Saturday, August 11, 2007

I feel good, I knew that I would now

(Graphic from

I was shocked to read Jonah Goldberg in today's LATimes and find myself in agreement with him. But then I read further and found his premise to be, well, false:
These investments in self-esteem paid off royally, according to a study, "Egos Inflating Over Time." Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and a team of psychologists combed through the answers of 16,475 college students nationwide who took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory survey between 1982 and 2006. Their conclusion: Today's American youth are the most self-absorbed since we've studied the subject. "We need to stop endlessly repeating, 'you're special,' and having children repeat that back," Twenge told the Associated Press. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

Seems about right. Many times Pam & I have commented on the basic selfishness of today's generation, and this fits into that idea.

Of course Jonah looks far afield for the root cause:
Nonetheless, what I find fascinating is how our narcissism surplus, to some extent, is the unintended consequence of trying to use psychology as just another branch of public health. Saturday-morning cartoons during my youth were peppered with public service announcements informing kids that "you're the most important person in the whole wide world." The long-running TV show "Wonderama" became "Kids Are People Too" to reflect a new seriousness of childhood. The burgeoning "children's rights" movement -- to which a young Hillary Clinton was connected -- saw treating kids as peers to be of a piece with the new egalitarianism. Movies as diverse as "Taxi Driver," "Bugsy Malone" and "Irreconcilable Differences" fixated on treating kids like adults in one way or another.

Right. Thing is, as an older person than Jonah, I remember watching those kids shows for fun too. And nothing on "Kids Are People Too" was intended to create the kind of selfish entitlement he and I both despise. That is, until it shows up in shallow thinkers like Jonah.

The reality of that show was that it tried to foster mutual respect between age groups, by saying that kids deserve respect even as they learn what it means to become a full-fledged person. And "Taxi Driver" as an example? I can see that portraying Jodi Foster as a pre-pubescent hooker, with all the glamour and riches that brings to one's life, would be a great teaching example for youth. Sheesh.

And the gratuitous mention of Hillary Clinton, to include the "Left" in his blame group, is just a cheap shot.

To buttress his argument, Jonah says:
. . . the hand-wringing about youth's sense of entitlement can go overboard as well. Volunteerism is on the rise, not something you would necessarily expect even after discounting for the desire to pad transcripts and resumes.

Maybe in Young Republican circles it's on the rise, but in reality, not so much. Here's from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1/10/2007:
The proportion of the population who volunteered was 26.7 percent. This is 2.1 percentage
points lower than the volunteer rate in each of the prior 3 years and slightly lower than in 2002, the first year for which comparable data are available.

Persons age 35 to 54 continued to be the most likely to volunteer (31.2
percent), while persons in their early twenties were the least likely (17.8
percent). While all age groups showed declines in volunteer rates from the prior year, the largest decline was among teenagers. The volunteer rate for females age 16 to 19 fell from 33.5 to 28.8 percent, and the volunteer rate for males of that age fell from 27.4 to 24.1 percent.

More data over there shows that from '03 to '05, 16-25 year old volunteering was indeed up, but declined in '06 to a level below that in '02. Whatever.

Here's where it gets really . . . rich:
Another result is that the generation taught to share and care beyond all precedent has become the most singularly concerned in history with making a buck. A recent UCLA study found that nearly 75% of freshmen think that it's important to be rich, compared with 62.5% in 1980 and 42% in 1966.

Ya think? At least Jonah doesn't explicitly blame this on teevee, the media, or the Left. But in today's climate of Right-Wing entitlement, as presented by GWBush and his affirmative-action college degree, Grover Norquist and his tax hatred, Duke Cunningham and his cash for favors, Mark Foley et al for their homophobic posturing while living life as gay people, Romney's 5 sons serving in a Winnebago, wanting to become rich is completely normal.

Heck, Jonah wouldn't have had a chance at richness himself were it not for his
infamous mother, so he should understand about entitlement. And too much praise for kids.

Update: Jonah was right about the Army meeting recruitment goals. What he didn't tell us is that they had to bribe recruits (h/t Raw Story):

The army responded by offering 20,000-dollar bonuses if recruits signed up starting July 25 and shipped out to boot camp within a month and before September 30, said Julia Bobick, a spokeswoman at the army's recruiting command at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The signing bonus and other incentives can add up to a maximum 40,000 dollars for new soldiers.