When I was a kid, aside from the desire to one day meet Donnie Wahlberg, I was predominantly motivated by one, omnipresent, unwavering emotion: fear.
Whether it was thanks to my over-protective parents, the domineering Catholic school nuns, or every “very special” ‘Diff’rent Strokes,’ episode, I was afraid of everything. Thanks ’80s!
If I got bad grades, I’d end up homeless. If I crossed the street, I’d end up mutilated in an alley. If I stayed out too late, I’d fall in a well like that Jessica girl. In any scenario in which I did the wrong thing, the result in my head was always the same – homeless, dead, stuck in a well.
That overwhelming sense of fear was actually a pretty healthy thing. It trained me to think about consequences – if only to avoid ending up homeless, dead or stuck in a well.
But kids these days don’t seem to have the same hang ups.
Exhibit A: Sexting.
In fact, kids today think they’re pretty awesome. A new study by psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues at the American Freshman Survey find there’s been a dramatic rise over the last four decades in the number of teenagers who describe themselves as being “above average” in areas like academics, drive, and self-confidence.
The study found that by many different measurements, kids today are not in fact as awesome as they used to be or as they think they are. If you don’t believe me just go to a Ke$ha concert.
But it’s not just parents and popular culture boosting their egos, lowering their standards and their inhibitions. It’s also our political culture.
When we fail to pay our debts, balance our budget, or fix our problems, is it any wonder kids these days have a warped sense of accountability and a delusional view of reality?
Kids don’t fear consequences because there are none. The fear that’s missing in today’s youth is also missing in Congress, and it’s a bipartisan problem. If the fiscal cliff negotiations proved anything, it’s that, like high schoolers, our elected leaders are worried more about popularity than actually accomplishing something. We ask only, Are they conservative enough? Are they liberal enough?
Well that’s the way teenagers evaluate one another – is she pretty enough? Is he cool enough? Who cares if she’s failing math or he’s dealing drugs after school?
Voters need only be reminded that kids today will be running the country tomorrow. Let’s teach them a valuable lesson by finally holding our representatives to higher standards than mere partisan points-scoring. Because the message to kids and Congress is the same: You aren’t special just for existing.