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Old 08-16-2006, 11:00 AM   #61
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Originally posted by yolland
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I agree that it's easier (plagiarism, which I typically encounter multiple times per semester--and not just from my undergrads--comes to mind), but I'm a bit confused as to what you're suggesting about the (im?)morality of it by referring to it in tandem with downloading. In the latter case there's often sincere disagreement about what does and doesn't qualify as theft, even setting aside the "record companies are greedy" rationalizations (which often seem to be acknowledging that it's theft, but arguing that in context theft isn't always wrong, depending on the behavior of the party being "deprived" through theft). But cheating is a bit less of a gray area, is it not? What room for disagreement would there be as to whether sneaking answers for a test into the classroom, or presenting work lifted from some article online as your own, is outside the bounds of the expected teacher-student relationship?

i think you've confused two issues -- in the initial post, 80s brought up two examples of moral decline: cheating, and stealing. i chose to talk about cheating in school and the possibilities as to why someone 10+ years older than i might view it as a greater problem amongst youth today (and thus strengthened his perceived notions of personal moral rectitude accorded by his membership in a particular generation). as for stealing, i chose to talk about downloading music since that was also tossed out as examples of the moral decline of America's youth.

i am not suggesting that one is on par with the other. rather, i view them as two distinct things, and i totally agree with you -- you'll notice that i did not defend cheating, but offered explanations as to why there might be more of it now than before thus furthering my overarching hypothesis that kids don't change, but the times they live in do. i agree that cheating is far more black-and-white, but the motivations to cheat have changed with the times, and i don't feel as if institutions of higher learning are at all blameless in contributing to the decline of learning-for-learning's-sake due to their obsessions with US News and World Report's annual college rankings. i see a disregard for learning and an increased concern with resume-building as a response to this environment. this is not to excuse it, or condone it, but merely to explain it.

having grown up in the thick of white middle-class achievement-obsessed suburbia where the college sticker goes on the back of the Volvo the minute a child is accepted into whatever prestigious university, i can fully understand where this response comes from because i lived in that environment. can you really expect a high schooler to draw a sense of self-worth from moral rectitude vis-a-vis "not cheating" when his whole worth (and, in suburbia, worth is often equated with achievement) being evaluated on criteria that have nothing to do with integrity, morality, or virtue?

again, wrong is wrong, and if a high schooler were caught cheating on his SATs or whatever, he'd be in the wrong and only a fool would try to defend himself. however, as we like to talk about "root causes" of terrorism that do not at all condone or excuse terrorism, we might do the same here to understand where the impluse comes from, and then look at ourselves and the values we're teaching our kids.

it took me years to understand that i was worth far more than the multiplication of my grades, SATs, and swimming times.
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Old 08-16-2006, 03:47 PM   #62
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Originally posted by Irvine511
having grown up in the thick of white middle-class achievement-obsessed suburbia where the college sticker goes on the back of the Volvo the minute a child is accepted into whatever prestigious university, i can fully understand where this response comes from because i lived in that environment. can you really expect a high schooler to draw a sense of self-worth from moral rectitude vis-a-vis "not cheating" when his whole worth (and, in suburbia, worth is often equated with achievement) being evaluated on criteria that have nothing to do with integrity, morality, or virtue?

it took me years to understand that i was worth far more than the multiplication of my grades, SATs, and swimming times.
Well granted, I probably don't need to tell you what kinds of bumper stickers the cars where I grew up usually had! lol. Actually, I can still remember being on a family trip somewhere--I think it might've been Memphis, in fact--when I was maybe 13, and seeing one of those "My Child Was An Honor Student At..." stickers for the first time, and thinking it was hilarious and just surreal. That said, I'm not sure there was really any readily identifiable, alternative source of "self-worth" available to kids where I grew up, though--certainly not any idea that they were especially moral or virtuous. If there was anything "affirming" there, it was maybe just the general noncompetitiveness and (frankly) resignation afforded by the insularity of the place. Obviously my parents did care a lot about our grades, and I'm pretty sure I remember my dad reading over and making suggestions on my brothers' college app essays, etc., but in general, as sappy as this probably sounds, their emphasis was always on A) learning as a joy in itself and B) degreed professions as a prime opportunity to help people (including your own future family, so it wasn't all hyperaltruistic), rather than impressing people or earning their respect. Not that respect was taken for granted or anything--it just wasn't central to their spiel at all, as I remember it.

I'm not sure either of our upbringings are necessarily broadly representative, though?

What sorts of factors would you say ultimately enabled you to understand that you were worth more than your achievements? Do you think we can infer any sorts of lessons about "the values we're teaching our kids"--or should be--from that?
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Old 08-16-2006, 04:13 PM   #63
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Originally posted by yolland
I'm not sure either of our upbringings are necessarily broadly representative, though?



well, i'd say about as representative as anything else. it's of course difficult to generalize, but i do think that we can say that the middle class is generally obsessed with advancement-via-education, and i think we can also say that parents do wish for their children to do at least as well as they have.

perhaps it's notions of "doing well" that i think is up for discussion.


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What sorts of factors would you say ultimately enabled you to understand that you were worth more than your achievements? Do you think we can infer any sorts of lessons about "the values we're teaching our kids"--or should be--from that?
i think gaining real life experience helped quite a bit. of course, i grew up intellectually understanding, or at least paying lip service to, all of these ideas about learning for the sake of learning, etc. but it wasn't until college where some of the pressure was off and i was in control of my academic destiny that i began to choose courses based upon what was interesting to me and not what would augment a GPA (though many people, especially those headed for law or medical school or aiming for early entrance into Phi Beta Kappa padded their course schedule). even in high school i was quite resistant to this culture, but i felt powerless to do much about it -- whereas in college i was much more the master of my domain.

i think gaining experience in the working world, where there are fewer quantifiable measures of success -- or, at least, you're not being continually evaluated with numerical grades as you are in school -- you begin to see the extent to what might be loosely defined as "character" start to count. maybe it was me, maybe it was fully leaving my environment (going to Europe, not joining the recently graduated classes consulting and teaching and going to law school in NYC or Boston like most of my peers), but the "phonies" of the world seemed more easy to spot. perhaps some of it was simply growing up and defining myself -- and, honestly, coming out had quite a bit to do with it -- and understanding that the hardest thing to learn and yet the most crucial thing to learn is that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about you and your choices. and i think kids who grow up in middle-to-upper-middle class are trained to be parent-pleasing achievement machines (perhaps a reflection of a more self-absorbed method of parenting?) have to learn that they are not on this earth to please their parents, or to do what their parents want, or to continue upon the path their parents have placed them upon.

this is why i spoke of the maturing process, of growing out of the impulse to cheat -- for you begin to see the corrosive effects that cheating can have on your sense of self that might not be readily apparent to others. as an adult, you have to live with yourself. there is something to be said for being able to get up each and every moring and look at yourself in the mirror and fine okay with who you are and where you are and, perhaps most importantly, how you got there.

a dishonest life is not one i could live with; i learned that in a very visceral way.
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Old 08-17-2006, 09:32 AM   #64
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Irvine511
[B]

and i think kids who grow up in middle-to-upper-middle class are trained to be parent-pleasing achievement machines (perhaps a reflection of a more self-absorbed method of parenting?) have to learn that they are not on this earth to please their parents, or to do what their parents want, or to continue upon the path their parents have placed them upon.
[unQUOTE]

I recall growing up at a time when the social analysts and writers were referring my generation as the "me generation" (hence our self-absorbed method of parenting?) where good grades and going to college weren't as emphasized--it was party, party, party--the residual effect of the free love notions and anti-war, politically active generation that came before. We rebelled against the political aspect of being and embraced the free love, grow out your hair, a sort of 'rock and roll you fuckin' pukes kind of mentality and postpone growing up. (The result: A large number of guys of my gen. still haven't grown up... that's alot of man-childs out there!)-- psst. I'm not one of them. Like Irvine, I grew up and loved learning for the sake of learning and valued achieving a higher level of education.
You could say that each of us is effected by the "pressures" society puts upon us at the time. I can empathize with what the current generation is going through: the pressure to get good grades and into the best schools so you can get that high paying job and acquire material things, but imagine what it was like growing up during the Depression...and eventually getting stuck with The World's Greatest Generation label. WTF?! Yet while the Boomer generation label is descriptive, each succeeding generation received a normative label to live down to. I recall in some circles Gen X was called the Less Than Zero Generation (now that's normative).
What does all this have to do with the intial question of the moral fiber of the current generation? Maybe what we need to start doing is: stop judging each generation before they have a chance to grow up and acquire character. Every generation is going to have its members that a) don't grow up; and b) never develop a Jiminy Cricket. Perhaps we should toss out all the useless labels and allow each generation to face its own unique challenges and issues in its own way...and then maybe we can attach a label to them that best fits how they collectively deal with these societal pressures.
Or maybe we're seeing the effects of extreme capitalism growing up right before our eyes.
I think we should all take a collective sigh of relief that we live in these times together rather than in the 1440s-70s in Romania where we could have been known as the impaled generation!
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Old 08-18-2006, 12:02 AM   #65
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
well, i'd say about as representative as anything else. it's of course difficult to generalize, but i do think that we can say that the middle class is generally obsessed with advancement-via-education, and i think we can also say that parents do wish for their children to do at least as well as they have.
Yeah, I can agree with those points. I guess what I had in mind was more things like the fact that 40% of all freshmen nationwide now arrive needing *at least* one remedial (i.e., noncredit) course--almost always comp--to bring skills they should've mastered in high school up to minimum college competence level. Of course this trend is less obvious at good private schools, and it definitely doesn't mean remedial students are any less "resume-oriented" than others in their attitudes. It just means the latter quality--like cheating--perhaps isn't as strongly associated with high achievers in my mind.
Quote:
...it wasn't until college where some of the pressure was off and i was in control of my academic destiny that i began to choose courses based upon what was interesting to me and not what would augment a GPA (though many people, especially those headed for law or medical school or aiming for early entrance into Phi Beta Kappa padded their course schedule). even in high school i was quite resistant to this culture, but i felt powerless to do much about it -- whereas in college i was much more the master of my domain.

i think gaining experience in the working world, where there are fewer quantifiable measures of success -- or, at least, you're not being continually evaluated with numerical grades as you are in school -- you begin to see the extent to what might be loosely defined as "character" start to count. maybe it was me, maybe it was fully leaving my environment (going to Europe, not joining the recently graduated classes consulting and teaching and going to law school in NYC or Boston like most of my peers), but the "phonies" of the world seemed more easy to spot. perhaps some of it was simply growing up and defining myself -- and, honestly, coming out had quite a bit to do with it -- and understanding that the hardest thing to learn and yet the most crucial thing to learn is that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about you and your choices. and i think kids who grow up in middle-to-upper-middle class are trained to be parent-pleasing achievement machines (perhaps a reflection of a more self-absorbed method of parenting?) have to learn that they are not on this earth to please their parents, or to do what their parents want, or to continue upon the path their parents have placed them upon.

this is why i spoke of the maturing process, of growing out of the impulse to cheat -- for you begin to see the corrosive effects that cheating can have on your sense of self that might not be readily apparent to others. as an adult, you have to live with yourself. there is something to be said for being able to get up each and every moring and look at yourself in the mirror and fine okay with who you are and where you are and, perhaps most importantly, how you got there.

a dishonest life is not one i could live with; i learned that in a very visceral way.
This is very beautifully said, but it also makes me kind of sad to read, because it sounds as if you attribute most of the decisive factors in enabling you to take ownership of your life to what were essentially fortuitous circumstances--not necessarily pleasant ones of course, but not really conducive to deriving some way there applicable to other "parent-pleasing achievement machines," either. Perhaps this is inevitable and just one of those "Yeah, well, such is life" things?

The bit about self-absorbed parenting is interesting, and I wonder what sorts of things you have in mind by that. I could see this as meaning a kind of vicarious thing where you try to mold your children into all the various impressive things you feel you've failed to be whether that suits them or not, or alternatively as meaning an attempt to innoculate them against failure (at what?) by forcing them early and hard into hyper-self-discipline in multiple arenas, with the result that they internalize the "how" of achievement but not the "why." Perhaps it's more like both, or perhaps neither of these is what you had in mind.

I too found my "working world" experience (in retail), as well as the studying abroad I did, in grad school to be "character"-building--even though I didn't much care for retail at all, and often felt lonely to the point of despair abroad. Both experiences gave me an ability to prioritize, and to quickly decide what was extraneous bullshit not worth worrying about, without which I might very well have burnt out after my first couple years of teaching, which were extremely stressful (two kids during the same timespan didn't help, lol). I'm tempted to say just about any new graduate could benefit from a year's worth of not-so-resume-oriented experience of this type, but of course that simply wouldn't be feasible for many.

And I'm tempted to go off on a quasi-defensive, quasi-don't-get-me-started-type rant about the US News & World Report rankings and their relationship to "resume-building" culture (and CV-building culture, as well), but I'm afraid it would all sound too remote and too irrelevant to the topic at hand, so I'll restrain myself. Just suffice to say, this phenomenon and all that accompanies it--which is a lot--is the result of 5 decades' worth of relentlessly drastic change in the economic, demographic, bureaucratic and personnel dimensions of academia, and unfortunately way too complicated to qualify as a garden variety corporate-greed/status-worship problem.
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Old 08-18-2006, 12:45 AM   #66
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My initial impression when reading the original question was:

Hmmm...Abramoff, Enron, Tyco, etc. Don't see too many youngsters there.
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Old 08-18-2006, 12:43 PM   #67
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My initial impression when reading the original question was:

Hmmm...Abramoff, Enron, Tyco, etc. Don't see too many youngsters there.
I think there's a bit of misunderstanding about the point of my thread.

This thread was not intended to be about "current youngsters" vs "current adults".

It was actually intended to create a comparison between "the way things were for us when we were kids" and "the way things are for kids of today".
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Old 08-18-2006, 12:55 PM   #68
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Originally posted by 80sU2isBest

It was actually intended to create a comparison between "the way things were for us when we were kids" and "the way things are for kids of today".
I kind of thought that too - the major difference I've noticed is a lot of kids today have very little respect for anyone - their parents, teachers, boss...I'm not saying all kids but some. I hear them cursing their parents in the stores or hear my friends gripe about the teens who call off work every Friday night, etc. and could care less if they're going to get fired......and I don't remember a lot of that going on when I was a teenager
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Old 08-18-2006, 01:48 PM   #69
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I kind of thought that too - the major difference I've noticed is a lot of kids today have very little respect for anyone - their parents, teachers, boss...I'm not saying all kids but some. I hear them cursing their parents in the stores or hear my friends gripe about the teens who call off work every Friday night, etc. and could care less if they're going to get fired......and I don't remember a lot of that going on when I was a teenager
I don't either.
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Old 08-18-2006, 02:12 PM   #70
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Originally posted by MsGiggles
I kind of thought that too - the major difference I've noticed is a lot of kids today have very little respect for anyone - their parents, teachers, boss...I'm not saying all kids but some. I hear them cursing their parents in the stores or hear my friends gripe about the teens who call off work every Friday night, etc. and could care less if they're going to get fired......and I don't remember a lot of that going on when I was a teenager
I wonder where they learn that stuff. Oh, that's right. Television.

We try and view all shows our kids want to watch. Most of the stuff on Nickelodeon involves kids who don't respect their parents, and parents are portrayed as idiots who can only make it through life with help of their children.
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Old 08-19-2006, 04:39 AM   #71
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Quote:
Originally posted by 80sU2isBest


I think there's a bit of misunderstanding about the point of my thread.

This thread was not intended to be about "current youngsters" vs "current adults".

It was actually intended to create a comparison between "the way things were for us when we were kids" and "the way things are for kids of today".
Yeah and that is loaded with your own bias, you pick your social circles and they are usually based on socio-economic status whereas interactions with kids is much more random. Likewise if I want to make an argument about my generation based on my social circle I am looking at a bunch of university students of middle class background and it is totally skewed. I hate to admit it but this is an area where statisticians may actually be useful.

I also suppose that one could make the argument that this "moral decline" is on the basis of the drop in corporal punishment - while my Dad got the belt and cane I got the wooden spoon and the way things are trending I doubt that such punishment can be readily used against kids as much as it was 'back in the day' - this has significant positive effects although probably a few negatives.

One piece that I am very mild to is the concept of encouraging self-esteem in underachievers and not rewarding those that put in the effort - that goes with the ideas of self-entitlement and demanding status irrespective of achievement. Sure we never see a "perfect" meritocracy but the overwhelming ammount of people get no special entitlement in the real world and very few of us are special and important to the world, we should deal with that.
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Old 08-19-2006, 10:43 AM   #72
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Yeah and that is loaded with your own bias, you pick your social circles and they are usually based on socio-economic status whereas interactions with kids is much more random.
Some of the kids I am talking about ae not just "random" kids. Some of them are my own nieces and nephews, kids who were raised by middle-classers like myself, my own brothers and sisters. Those are the ones who shock me and disappoint me the most, because I know how they are raised and of course how their parents were raised.
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Old 08-19-2006, 11:58 AM   #73
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Well, at the risk of insulting your bros. and sisters, 80's which is not at all my intent, I would say that any problem with "kids today" can largely be laid at the feet of parents today. Poor parenting, overly permissive "let me be my child's best friend" parenting contributes perhaps more than media, or "society" than anything else in my opinion. So if there is in any moral failure or decline, perhaps it has happened in our own generation not theirs.

I hope that's not too sweeping a statement, and it's certainly not meant as an indictment of the many fine parents here on this forum.

I think implicit in this question is the further question: Is the world getting worse? I'm inclined to say what has changed most in terms of "morals" is not so much people's behavior--people have always "done wrong"--but more people's attitude towards "bad behavior." We're seeing the death of shame, I think, and so people are now more open about the "bad things" that have always gone on, but is only now openly acceptable.

I also agree with BVS statement that some morals have definitely improved. When it comes to racism, sexism etc, we've have defiinitely improved morally in those arenas. But funny how the "world is going to hell in a handbasket" crowd aren't so concerned about morals like that, and more concerned about say, issues of sexuality.

Finally, in regards to the downloading issue. I confess, I've done it. I don't defend it. I feel a little guilty about it, but not that guilty. I've set up my own little set of standards to make myself feel like less of a crook (If I like an album somone has downloaded for me--which is the way I get most of my stolen music, then I will buy the real album. If I don't, then I never listen to it anyway which is almost as if I never had it. For singles, I only go to limewire--or again have my friend get it for me--if I can't find the single on i-tunes.) I make mix CDs with impunity from my own collection with nary a twinge from my hardened conscience. I also watch full episodes of TV shows from the States on Youtube so that I don't have to wait for two weeks to watch them on our increasingly erratic cable here in Saipan. (Maybe this belongs in zoo confessional, eh?). Oh, and I also speed. Sometimes going as much as 5 to 10, and in the states as much as 15 miles over the speed limit, causing a danger to others on the road.

What's my point? That there are certain laws that many if not most of us break. Does that make it okay? Perhaps not. Take speeding. They have speeding limits for a reason right? And yet I'd wager many of you break them with impunity just like I do. Breakin' the law, breakin' the law. . .and yet we feel little or no guilt and we go on. . .

I'm not sure what I think about it. . .I'm just saying it happens.
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Old 08-19-2006, 12:24 PM   #74
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Well, at the risk of insulting your bros. and sisters, 80's which is not at all my intent, I would say that any problem with "kids today" can largely be laid at the feet of parents today.
Yes, many can, but not "any problem", which in the context you placed it, means "all problems".

Many times, kids who are raised by their parents with certain values, through exposure to kids who were not, do not reflect the parent's values.

The nieces I am talking about aren't "bad" kids at all, but I can definitely see instances in which they do not reflect the way in which they are raised.
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Old 08-19-2006, 12:26 PM   #75
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I think implicit in this question is the further question: Is the world getting worse? I'm inclined to say what has changed most in terms of "morals" is not so much people's behavior--people have always "done wrong"--but more people's attitude towards "bad behavior." We're seeing the death of shame, I think, and so people are now more open about the "bad things" that have always gone on, but is only now openly acceptable.
That was actually my point itself. My initial post wasn't about the fact that they do "so and so" more, but that the attitude toward "so and so" has changed.
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