Okay, maybe we’re not quite there yet but nearly. Almost everyone I know is broke almost all the time regardless of their income. No one seems to have much disposable income these days. Everyone is in debt. Everyone, including the United States itself. We are a nation of credit. No one has a job that’s “safe” from being laid off or is worry-free from being fired for something. More adult “children” are living at home with their parents during and after college than before. More adult “children” are living with their parents into their late 20’s and into their 30’s without having gone to higher education at all than before. More adult “children” are moving back home with their parents than ever before, and many of them are bringing their spouses and their own children with them.
Parents are filling out job and college applications for their kids. Parents are writing essays for their kids college applications. Self-discipline and self-motivation is diminishing, if not nearly completely tanked. Kids are shell-shocked when they get to college, and often take up to six years to graduate with a four-year degree. If a class is difficult, the first instinct is to drop it and not stick it out and work hard. College is seen as party time, freedom from rules at home, even though that’s the time to buckle down and get the best grades of your life.
This statement is attributed to President Obama in 2010:
“It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us and Singapore having better airports than us. We just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth… that used to be us.”
Of course as Americans wanting our country to be The Best At Everything and refusing to take even second place, this is clearly Unacceptable even to our president. We must be The Best. First place. The single top Super Power. Technology has always been the deciding factor about who’s on top. We’re certainly a country that depends on technology, and it surrounds us. You can’t get away from it. Just going to a public restroom you’re likely to hear someone on a cell phone or texting in the next stall (seriously, you can’t wait three minutes?). Those technologies aren’t ours. We may have paid for them, but they don’t belong to us.
A guest on the Today Show this morning was discussing this topic. I found it fascinating. He then stated something that I remembered from Political Science class in college: The Five Pillars to help build a great society are:
- Educate our people
- Build the best infrastructure
- Have the best hope laws for immigration and attracting the best talent
- Create/have the best rules for investing
- Government funded research
But all five “pillars” are pointing down. That’s why we’re not the best any more (according to this guest on the Today Show this morning). It’s the truth, though. Completely the truth.
If you can even afford to send your child to college, you need help from scholarships and grants and you could still end up spending tens of thousands of dollars per year for a public state school. It’s hundreds of thousands for private school by the time they’re done with a four-year degree. Getting a college degree is a necessity, but it’s impossible for so many because of the cost. Not enough money is being spent on grade school education in the public system, and not enough parents care about helping their children. Those that do are often stuck between working too many hours to put food on the table and are unable to spend the time needed with their child on homework. Funding is cut from music and art programs. We don’t pay our teachers nearly enough. Parents don’t support their children’s teachers enough, but are perfectly ready to heap loads of blame on them for misbehavior their children display or when their children fall behind in academics.
Children aren’t encouraged to learn things that would bring them culture. Hell, they’re encouraged to use cell phones and use texting as their main form of communication and are then shocked when high school and college professors don’t accept chat speak in their term papers. They’re shocked when they’ve lost the ability to form full sentences with complete grammar and correct spelling and they’re held accountable in their grades for it. We’re behind nearly every developed country in our education. That’s unacceptable. And yet… do you know how many times I’ve been told that I’m “judgmental” and “mean” for just hoping people would at least make an attempt at correct spelling and grammar by opening up spell check and grammar check before posting something online? When writing is your only or main mode of communication with certain people, then you ought to be concerned with being legible. You ought to be concerned with being understood.
We’ve lost that want in this country and it shows. We’ve lost the wish to be more than we are. We’ve lost the want to aspire to be the best at what we choose to do, whatever it is we choose to do. We don’t choose amazing things to do any more either. Instead, we choose to flood areas that don’t need any more average Joes… like finance. Banking. Investment. No one is choosing the creative and active job skills, the job skills that are in high demand and that pay well… because they’re hard work. We need artisans. We need skilled laborers.
This is paraphrased, but this next bit relates both to personal life as well as politics and how we as a nation (America) have fallen behind in the world in technologies and advancements:
Our sustainable values have changed. Parents need to understand that average is over. If all you ever do is all you ever did, then all you ever get is all you’ve ever gotten. We now have to bring something extra to the table. We have to be special to stand out, to get that job.
Nothing is owed to me. I have to work hard to get to the top.
Bring the bottom up to the average. Then raise the average higher than it currently is and raise our average to be higher than the world average. Raise your expectations in yourself and others and be willing to work hard.
We actually need to do our best. We’ve become stagnant and satisfied with the things as they are. The status quo is no longer acceptable because it’s no longer good enough. It’s under par compared to the rest of the world. We expect better from our politicians, but look at what we’re churning out in our high schools and colleges and universities: kids that think that competition is bad, working hard is for losers, working hard sucks, and everyone owes them something. We’re working against the Generation of Self-Entitlement and Special Snowflakes.
A teacher looks at your 2nd grader the wrong way and is strict about classroom rules by actually making your child follow them? Change the teacher! The teacher is mean! A teacher has a high standard for a term paper and expects 20 pages at the least with proper citations, grammar, punctuation, spelling, outlining, footnotes, crediting quotes and sources, but a student hands in 15 pages and fails to perform to standard; Mamma Bear steps in and tries to bully the teacher into boosting the D grade to an A because Snowflake worked so hard for an entire weekend. In elementary schools, they don’t even keep score during games any more for fear of hurting feelings of children on the losing teams.
The biggest shift that will be the hardest to encourage is that nothing is owed to us. Absolutely nothing. We’ve become a nation that believes the government or our friends or our relatives or parents or kids… everyone owes us something. Services and goods for discounted rates or for free. More money than we deserve or are willing to work for. Businesses that aren’t willing to pay employees what they work for, reaming them for every penny and making them worry that at any minute they could lose their jobs for the most miniscule infraction.
Things can change. We have to do more than want them to change. We have to do more than demand change from our politicians. We have to affect change ourselves by encouraging education, hard work, and practicing what we preach. We need to stop being such delicate flowers and raise our children to be strong with a good work ethic and respect for other people as well as themselves.
Things can change, but we have to be willing. Change begins with us, and change begins with our children.