“clearly, the moral decline among our young people affects all of society.” - anonymous
The quote was stated from someone at TED.
Note: I don’t subscribe to the depths of that depressing thought. Well. I do believe a moral decline in our young people would affect society but I don’t believe there is a moral decline in young people.
I do believe in a world where … well … it is a world and not an American society or Brazilian society or an Egyptian society … anyway … where individual character will be tested in ways never tested before parents <or adults in general … because it is a shared responsibility where actions within the home and actions outside the home need to be aligned within a moral behavior compass> need to build the character of children more now than ever before.
I guess I am suggesting that rather than make apocalyptic statements with regard to the moral decay of our young people we should be taking steps to insure their moral compass remains true.
In the 1950’s a guy <ok. A sociologist> named Gorer did a study on character. Kind of a sweeping assessment of how large groups/countries evolved to a more orderly society (which I assume he believed was a reflection of a society’s character).
While he identified two overarching keys … the first being the creation of a citizen constables force <call it a judgment of a peer like force> and the second was a curbing of aggression by “guilt.” Ultimately, what I cared most about, was actually a sub-assessment that has been highlighted as of late … tough love style of parenting.
Ok. This tough love thing. Great Britain actually cited ‘tough love’ in a study on the effects of child poverty <called The Foundation Years>. And before anyone suggests this a tenuous link I will draw similar findings came from a think tank study called Building Character.
The conclusion? The gap between the respective life chances of a poor child and a rich child all but vanishes when a child is reared by “confident and able” parents offering “tough love” <that is a direct pull from the report>.
I am not suggesting poverty, or material inequality, doesn’t matter. It does. Actually poverty and character both matter. And as the report indicates they are often linked in that bad choices can make poverty worse and it is more difficult to make good choices when faced with a dire material situation.
But, I would tend to believe we all like to think that strong character can be attained regardless of your economic situation (and I would imagine we have seen enough examples to believe this). And with that thought we should always be examining the development of character and the formative, or foundation, years.
And while data can be conflicting, in general, character is less affected by an “unstable family structure” then we would like to blame. In other words it is less relevant to have both a mother & father in the household than it is to have clear “tough love” direction from whomever is actually in the household family structure. Yup. Divorce and parent gender and single parent households is less relevant than what actually happens within the household.
And let me define tough love. The study assessed tough love by ‘sharp prods’ and not nudges.
‘Sharp prods’ doesn’t mean kicking the shit out of the kid or smacking them … Gorer summed the parenting style as “see what Johnny is doing and tell him to stop it.” And the most favored parental action was actually deprivation – take away toys, treats and/or liberty. While I am not sure how this would play in today’s world … one mother said it was “a day locked up in his bedroom for a day with only bread & water” curbed bad behavior … I sense that, political correctness aside, there is a lot of common sense understanding in this.
I wrote many months back that I believed we were raising a generation of ‘non-losers.’ In a politically correct world we are showing children that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose … and therefore deprive them of the learning of “how to be a winner” and “how to lose.” Part of tough love is showing that life is about balance … as in a balance sheet. You can lose things and losing things sucks. Oh. And rather than whine and pout and throw a tantrum … the child learns to deal with ‘loss’ as well as manage Life decisions to minimize ‘loss.’
Regardless of how you elect to address this topic it is all about building character.
And I imagine we all, those with children and those without, are concerned that children obtain good character traits. I also believe we understand that much of the character in a person is learned as a young child. They are taught right from wrong, as well as attitudes toward dealing with challenges and other people. Character lessons should be provided on a consistent basis.
In my own research on this topic I read an incredibly depressing book called “The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil” which suggests that this youth generation is completely devoid of the character necessary to evolve the moral fortitude of the world <and it will increasingly create issues of conflict>.
That was a depressing read. And I don’t buy what they are selling.
Now. I do believe we have issues that need to be addressed.
A survey conducted in 1992 by the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics found that:
- 33% of all high school students admitted they had stolen merchandise from a store within the past year
- 61% of the students admitted cheating on an examination during that year
- 83% said they had lied to their parents
- 33% of students said they were willing to lie on a resume or job application or during an interview to get a job <16% said they had already done so>.
In addition, in a 1997 survey of teachers conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, more than half of the respondents reported perceiving a decline in student morality since they began teaching. Even among those teaching 5 years or less, 44% said they have seen a decline in ethical values and an increase in illegal drug use among their students.
Issues? Yes. Death of Character? No.
Because I believe no matter how cynical an adult or parent … they are all trying to teach children how to be caring, confident, self-aware and respectful of those around them.
Researchers at The Institute for Global Ethics report that five core values — truth, compassion, fairness, responsibility, and respect — consistently cut across cultural, religious, and socioeconomic lines. Another foundation suggests the core ethical values of caring, fairness, trustworthiness, citizenship, responsibility, and respect for self and others, calling them “values that form the basis of good character” and “principles that are common to all cultures and religions” are the keys to building character.
I cannot argue with any of them. In fact I actually like both lists. All things children should, at minimum, recognize as choices <in terms of actions> and at maximum actually applying in life.
Ok. Back to what we adults can do.
Tough love & respect.
I know the world has changed but growing up I do not remember idolizing anyone in particular. There wasn’t a celebrity, or anyone really, that stands out to me that I really wanted to be like. I learned character traits from the adults around me … my parents, aunts & uncles and grandparents. They were not perfect but they offered a lot of good qualities that I inevitably evaluated my own behavior later in life.
Sure. Some lessons were tough. And some lessons I still resent today. But this isn’t about me or my parents … this is about the fact a study suggests that tough love in youth builds character.
And something as simple as that could insure no one states the quote I began this post with ever again. And maybe it is as simple, and complicated, as that.