One Nation Under Children

No, this post isn’t about the current self-aggrandizing, blame shifting, egotistic, inept and jejune regime. But, this post just might lend some insight into the domino effect of immaturity that toppled its way into the White House in 2008. In any case, the topic affects us all…

 In his recent essay “The Kindergarchy: Every Child a Dauphin” Joseph Epstein, observes our current parenting culture through his 70 plus years of perspective as a son, later as parent and also as a teacher at Northwestern University:

  In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children…For the past thirty years at least, we have been lavishing vast expense and anxiety on our children in ways that are unprecedented in American and perhaps in perhaps any other national life. Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own. This is what I call Kindergarchy: dreary, boring, sadly misguided Kindergarchy.

With its full-court-press attention on children, the Kinderarchy is a radical departure from the ways parents and children viewed on another in earlier days….

 Parents didn’t generally didn’t feel under any obligation to put heavy pressure on their children. Nor, except in odd neurotic cases, did they feel any need to micromanage their lives. My father once told me that he felt his responsibilities extended to caring for the physical well-being of my brother and me, paying for our education, teaching right from wrong, and giving us some general idea about how a man ought to live, but that was pretty much it. Most fathers during this time, my guess is, must have felt the same.”

 One of the direct results of the 1960s was that the culture put a new premium on youthfulness; adulthood, as it had hitherto been perceived, was on the way out, beginning with clothes and ending with personal conduct. Everyone, even people with children and other adult responsibilities, wanted to continue to think of himself as still young, often well into his forties and fifties. One of the consequences of this was that one shied away from the old parental role of authority figure, dealing out rewards and punishments and passing on knowledge, somewhat distant, carefully rationing out intimacy, establishing one’s solidarity and strength. Suddenly parents wanted their children to think of themselves as, if not exactly contemporaries, then as friends, pals, fun people.”  (emphasis mine)

 “On visits to homes of small children, one finds their toys strewn everywhere, their drawings on the refrigerator, television sets turned to their shows. Parents in this context seem less than secondary, little more than indentured servants. Under Kindergarchy, all arrangements are centered on children: their schooling, their lessons, their predilections, their care and feeding and general high maintenance-children are the name of the game.

 No other generation of kids have been so curried and cultivated, so pampered and primed, though primed for what is a bit unclear.

 

Epstein goes on to note, “The craze of attentiveness hits its most passionate note with schooling, and schooling starts now younger and younger.”… (emphasis mine)

 He also mentions the obsession of child naming and the hesitation or neglect, as I see it, of punishment for bad behavior. Spare the rod and you produce morally meandering Millennials.

 As I have observed and Epstein cites examples in his essay, our current culture is child-centric. It is Disneyland ad infinitum. The altar of childhood is now venerated with sappy-saccharine-syrupy feelings oriented animated movies. And the child-centric unicorn circling dance does not stop with the kids. The parents are on the same carousel standing next to their child.

 The parent’s toys are adult-‘proof’ but they still toys. The movies are just as inane as the children’s movies. They lack maturity and provide no food for thought, no intelligent repast. The “cloud,” the miasma where adult minds linger, offers nothing that is clearly discernable other than adults being totally distracted. Little eyes and ears take notice and also abstract away reality.

 As mentioned above, Epstein brings up child punishment, spanking and time outs. He notes that today’s parents tend to balk at child discipline wanting rather to make each experience a “learning experience.”

 To dote or not to dote, that becomes the question.  As a parent of four children (three are adults), I view today’s parenting as passing through our morally relativistic culture sieve:  the parent would rather not deal with the issue of bad behavior. The parent does not want to bother delineating good and bad behavior; he or she does not want to set boundaries. Instead, they would rather smooth things over, synthesize. They do so in order, I guess, to keep from being judgmental and to stay in the child’s good graces. And, then there is the matter of feelings.

 The child’s ‘delicate’ feelings, feelings most likely viewed through a parent’s projected sentimentality, those feelings would never be questioned by such a partisan parent.  

There are some who would have us believe that the child is always right; a child’s feelings, whether or not his or her motives are, are always pure, clean and off-limits. The questions a parent should ask him or herself are “Are the child’s emotions matching reality?” and “Does my child know what is truly essential, the gravitas of his or her actions and reactions?

“So often in my literature classes students told me what they felt about a novel, or a particular character in a novel. I tried, ever so gently, to tell them that no one cared what they felt; the trick was to discover not one’s feelings but what the author had put into the book, its moral weight and its resultant power….I knew where they came by their sense of their own deep significance and that this sense was utterly false to any conceivable reality. Despite what parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement. Besides, one of the first things that people who really are significant seem to know is that, in the grander scheme, they are themselves really quite insignificant.

Growing up with only minimal attention sharpened this sense of one’s insignificance…”

 The consequences of so many years of endlessly attentive childrearing in young people can also be witnessed in many among them who act as if certain that they are deserving of the interest of the rest of us; they come off as very knowing. Lots of conversations turns out to be chiefly about themselves, and much of it feels as if it formulated to impress some dean of admissions with how very extraordinary they are..” (emphasis mine)

 The essay is found in Joseph Epstein’s collection of essays titled “A Literary Education and Other Essays.”

 There is a lot to be gleaned from Epstein’s observations, much of which is too obvious to spell out here. But, I will spell M-i-l-l-e-n-n-i-a-l-s.

 

Wisdom is known by her offspring, a tree by its fruit.

If Its True Its Not New OR Don’t Stick Your Head in the Oven

Following on the heels of my previous post “The Vision of the Anointed is Our Nightmare; Ivy league Progressives and Their Creeping Racism” I offer the following video discussion. And, once again real adults are involved. No trigger warnings or pacifiers issued here.

 The discussion led by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute centers on the current state of liberal arts education. Joseph Epstein and Andrew Ferguson both share from their extensive experience. The participant’s credentials, included in the video, won’t be repeated here.

 “We may fairly ask, could any field other than liberal arts yield as broad and as significant an introduction to life’s comparisons and choices; could any other provide a more vital classroom experience for the development of men who are free not primarily because of birth, but because they have learned to use their birthright to chose a way of life? Quoting from Dartmouth College President John Sloan Dickey’s Convocation Address,1954, as recorded in the Dartmouth Review, March 13, 2013, page 11

Considering my birthright to be that of an autodidact liberal arts student, I look at the world from both ends of a telescope. And, though my pay-the-bills ‘FT’ job is in the field of engineering I seek out all manner of wonderful going beyond the rote of everyday life. From my posts you’ll see that this includes and is not limited to quantum physics, genetics, theistic “old earth” evolution, philosophy, psychotherapy, Christianity, music, art, poetry and both non-fiction and fiction literature including Shakespeare. I say this not out of braggadocio but to let you know that I was taught early on to seek wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding. I have an insatiable appetite to learn.  I need clarion answers and I also need a universe full of space, time and matter to ponder.

An old preacher once told me, “If it’s new it’s not true.  If it’s true it’s not new.”  This adage applies especially to a liberal arts education wherein one can unearth ancient wisdom, dust off traditional values and compare them to today’s instantly gratifying, mostly politicized and ‘Democratic-ized” popular icons of ‘knowledge” (e.g., global warming is a man-made crisis, crime originates from poverty and poor government institutions, etc.). This adage aptly applies to the physical sciences as well since what is being discovered has been around since the beginning of time

 Knowledge-wise I cut my teeth, so to speak, sans ‘higher education’ when I began questioning common knowledge, spitting out popular ‘wisdom’ and seeking to rid myself of the scourge of acid-like sentimentality that eats away at the protective enamel of wisdom. The dentist told me to floss every day. And, Socrates told me that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” They share the same Hippocratic Office, I think.

 Some of my liberal arts ‘findings’ are presented in my posts. I write the posts to remind myself of what I have read, to reinforce the content in my mind and to learn to parse, focusing only on what is true, good and worthy. And, then, there is also this reason… 

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

 Some thoughts on the most important aspect of a liberal arts education-gaining wisdom:

Hopefully by now you have noticed that science’s data collection and life’s growing empiricism do not counterbalance the super-sized questions of life weighing you down. Please don’t “scien-tize” your life as Joseph Epstein coined in the video or meta-data yourself into boredom. Wise-up your life.

 And, even though the wisest, most circumspect and ‘experienced’ man in history, King Solomon, writes his direst thoughts in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, telling us that life is …

 

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.

Everything is meaningless!”

 

…we are reminded that Solomon asked God for the gift of wisdom yet Solomon did not use all of the wisdom given to him. That led him to…

 

The Conclusion of the Matter

 

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.  The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

 

The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

 

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

 

There is just too much of life to be taken in to ever be bored with life or to find time to despair. No head in the oven for me.

~~~

Allan Bloom, American philosopher, classicist, and academician, in his 1987 book “The Closing of the American Mind How Higher Education Has failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students” writes about how liberal arts education became impoverished and the consequential effects.

 Here is a previous post with quotes from Allan Bloom: Fear and Loathing In America