Friday, October 30, 2015


"I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, 'Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments."

Several times in the past, this blog has covered the phenomenon of how modern young people are protected from reality, failure, and challenge.  Efforts to stop competition, trophies for merely taking part in an event, "graduating" from 5th to 6th grade, on and on the list goes.  Girls are to be protected from anything that could make them feel less than omnipotent.  Boys are to be kept from feeling poorly about themselves.
In the 90s the movement was all about self esteem and making sure young people felt good about themselves.  Every effort was made to ensure that no child ever felt less than wonderful about their abilties and selves in all situations, no matter how poorly they did.  Yes, technically that's not how you spell horse, but its their spelling and correcting them will damage their inner child.
Time has passed and now even the Huffington Post is noting that this whole movement was actually a really bad idea.  In The Atlantic, a writer noted that the self esteem movement has been destructive, and articles have been showing up lately all across the political, ideological, and social spectrum.  This was exactly the terrible idea and failure that people warned it would be and were mocked and attacked for saying so at the time.
But while the term "self esteem" and the rest of the psychobabble garbage like "inner child" has been jettisoned and now rightly criticized, the bubble is still there around the children.  Children, not allowed to fail, are still being praised for failure, protected from negative consequence, and awarded for mediocrity and merely being present.
For years, many including myself have been saying "wait til you grow up" because reality is not so coddling, protective, and flexible.  They'll grow up, people said, when they are forced to.  I've said that.
Except its not happening.
These kids are growing up, entering an increasing hostile real world environment and instead of growing up, they're throwing increasingly bigger tantrums.  During the Occupy movement, this was noted on by myself and others quite often.  These weren't adults frustrated with the abuse of power and the way the super wealthy were being bailed out, they were perpetual adolescents screaming that they had to pay back their loans.
People are stunned and repulsed by the way college campuses have become lately.  Every boy is considered a rapist, every girl a fragile princess.  Every statement that is not exactly according to the approved (ever-changing) party line is declared a "microaggression."  Every person that dares to question the top-down imposed dogma is considered a monster, drummed out of the public arena, their papers torn down, clubs closed or denied application, speeches canceled.
One incredibly egregious example springs to mind.  Recently, Williams College held a speaking series on "Uncomfortable Learning."  One of the speakers invited was Suzanne Venker, a woman very critical of what passes for modern feminism and its extremes.  The students revolted.  This was an uncomfort too far:
it was the students who host the Uncomfortable Learning series—an unofficial, unregistered campus club—who ultimately made the decision.

“They were feeling very uncomfortable about the amount of protest and the tenor of the protest that was going on,” said Dettloff. “Students were being very vocal about not wanting her to come here. I think it was just getting a lit bit over the top.”
Yeah, you read that right.  The club became uncomfortable with this Uncomfortable Learning speaker, so they canceled her.  I doubt a single one of them even recognized the hypocrisy and irony.  I wonder if they even could define the term "irony," where the apparent is the opposite of the actual.
In a recent First Year College Experience survey of over 1500 students, they found that 60% of incoming Freshmen felt "emotionally unprepared" for college.  These students complained that they felt stressed "most or all of the time."  Now, the difference here is not that students in the past never felt this way.  College is very stressful, at least at a good one.  The studies are challenging, the writing is difficult, and there is a very increased load of required study each day for each class as compared to previous schooling.  Students are often away from home for the first extended period in their lives, and have to learn to transition into more of a real world setting, where they do not get things for free and have to work to attain their goals.  Its always been stressful that first year, and is the following years as well, although students learn skills and habits that assist them in dealing with it.
The difference today is that students are being blocked from ever learning any skills that would remotely assist them in dealing with change, stress, and hardship.  At Psychology Today, Stanton Peel writes
...helicoptering is de rigueur for today's parents. Meanwhile, Bips indicates, "The number of students who arrive at college already medicated for unwanted emotions has increased dramatically in the past 10 years. We, as a society, don't want to feel anything unpleasant and we certainly don't want our children to suffer." And what professional is going to suggest weaning kids from [this]?
Dr Peel mentions suicides on college campuses (which are on the increase) and points out
according to the experts, coddling contributes to such horrific outcomes. As Bips puts it, "Many of today's students lack resilience and at the first sign of difficulty are unable to summon strategies to cope."
Dr Diane Dreher also at Psychology Today, agrees:
Overcontrolling parents love their children and want to protect them from what they see as an increasingly dangerous world. So they frantically package them for success, protecting their children from failure while pressuring them to excel, doing their homework, making their decisions, and micromanaging their lives. Yet these parents may be depriving their children of essential brain development, sabotaging their ability to think for themselves and develop the very cognitive skills they need to succeed in life.
Students raised by overcontrolling parents have difficulty dealing with the challenges of college life because they’ve been denied the opportunity to develop age-appropriate cognitive function. Insecure, confused, and emotionally fragile, they experience high anxiety and chronic stress, which further weakens their cognitive ability. As research in my lab has shown, they are deficient in optimism and hope—the ability to set goals, make plans, and follow through.
Boomers were raised by parents determined that their kids would not face the awful fears and lacks that they grew up with - the depression, WW2, and so on.  So their kids ended up too fat, comfortable, protected, and often spoiled - and they threw a tantrum that ripped the nation to pieces.  But the children of today are getting the same treatment.  My baby will never feel bad about being called fat!  My baby will not deal with the horror of not having every new toy they demanded like I was!  And whereas wanting your children not to starve and face the horrors of the depression, these parents have absolutely no rational basis for their expectations.
But its not just parents.  Teachers are in on it too, and they have more waking hours with each student per day than the parents get through their learning years.  Teachers avoid competitive efforts, reward simply showing up, are very reluctant to correct and criticize, and do their best to protect and coddle children as well.
As a result of being utterly unprepared to face real life, of being protected, controlled, and coddled, these kids are never allowed to begin to learn the skills of dealing with frustration, stress, difficulty, competition, and failure.  The result is that colleges are filled increasingly with emotionally immature students that cannot actually face any real learning or challenge.
Dr Peter Gray, also at Psychology Today writes:
  • Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.
  • There is a sense of helplessness among the faculty. Many faculty members expressed their frustration with the current situation. There were few ideas about what we could do as an institution to address the issue.
  • Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things. For many of them, failure is seen as catastrophic and unacceptable. External measures of success are more important than learning and autonomous development.
  • Faculty, particularly young faculty members, feel pressured to accede to student wishes lest they get low teacher ratings from their students. Students email about trivial things and expect prompt replies.
And the real problems are only beginning here.  Stewed in a nearly unchallenged monolithic worldview and political perspective, students are also raised with radical chic to be protesters, rejecting tradition and authority, doubting anything their parents believe and that they were raised on, praised for being habitually offended and finding fault in treatment, and ultimately end up unstable and unbalanced.
As Ace put it recently in an article about Social Justice Warriors and their infantile nonsense:
All juveniles do this -- they're literally trying to figure out who they are, and what makes them "special," and very into contrived self-definitions. All that crap about being so into this band or that one, or this music genre or that, or this type of fashion -- all that crap is people who have never done anything interesting or remarkable attempting to contrive some Medal, some Decoration they can put upon their chest to make them stand out (if only in their imaginations).

This silly crap about "graysexuals" and "aromantics" is just the latest, most rancidly stupid variation of this unfortunate tendency -- the radiant narcissism of the unfashionably plain and heroically unaccomplished.
Its part of growing up, its part of developing a distinct, self-sufficient identity.  Each of us strives to understand what sets us apart and who we are as separate from all those around us and who we've grown up with.But the culture we're in now results in people never getting past this stage.

This combination results in ridiculous nonsense such as the students of the "Uncomfortable Learning" lecture series rejecting discomfort.  They see nooses in trees, rapists in every date, and oh yes, microaggressions.  These children raised by people shielding them from any slightest discomfort or disagreement are so totally unprepared for when they take place that they throw a tantrum when it happens.
Now, when your children do this, you're supposed to teach them to learn to deal with the problem and guide their outrage to more constructive, productive directions.  They learn to handle it just like learning to handle their first physical pain.  Things that drive a child into screaming tears an adult grumbles at and goes on with their life - we're used to it, we know what it is, where it goes, how long it lasts, and have developed the ability to cope.  Children haven't gotten that yet, all they know is that it hurts in a way they've never even conceived of before.  So we teach them and help them through it, we don't protect them from ever letting it happen because we know they have to learn.
Yet when it comes to emotional challenges and upsets, this has never taken place with far too many children.  And to make matters far, far worse, colleges encourage this outraged screaming tantrum.  They find it exhilarating and wonderful.  They're rebelling against the cruelties of society, man.  Its so groovy.  Spurred on by social media support and legacy media coverage, these young people are not actually learning to deal with emotional troubles.  They're being cheered on as they throw a tantrum.
Jonathan Hait points out that this is creating a culture of victimhood, where being treated as one demands is presumed, not earned - and every lack of exact treatment is an outrage that must be punished. Its not enough to simply insist, today those who will not comply must be destroyed.
But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.
These people are so wholly unable to face reality and so totally encouraged to not do so that they're turning into a generation of vengeful, conquering litigants and tantrum-throwers that cry "witch!" at the slightest cause.
The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.
These young people are weak, very weak, and unable to face the world which confronts them with a frustratingly common tendency to reject their demands.  And when reality will not give way to their immature insistence, they demand punishment of those they hold responsible.
These young people are not learning to deal with life as we expected.  They're learning tools to continue avoiding dealing with life, and being given every assistance to do so by radicals and leftists in our culture.  Why, college costs so much, lets force everyone else to pay for it instead.  Why, you owe a lot of money from the loans you signed up for in good faith?   Lets just forgive those loans so you don't have to pay.  That guy believes something now considered heretical?  Destroy them.  Force them out of their job.  Ruin their lives.  Drive them away from society.
And there is no reason to believe this ends at graduation.  Businesses are increasingly pressured to permit this to go on rather than require employees to grow up.  Not only are fewer and fewer truly mature, adult employees available on the market, but lawsuits, social media attacks, legacy media hit pieces, and political pressure is being laid to bear on companies.
  • Your business needs a safe space where people can go to when they feel too triggered or have faced too many microaggressions.
  • Your business must have trans-friendly bathroom policies where you pretend a mangled man is now a woman and can go into the lady's room.
  • Your business must not only not spend anything on any condemned ideas such as psychological assistance for homosexual youths, but most actively and publicly support the opposite.
  • Your business cannot promote, hire, or fire on the basis of competency and excellence, but treat employees equally and with similar positive treatment.
  • Your business must accept this person who may even refuse to do part of the work they are paid for, or are physically or mentally incapable of doing, because to do so will make them feel undignified and unhappy.
We used to ask, what will happen to these young people when they face the cruel hard world?  Well now we know.  They'll sue and pressure everyone to pretend the world isn't cruel and hard.  They'll demand and get regulations and laws to keep them from facing the hardships and challenges of life.  They will require everyone else to suffer and do extra so they will not have to.
This is our future, unless we grow up as a people.  It will happen, eventually.  Either it will occur due to a seismic shift in culture, or due to a catastrophic force compelling us to.  But either way, it will happen.  And the people who'll suffer the most are the children we're raising now to be the least able to face it.


Joan of Argghh! said...

Worse, some of them will actually try to start a business. Realizing that biznessin' is hard, they'll resort to gov't contracting where they will whine and moan about the parameters of the contract they signed, and beg for exceptions and amendments long afterward. They can't move forward if everything isn't perfect and are scared to death of getting less than an "A" on anything they undertake. So they spend more energy dumbing-down the expectations than actually doing what they agreed to do. They are impossible to work with because they want to talk and talk and talk and talk and push and nudge and whine until you relent.

Jonathan Cook said...

My wife ran into this a lot in her job. She was a school bus driver and had a clearly stated set of punishable behaviors that students were expected to avoid, and a set of procedures for "writing up" any such incidents. Of course, every year she had two or three kids (usually, but not exclusively, middle school boys) that simply refused to cooperate. At first she dutifully wrote up each incident as per policy. The upshot was she ended up getting into trouble for writing up the same kids "too often." It began with smarmy condescending lectures from the school Principal (I'll avoid descending into ad hominem outrage about that woman) and escalated to not-so-subtly worded threats against her job if she didn't stop writing the same kids up so often.

Our school system is a major incubator of the ills you detailed so well.