Friday, April 06, 2007

Our "Exceptional" Society

ex·cep·tion·al - [ik-sep-shuh-nl] –adjective
1.forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary: The warm weather was exceptional for January.
2.unusually excellent; superior: an exceptional violinist.
3.Education. (of a child)
a.being intellectually gifted.
b.being physically or esp. mentally handicapped to an extent that special schooling is required.

Once upon a time, being exceptional was not the norm. It meant you did incredibly better than your peers. You were to be admired and respected. Such was the past of exceptionality.

Fast forward to today and now EVERYONE is exceptional. But today it doesn't mean that you are necessarily good at anything. Or perhaps you are good at one thing. And that would be avoiding the rules, restrictions and laws that control everyone else. These days it isn't a rare occurence for a schoolday fight to be countered with the excuse "but he's on the.....team" or for a drinking binge to be excused by the comment "but she's a cheerleader." What follows is amazing and will probably result in the child's destruction somewhere down the road. Because what follows is the parental expectation that the oh so strict rules they desire in place will be applied to every child but their own. Our courts, our school yards, our dormitories and our offices are filling up with a generation that thinks they can do no wrong and that their very words are golden. Every sniffle, every small milestone is puffed up into an event status. And those true rights of passage events like prom and graduation take on the trappings of a coronation. It is frightening to see seventh graders arrive for their first day of school in a limo. It is equally terrifying to overhear supposedly concerned moms talk about providing "safe places to drink" for after prom. What happened to the rules?

If you listen to the media, there's public outcry and demand for harder rules and strict and swift punishment. But what actually happens is that when an incident occurs-whether as simple as a kid getting a zero for not working or as serious as drug use or weapons on campus, there's always a parent there with a ready excuse. Sometimes these excuses go so far as to exemplify the young person as a "wronged" individual. Something like this happened in a city north of Dallas, where a fourteen year old shoved a teachers' aide, breaking her arm. She was sent to court and offered probation if her mother would supervise her better and make sure she got counseling. The mother refused. And the girl ended up in juvenile custody for over a year. But the story doesn't stop there. The student is African American. Since she is a minor, her record is sealed-but while her mother claims the girls was an innocent victim, others in the community cite the girl as a problem child. The mother gets a local hiphop station to protest. The girl is ultimately released, but only because of overcrowding. Now I ask you, what would you do with a student, and this girl isn't a petite thing, who shoves and breaks the arm of a school employee? Do you look the other way? And what of the mother? Why would she rather her daughter spend time in juvey than accept probation and serve it out? Doesn't that smack of dependent neglect?

This is just a small example of what our society is becoming. And if doesn't end there. As these big babies move into employment, the seem to think they can jet off from work with impunity. Imagine their shock when they get fired. And it happens over and over again. Have sex, make a baby, oops too much stress, run away. That's the pattern. Someone is always there to make the excuse. You can almost hear the parents chanting "he's too pressured, she's too stressed, he's an athlete, AEP will ruin her life, she's a cheerleader, he's on student council....." How long do they keep up the chant? I know of students who in college got pregnant. Now in most stories this would cause them to mature and take their lives into control. But not these kids. Nope, their parents pay for a luxury apartment, with a washer and dryer and cable and all the amenities. The pay for their car and car insurance. And the reason is "we want them to finish school ." Well, what was once four years has morphed into seven. The kids still count on that check from mom and dad every month. And as their parents retirement accounts dwindle and their parents keep working into their mid 60's and 70's-at some point the parents will either become too old to work or drop dead trying to support these Big Babies and their insatiable, intolerable narcissism. And the parents support these activities.

Please understand, I am a parent. There are times you support your kids. But there are also times you allow them to learn that they can support themselves. To constantly run interference for every bad decision insulates kids from the consequences. If they don't learn when they are nine or ten that bad decision sometimes created bad results, then we end up with adults who don't understand that they can't cook the books, or steal the profits or insider trade. While much is made of the ravages of street crime and white collar crime, not very much is said about the situations that create criminals. Most experienced teachers can tell you who the scam artists are. They know which kids have parents who offer structure and accountability, because those kids are usually well behaved, responsible and independent. Only those that have serious developmental or disability issues will have parents going to bat. Teachers can also tell which kids have parents too busy trying to be friends rather than enforcing rules. They come to school dressed as a gangster or a thug, or wearing peekaboo blouses and slashed jeans. When parents are called about any violation, the parent either doesn't show up, or starts demanding for teachers to be fired. Kids learn early on how to play people. And when the adult in their lives takes on the people who are demanding accountability, then they learn that rules can be broken and that they can get away with doing so by pouting, appearing remorseful or simply lying through their teeth. And that is just with small things. Locally we have had numerous incidents with cheerleaders drinking and performing aerial stunts, baseball players using steroids and wrestlers charged with hazing and sexual abuse. At what point do these activities stop being "high school hijinks" and become serious repetitive criminal behavior. Are we raising a generation of sociopaths?

Ultimately this creates an Ethic Vacuum where the kid assumes ANY behavior is excuseable. We had this demonstrated locally by the son of a locally placed DA. At age 16, the son was charged with shooting at girls at a local playground with a pellet gun. The result was a case tied up in court for over two years. At age 17, the same boy shot a shotgun at his fence, scaring workers nextdoor half to death. Once again, a case held up in court. Finally, at age 18, he tried to buy beer with a fake ID and when the clerk tried to stop him, the boy punched him and stole a case of beer. NOW he's in jail. But if his issues with authority and behavior had been addressed earlier, he wouldn't have an adult record. Now it becomes a permanent part of his history, one that employers and others can refer to when they need to make decisions about personnel. I do not think our society can endure with an entire generation of self-serving quasi-criminals. At some point someone is going to have to step in and say "enough". Right now these kids are young adults-I shudder to think what havoc they will generate as they age. And I wonder what further exploits the good kids of this generation are going to have to pay for via higher taxes, more laws and further invasion of privacy.

1 comment:

Dell said...

....and very soon -- if not already -- these very same youth will become parents themselves.

The thought boggles my mind.