21 August 2012

Ode to Lifelong Incompetence: Shite on a Silver Platter

The Wall Street Journal offers an disturbing perspective on the emerging listless incompetence of generations of young adults without a cause, purpose, or meaningful goal. But should we blame the Journal and its writer Melinda Beck for such an enabling of societal decay, or should we blame the "experts" who were quoted?

The article is framed as an attempt to reassure the parents of sluggish and vacant twenty-somethings, suggesting that their vapid little darlings have simply not found themselves yet -- just give them time. After all, the article suggests, their brains do not fully mature until their middle twenties or later. How could we expect them to make important decisions?

Psychologists and cognitive scientists are quoted, backing up this acquiescent and neglectful approach to child-raising and fledging. But where would those "experts" be if their own parents had raised them to be dormant blockheads well into their twenties and beyond? They would probably not be considered worthy of being quoted in the WSJ. We could ask author Melinda Beck the same question: Where would you be if you had been content to wile away the years until you were a thirty-something, before you began your career and/or family?

Here is Jay Giedd, neuroscientist of the US NIMH:
"Until very recently, we had to make some pretty important life decisions about education and career paths, who to marry and whether to go into the military at a time when parts of our brains weren't optimal yet," says neuroscientist Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health, whose brain-imaging studies of thousands of young people have yielded many of the new insights. Postponing those decisions makes sense biologically, he says. "It's a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time for self-discovery." _Melinda Beck in WSJ
Is the man completely insane? "It's a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time of self-discovery???" That type of disconnectedness from the reality of life reminds me of people who say it is a good thing that robots will take over almost all manual jobs, relieving human workers of their responsibilities. That way, "humans can devote themselves to art, literature, travel, and other enobling leisure pursuits."

Here is Jeffrey Arnett, psychology professor at Clark in Worcester:
"It should be reassuring for parents to know that it's very typical in the 20s not to know what you're going to do and change your mind and seem very unstable in your life. It's the norm," says Jeffrey J. Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who coined the term "emerging adulthood" in 2000. _WSJ
Oh. Are you, Professor Clark, volunteering to pay the child's living expenses, his university bills for 6 different half-finished courses of study, and otherwise support this overgrown child for the foreseeable future? I didn't think so.

More from Dr. Arnett:
"It pays to relax and not panic because your 21-year-old or even your 26-year-old doesn't know what he or she is going to do. Almost nobody still has that problem at 40 or 50. We all figure it out eventually." _WSJ
And if they still have that problem at 40 or 50, can we call you for advice, professor?

Here is Jennifer Tanner, developmental psychologist:
Even young adults who are financially dependent on their parents can practice independence in other ways. "My advice is, if your parents are currently doing things for you that you could do for yourself, take the controls. Say, 'No. Mom, Let me get my own shampoo,' " says Jennifer Tanner, a developmental psychologist and co-chair of the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood, an academic organization. _WSJ
I see. If only we can get our children to get their own shampoo, everything else will take care of itself? Very reassuring indeed.

To illustrate how stressful and trying young adulthood can be, we are presented with 28 year old Nikki Cohen, case study:
At age 28, Nikki Cohen has explored more careers than many people do in a lifetime. After a year as a pre-med student at Emory University, the Long Island native moved back to New York to attend Parsons School of Design. "I decided fashion was more exciting than science and a little more 'me,' " Ms. Cohen says.

She opened a clothing boutique when she was 23 and starred in a short-lived reality show, "Downtown Girls," on MTV. When the show was canceled and her store fell victim to the economic downturn, Ms. Cohen decided she was passionate about health issues after all and is now completing her master's thesis in health education at Columbia University.

"It's definitely a scary time," says Ms. Cohen. "I'm fearful that I'm not going to get a job or meet a man that makes me happy for more than a month. But I'm also happy that I get to try out different things." _WSJ
It does tear at one's heartstrings.

It is certainly true that a person's brain is not "fully mature" until the middle to late 20s. But that does not mean that a person should not be held responsible as an adult until then. After all, no sooner does a brain become "fully mature" than it begins to lose its power of focus and memory -- little by little. Should we view these 30 something, 40 something, 50 something and beyond as disabled by reason of normal aging?

Modern education and child-raising is geared toward delaying adult responsibility and achievement until a much later time than earlier generations were geared. Once, the late teens were seen as proper ages to set out on one's own. More recently it was the early twenties. Now we are being told that autonomy from parents may have to wait until into the thirties.

Rather than following this path of the pop PC skankstream mainstream, the WSJ should be pushing for the kinds of changes which will strengthen the future innovative and productive foundational core of a society, rather than enabling a passive weakening the foundations.

But it seems that the WSJ is merely another part of the skankstream mainstream, after all. If people want to lay the groundwork for a more solid and abundant future, they will have to look elsewhere than the media, the academy, or the government.

But then, you already knew that, right?

It is never too late for a dangerous childhood.

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Blogger kurt9 said...

Even in the late 80's (long after the hippies and the mid 70's stuff), it was normal for college kids to assume independent adulthood once they graduated from college (age 22). Most of them tended to get married around age 24-25 and have their first kid around 27-28. This was the pattern for your typical college educated/career person. At least this is the way it was in places like Seattle and Phoenix. SoCal was more the adult playground during the 80's (which is one of the reasons I lived there at the time).

The delayed adolescence began showing up with the Gen-X'ers in the early 90's. Now everywhere is like SoCal.

Tuesday, 21 August, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. Much like a spreading virus, this parasitic meme is ultimately lethal to the societies it infects.

The biological clock has not been revoked.

Tuesday, 21 August, 2012  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Some of it is economics. Do remember the whinging about the Gen-X slackers during the early 90's. Many of the same things you are saying about young people today were said about them then. As soon as the economy picked up, many Gen-X'ers became very career oriented. Then there were articles about how the Gen-X'ers were too career oriented.

Like this one:


I think things will be fine once the economy picks up.

Wednesday, 22 August, 2012  
Blogger Matt M said...

The 20's should be a decade for building a skill set to take you through adulthood. Without skills - earning power will never increase.

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, Son."
Dean Wermer - Animal House

Thursday, 23 August, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

That is certainly the conventional viewpoint, Matt.

But in reality, the 00s (childhood) and the 10s (teens) are the decades to build a skill set to take you well into adulthood. The fact that those decades are largely wasted in government education quasi-babysitting, delinquency training, and PC indoctrination is what makes the modern wasting of the 20s decade so poignant.

By the time a dangerous child is 18, he should possess sufficient marketable skills and competencies to earn a decent living at least 3 different ways. At that point, he can pay his own way through the brave new world of higher education, career shopping and changing, overseas travel and work, etc.

It is never too late to have a dangerous childhood. But the biological clock has not been revoked. It eventually runs down on everyone.

Thursday, 23 August, 2012  
Blogger Dan Kurt said...

Re: Things will get better.....

I fear that too many structural impedements exist for a normal recovery such as:
1) 100,000+ legal & refuge immigrants arriving per month;
2) the illegal in flux;
3) democrats in charge mainly ( and fellow travelers ) at all levels of government as well as the media, education, and clergy;
4) Military led by men without character;
5) National Debt ( accrued ) four plus Trillion;
6) Federal Defecit two Trillion a year and climbing;
7) Lower level governments ( State & Muni ) in or approaching bankrupt status;
8) National IQ mean level dropping year by year for various reasons;
9) Effectively educated population dropping yr by yr;

Thursday, 23 August, 2012  
Blogger Dan Kurt said...

10) Middle class losing its nerve, that is,losing its hope in future;
11) Near universal understanding that Legal & Judical System permits gaming and is corrupted;
12) No leader exists to turn around the ship of state.

Dan Kurt

Thursday, 23 August, 2012  
Blogger Anomaly UK said...

Recently, two of my friends, call them Fred1 and Fred2, have gone mad in their early forties. I don't have that many friends, so this has been quite striking.

The lives of the two men are very different. One stayed in university to get an engineering PhD and then drifted into the European technical/civil service. Even this was too chaotic for him, and he gradually retreated into a zone he felt he could control. He's been unemployable for about a decade, and now is unable to deal with the outside world sufficiently to even survive outside of a mental institution.

The other seemed the opposite; extroverted, far-left activist, an outspoken violent dropout in voice, dress and culture. He made an attempt to take on responsibility in his thirties, acquiring a wife and children, but he couldn't hold down a job, and the marriage didn't last, leaving him with the kids. Being a single parent on welfare is no life for a man, and his abrupt lurch to craziness seems an almost conscious escape.

What the two men have in common is the thirty-year childhood. One in the "nurturing" institutions of school and university, and the other in a semi-permanent boyhood supported by his parents and the state. What they didn't gain in those thirty years was tolerance of a world that is messy, that is full of things and people that are not about you, and which you can't just walk away from.

School can be a bit like that, but if you are very academic like Fred1, you don't necessarily feel it, and if you are prepared to fight it like Fred2, you don't really have to put up with much. (An interesting point about Fred2 is that even in his late 30s he went on about his schoolteachers -- since he hadn't been under any kind of
discipline at all since he was 16, they loomed large in his mind).

I myself am like Fred1, but I got a job with a small company at 22 and got married at 25. That was cutting it fine, I think -- another couple of years and I would have left it too long to adapt to living in other people's world.

Thursday, 30 August, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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