say about the fact that their little Johnny was being graded unfairly in spelling, or was clearly a misunderstood genius as long as you didn't pay attention to the fact that he preferred catfood to Cheerios. Basically, parental whininess drove my dad away from education to begin with.

I'm a "Millenial," having been born in 1980 and I cannot tell you how many kids I watched all but set fire to the furniture in their dorm rooms simply "because they could because mommy and daddy pay $40,000 a year to send me to this school, so there!" This was an excuse for all KINDS of behavior. I mentioned entitlement earlier this week in one of my comments here and this is exactly what I was talking about. That $40,000 buys you an education, NOT a license to destroy, defame or get away with whatever the hell you want because you are unhappy someone gave you a B.

Scott, one tiny bone: I didn't grow up "independent," nor was I in a sorority in school, but I managed to get my hot water and phones turned on after I graduated. I had parents who made it explicitly clear to me at a very early age that once I got through with my undergraduate education, I would be responsible for supporting myself. I didn't need to rely on an outside organization to teach me self-sufficiency and THAT is what I think is sad about a lot of the Millenial kids. Their parents were lazy. I will always contend that it starts with parental involvement when it comes to kids with an inability to cope or live like a proper human being.

When I have kids, I don't plan to be a marmish disciplinarian, but there is certainly something to be said for setting limits, teaching your kids to believe in and defend themselves, and that sometimes life simply isn't fair and there isn't a whole fuck of a lot you can do about it.

Scott said...

I apologize, ORF. My intention wasn't to insult people who went to expensive schools ($40G? wow). But I think you bolster my point, that your current independence was not learned in college, but through your parents parenting. How many of your classmates - who weren't lucky enough to have parents as responsible as yours - could have used those 4 or 5 years to learn personal responsibility?

Mike said...

Can I just say I love this topic?
I think ORF hit on a key word. "Entitlement" Our grandparents never felt like they were entitled to anything. They busted their asses to get out of the Great Depression and WWII. Once they rid the world of poverty and war they set up the "Great Society" where everyone was promised a great education and a great job and nobody would go hungry and there would be no war. Boomers were the first to rely on this entitlement and the first to say "Gimme mine!" I think with Gen X'ers there was in a sense a return to the mentality of "Don't do me no favors, just give me my props." We aren't counting on the government for anything so we don't get upset if we don't get anything. I think millenials (not all, but in general) are being brought up to think the world revolves around them.

What's interesting is the world will adjust to them in some way. They have numbers to rival the boomers. They have skills that boomers lack, like computer and technology skills. Work places will have to adapt to attract people with those skills. It will be interesting to see what happens. When X'ers started hitting the market with their technical skills, you saw more workplaces adjust to attract them. Things like flex time and casual dress policies are all attractive to X'ers cause after all "it's just a job to us. A means to get the money to do the things we want." I would expect to attract Millenials, who as I said have an intolerance for rejection, employers will probably start doing away with performance evaluations. There will probably be alot more "yeah-team" activities in the workplace where everyone gets recognition for something. Just my guess.

ORF said...

Scott, I wasn't offended, just trying to point out that there are a few of us who don't necessarily count on the world at large to provide for us. I went to NYU, which is exorbitantly, obscenely expensive. For the record, I would NOT have gone there had I not been fortunate enough to land a partial scholarship.

I DID have friends who paid full price though (and even some who didn't) that still thought they had the run of the place and it annoyed the crap out of me. I learned pretty quickly that trying to teach them anything myself would be an exercise in futility. Fortunately, most of my friends in college had already stated their claim about self-sufficiency by choosing to move to New York City at 18 years of age. There is something to be said for cutting the apron strings at that point in your life.

canis lupus said...

Maybe I've misread the psychologies involved. I find nothing wrong in bolstering a kid's self esteem. Kids are often told to "win", but most of the time they are not given sufficient guidance to be successful. If your lessons for success involves berating a child when they fail and only giving them the time of day when they win creates a thuggish mentality. Yes, I've heard it about the good guys finishing last and all that overused bollocks from mostly folks that aren't even Fortune 500 CEOs. Unfortunately, and this is where I agree with you, institutions like social promotions are not exactly the way for success either.
My parents was one of those "self esteem" folks. But that was where the "new ageism" ended. They insisted on me studying hard and aiming high. Note the word "win" was never used. I had to prioritise my activities ... it was either or. If my grades sucked, guess what ... all non-academic activities took a backseat to other crap. On the occasions that I failed or fell short, it wasn't a case of "you stupid kid", it was more like "learn from it and don't repeat it". And they knew if I was BSing them. Despite the idealism in my parents, when I went off to junior high my father introduced my to the fighting arts not because it is the "manly thing to do", but more of preservation. Point is, what's missing is balance. It is good to instill a sense of good self in a child, trust me it'll help them weather tons of mental thunderstorms along the way. It did for me. Fortunately, my parents did remove responsibility and self preservation from the equation. I guess to some great extent, I agreeing with you.

Mike said...


I never meant to suggest you should berate your kids and tell them they're stupid. You should never do something that is going to hurt your child's self esteem. What I am suggesting is, don't artificially inflate their self esteem. If your kid brings home C's on their report card, don't tell them it's the effort that counts. That teaches them average work is acceptable. When a kid thinks getting C's is ok, what incentive do they have to get A's? Now I don't think I would punish a kid for bring home C's, but I certainly would not reward them in any way and I would let them know they missed out on a reward they could have gotten if they had B's and A's. Just my $0.02. I have read some experts who suggest never rewarding for good behavior because the kids learn to behave for the bribe. I don't buy that.

Anonymous said...

I am a Emory student, well for two more weeks, and a member of the Greek system. While I have never lived in my Greek house I do think that my college education and involvement in the Greek system has taught me a lot about responsibility. In fact, I know that I am graduating a responsible and contributing member of society.

My parents are extremely supportive and I am not ignoring the guidance they gave me but I have learned things in college that they never could have taught me at home.

Think I don't know what I'm talking about? Well, I already have a paying job. Instead of being out right now enjoying my last moments as a student I am home doing laundry so I can go to work in clean clothes tomorrow. I have priorities.

Moreover, being active in the Greek system only strenghtened my priorties.

x-gate said...

Americans are more unstable (job jumping, instant marriages and divorces, death of long term commitments and deference for leaders/authorities, diminishing class mobility, etc). Also, America is much more competetive than ever before. Parents see that there is no room for mistakes. Hence, many coddle their children from the crib to the grave. Everything is pre- planned. Child achievements and growth activities have a tinge of phoniness. This is the wave of the future. Psuedo multi- generational aristocracies will emerge.