Episode 11: Overprotection
“The cosseting of youth, and how it’s leaving them vulnerable in the real world.”
I’m Alan Weiss, welcome to The Uncomfortable Truth. Today…overprotection.
We have generational sobriquets you know? We have labels we attach to generations. The Greatest generation, the Boomer generation, Generation X and Y and Millennials. Today though, what we really have is the overprotected generation. Part of the growth experience, it seems to me, is getting into trouble. I don’t mean committing serial murder. I don’t mean arson, but I mean getting into trouble. The police come and chase you from playing in the streets, you trespass on property, you walk on people’s lawns. Nothing deadly or fatal, minor annoyances, but you learn the ropes that way. I’m not talking about robbing drug stores but I am talking about occasionally, you break a window when you’re a kid. It’s not using crack cocaine, but it is sometimes, in high school, drinking too much even though you shouldn’t. This generation is overprotected. This generation is never going to get into trouble, never going to be exposed to anything that might be dangerous, or threatening, or even uncomfortable. The only word I can think of really is cosseted. Not a word I get to use very often.
You watch a school bus stop and people correctly stop behind it and stop on the opposite side of the road if it’s not a divided highway. But instead of the kid being on the corner, getting ready to get on the bus, the bus driver peers out the opening door and about 50 yards away, at a house, the door opens. And, maybe after a minute, a parent brings out the kid, says a few words to him and then he gets on the bus and the monitor checks the back, rear, front and sides and then gets back on the bus. No, I’m not arguing about how long it takes to wait for the bus to go, that’s alright. You could listen to music in your car to pass the time – but I am wondering about just how safe we have to be. Most of the bus monitors, as I’ve observed, by the way, are so heavy that when they bend down to look under the bus, they’re just staring at the top of the wheel. They can’t get down any closer to the ground.
There’s a movant to reduce or eliminate homework. There are parents who feel that kids shouldn’t have to do homework at night at all. Over here in Port Smith, in Rhode Island a few years ago, parents argued with the high school ruling that if a kid had a D in class, that kid could not play sports. The thinking was, that child, or young man, or young woman, needed to spend more time studying and not have sports as a diversion because academics was what it was all about. Well, the parents argued it should be an F. If you’re failing, fine but, a D is good enough. That’s the problem today. We lower the bar and make things good enough. I look at kids’ birthday parties, where sometimes we have to go to serve as transportation and there are as many parents as kids there. The parents come and they stay. They don’t want to lose sight of their kids. It’s not that they’re helping with the drinks and food, they just stay.
There are media warnings for everything. Media warnings about what might be coming, what you’re about to see. Do you ever see the initials before somebody’s programs on cable? TM, LBA, NYZ, what does all that mean? It’s on the screen for about half a second. You can’t figure it out anyway.
I’m not just talking about primary school here because now we have the absurdity that’s going on in universities. We actually have safe zones in universities. We have places kids can go to feel safe. Remember when we went to bed as children, we had a security blanket? I mean, I did but I don’t mind admitting that. I was under five years old. Now, we have safe zones. Some schools created safe zones for kids to go to in universities after Trump was elected as if the sky had fallen, as if the world were ending because your candidate didn’t get chosen.
Could you imagine being held to a safe zone, being given safety, being given sanctuary because your candidate didn’t get elected? We have microaggressions now. Freshmen attend an orientation session where some of these diversity officers lecture about microaggressions. In other words, you can’t say, “You guys,” because that assumes everyone’s a guy and you shouldn’t even though there are 5,000 field reporters every day, throwing the feedback to the anchors in the studio saying, “Back to you guys,” and half of you guys are female but you can’t say, “You guys.” They tell you not to automatically go to an Asian student and ask for help with your math. That’s not a microaggression, that might be stupidity.
There are trigger warnings for great literature. What you hear might upset you and if it upsets you, by no means read it. In other words, in this cossetted generation, if something’s going to upset you, stay away from it. Don’t be exposed to it. I mean, it’s only great literature that’s been around for hundreds of years so, we want you to stay away. We want you to be protected. We seem to feel that counseling is needed after an election. We give counseling as though it’s after a tragedy, after a natural disaster, after some terrorist act. We give people counseling because the election didn’t go the way that they wanted it to. We encourage preventing, in universities, opposing view speakers. Free speech is fine as long as you agree with the prevailing, progressive, liberal trends there. I make no political conclusions where other than, I don’t care what your political orientation is, it’s not sufficient if you’re not listening to other points of view because it’s narrow and it’s mindless yet, what happened at Middle Berry when the speaker was not only booed down but, assaulted along with a professor escorting him, is ridiculous. There are actually professors who defend this kind of thing.
We’ve gone to pass-fail in a lot of schools so it’s not a matter of getting a grade, it’s just a line you have to cross. Pass or fail, we don’t want to recognize you beyond that. In fact, a lot of schools, high schools, and universities, have gone away from top 10 students academically. It’s okay to reward a great athlete but not a great scholar. In fact, some schools have removed valedictorian. They no longer recognize the top person academically in a school because everyone should get, I guess, just the equivalent of a participation award. If you went to school, good enough. If you went to school for six years instead of four, you needed two more years, still good enough. Participations good enough. You don’t have to excel. Somebody inform Hilary Clinton about that.
People today make identity choices. You can put down that you have no gender. You can put down that you want to be known by a strange pronoun line ZE or RX or whatever and so, we’re cosseting people. We’re telling them not to worry, we’ll take care of them. Of course, capitalism doesn’t work that way once you’re out in the market and I’ve got news for you, capitalism has won. Communism hasn’t won, capitalism has won. It’s the way of the world and it’s a competitive framework. Capitalism is Darwinian. It’s the best system we’ve found. No, not perfect but it’s the best we’ve got and it does not cosset. Society moves forward by survival of the fittest, not survival of the un-fittest. William Graham Sumner was a classical Liberal. Now a branch, I guess you would call him a Libertarian. He taught at Yale. He was a spokesperson against Imperialism and in favor of what he called, “The forgotten man,” in the middle class. He championed the middle class.
What he said about Capitalism and society was this, “Let it be understood that we cannot go outside of this alternative. Liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest. Not, liberty, equality, and survival of the un-fittest. The former carries society forward and favors all of its best members. The latter carries society downward and favors all its worst members.” He wasn’t arguing about racism. He wasn’t saying that there were inferior races or inferior people but he did say in effect that talent outs, that you have to acknowledge the people who have the most talent and who express it and those aren’t the people being cosseted and protected. These are people who venture out into the capitalist world. Today, we have a great kind of dissidence in this cossetted generation. We have people who cannot write a letter. They can’t write a thank you note, they can’t write a business letter, they can’t write a memo. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to use their silverware. They attack their food as though battling, cave person like, to get the steak into their mouths.
We take the position that everyone should get a chance, you know? You go to some of the meetings and instead of the meeting putting up the most talented people to speak or to facilitate or to lead, they give everyone a chance and most of those people aren’t good enough to do what needs to be done and you see this at a variety of nonprofits especially. Let’s give everyone a chance. Well, why don’t you give the audience and the members and the participants, the best possible each time instead of giving all of your own people a chance. We think that parents and schools and now even employers should take care of everyone – that there’s no reason to take care of yourself. We think that protests are action but getting in the street rarely produces any action except littering the street and then everyone goes home again.
No one is born a bigot. No one is born inept. No one is born a victim. No one is born self-absorbed. We create those conditions. I supported my kids but I didn’t support them to the point of disempowering them. I supported them so they could make their own decisions and go out on their own and lead their own lives and earn their own money. I don’t believe it’s my job in life to make my kids wealthy and to protect them as adults. Support them yes, but not protect them. We used to sleep with those security blankets I talked about, as infants and it seems now, those blankets are being used to smother us and so, I don’t think we should have a cossetted generation but, that’s the uncomfortable truth.