Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dennis Prager Laments: When I Was a Boy, America Was a Better Place

Dennis Prager feels bad and has a laundry list of issues about how the culture of America has "declined."

Only two things really stand out as being truly of concern to me, the first is the lack of men in specific and adults in general:
When I was boy, I was surrounded by adult men. Today, most American boys (and girls, of course) come into contact with no adult man all day every school day. Their teachers and school principals are all likely to be women. And if, as is often the case, there is no father at home (not solely because of divorce but because "family" courts have allowed many divorced mothers to remove fathers from their children's lives), boys almost never come into contact with the most important group of people in a boy's life -- adult men. The contemporary absence of men in boys' lives is not only unprecedented in American history; it is probably unprecedented in recorded history.

When I was a boy, we had in our lives adults who took pride in being adults. To distinguish them from our peers, we called these adults "Mr.," "Mrs." and "Miss," or by their titles, "Doctor," "Pastor," "Rabbi," "Father." It was good for us, and we liked it. Having adults proud of their adulthood, and not acting like they were still kids, gave us security (as well as something to look forward to in growing up). Today, kids are surrounded by peers twice, three, four times their age.
This is sort of the same lament. I don't know about men in our schools (I do know my daughter's principal is male and there is a chance, based on random factors of her first grade teacher being a male, but I suspect that is an outlier rather than the norm), but statistically, Prager is right, a fair significant portion of our young boys do not have a regular male role model and that is a problem, not only for the boy, but for society.

There is also the lack of respect for adults in society. I have to admit, I have found myself referring to our friends as Miss Heather or Miss Lori when talking to my daughters and I wonder when that started? What is wrong with addressing adults by Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. and their last name? I can't recall if I ever referred to my friends' parents by their first name, ever. I certainly never addressed them by their first name--probably even now I wouldn't. I don't know if the trend is because we adults are afraid of our adulthood or lack pride in it. But I do think that we adults should be asking kids to refer to us using adult honorifics.

Then Prager points this out:
When I was a boy, Time and Newsweek were well written and relied little on pictures and illustrations. Today, those magazines often look like adult comic books by comparison. They are filled with large illustrations and photos, and they dumb down the news with features like "Winners and Losers" and "Who's Up and Who's Down." And when I was a boy, it would have been inconceivable for Time to substitute anything, let alone a tree, for the flag planted by the marines on Iwo Jima.
I do think the media has made things a little too simple, a little too easily digested and lack the depth necessary to really explore a subject. TV news and daily newspapers may lack the time and space to deal with a subject in depth, but a weekly news magazine really should do better.

Prager closes:
One might argue that these are the same laments that every previous older generation has expressed -- "Ah, when I was young..." But in America, that has not been the case. In America, the older generations tended to say the opposite -- "When I was a kid, things were worse."

Can we return to the America of my youth? No. Can we return to the best values of that time? Yes. But not if both houses of Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court move the country even further leftward. If that happens, many of the above noted changes will simply be accelerated: More laws restricting "offensive" speech will be enacted; litigation will increase and trial lawyers will gain more power; the American military will be less valued; trees will gradually replace the flag as our most venerated symbol; schools will teach even less as they concentrate even more on diversity, sexuality and the environment; teenage sex will be increasingly accepted; American identity will continue to be replaced by ethnic, racial, gender or "world citizen" identity; and the power of the state will expand further as the power of the individual inevitably contracts. It's hard to believe most Americans really want that.
There needs to be a correction, but I am not sure that the correction can necessarily come just from a rightward correction of government, there has to be more personal interaction.

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