Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Modern Sensitivocracy

By: Michael Akerman

Or: How Not to Raise Children (and Why Everyone is Still Doing it Wrong)

For once, I climb upon my bully pulpit with very little practical experience in the area of interest I'm proselytizing you about. No, wait, I do that every time.

Anyway, I was racking my brain to think of a topic; not so much racking, actually, as sitting at the computer pre-coffee. I remembered that I have been jotting my blog ideas down at Ta-Da Lists (incidentally, if some of the non-IVIC bloggers want to make a list for us all to share ideas on, comment), and that this had been one of them.

For years, it has seemed to me that each successive breeding of mankind is snottier and less well-behaved than the previous, as well as shorter (I don't mean shorter compared to me. I think they're literally getting shorter on average. And more rotund). I can't tell you without well-funded study whether or not children are actually becoming less apt at manners, but I can tell you why most of them who are rude find themselves in this position.

You see, the basis of any society is a system of bargaining on a grand scale. In ours, the system works most smoothly when everyone receives somewhat equal social standing, regardless of economic, political, or educational status. However, many, many people, starting in the 70s and culminating especially in the 90s, took this lesson to heart, then twisted it into a horrendous teaching of sensitivity, much like the terrorists mutate the Koran. Modern housewives are taught by the great TV Mind, taking the form of Dr. Phil, Oprah, or the talking heads of the news networks, that their children cannot be mistreated or their screwed-up lives will be on their mothers' shoulders, and Mom will be made a national laughingstock on whatever talk show is the flavor of the month, and that Mom should be a friend to their children, disregarding being a parent.

So, in prime American fashion, the mothers do what? Mistreat their kids, of course. To their credit, they mistreat them in a very nice way. They think that the safest way to avoid traumatizing their kid is to give in to their every whim (because, in this twisted, psychotic world, kids know what's good for them). I hope I don't need to point out that this is hardly good training for the the "Real World" (not the show), but it's not in the cards for today's moms to think about that. It's so simple: you just give in once, because you're busy, and you want to be your child's friend. Thing is, you're always busy. Soon, mom's giving in all the time. What's the harm? It makes little Billy happy (apologies to any little Billies reading).

This creates a very real problem: a coddled youngster who is used to getting what he wants. Of course, the worlds always had those.

Unfortunately, the last bastion of social training, the elementary school (middle and high are too late), has also, by and large, fallen victim to the sensitivocracy. Administration, in true bureaucratic form, has lost touch with the actual state of the schools, and decide things on the highly scientific "it could cost me my job" principle. This is why children can mouth off to their teacher, do a terrible job of schoolwork, generally ignore class altogether, and still be passed up the line to the next grade: administrators know that if they actually enforce their own rules, there will be angry mothers and fathers yelling at them, then at the School Board, then at the State Board of Education, et al, until they get whatever minor infraction stricken from their child's record and the administrator sacked.

So, it's left to the parents-who-still-understand to fix what the parents-who-don't broke. I have high hopes for our generation, of course: never has there been a more truly politically minded generations, even in the 60s, as the hippies were really just mimicking the thoughts of others (and the Greatest Generation was generally busy through their teenage years, whereas we live in relative leisure). Parents need to ask that the rules be enforced (contrary to popular belief, no, they weren't made to be broken) at their child's school. They need to teach their children that the world will not bow to their feet, and that life will not come easy. They need to teach themselves to hold back on the unnecessary: just because you can buy it doesn't mean you should. Perhaps most importantly, they need to stop listening unquestioningly to what the "authorities" on TV say.

Think about what I've said. It's vital to everyone's happiness and well-being.

~By my hand,
~Michael Akerman