Friday, November 30, 2007

Then and Now

A few months back, in a post I called "The Bubble-Wrapped Child," I lamented the great extents to which parents nowadays go to protect their children from real and imagined dangers that parents and children of my generation (and earlier) took for granted as a normal part of the process of growing up.

Related to this is the unfortunate (downright moronic, if you ask me) tendency of many Americans today to go to insanely stupid lengths in reaction to things we once accepted as normal. In many instances, we've become a nation of whiny crybabies, resorting to lawsuits out of greed, sheer laziness, or a lack of willingness to talk problems out with our neighbors. Many people have commented on this trend, which seems to benefit only the lawyers and others who specialize in capitalizing on the stupidity of people who have lost the capacity to think for themselves and suffer from a common sense deficit.

Through the magic of e-mail, one of my co-workers sent me yesterday a marvelous piece which I reproduce here with only minor edits. As another of my friends once said, it's a bit like a clown on fire - kind of funny, but kind of sad at the same time. In 1967, I was a sophomore in high school; today I'm a crusty father and grandfather who really appreciates the differences between then and now, as expressed in these eight scenarios:

1967 vs. 2007

Scenario #1: John goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1967 - Vice principal comes over to look at John's shotgun. He goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show John.

2007 - School goes into lockdown, and FBI is called. John is hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario #2: John and Bob get into a fistfight after school.

1967 - Crowd gathers. Bob wins. John and Bob shake hands and end up best friends.

2007 - Police called. SWAT team arrives. John and Bob are arrested and charged with assault. Both are expelled even though John started it.

Scenario #3: Bill won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1967 - Bill sent to office and given a good paddling by the principal. He returns to class, sits still, and does not disrupt class again.

2007 - Bill is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from the State because Bill has a learning disability.

Scenario #4: Scott breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1967 - Scott is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2007 - Scott's dad is arrested for child abuse. Scott is placed in foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist convinces Scott's sister that she remembers being abused herself, and their dad goes to prison. Scott's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario #5: Mike has a headache and brings some aspirin to school.

1967 - Mike takes aspirin in lunchroom and headache goes away.

2007 - Police called. Mike is expelled from school for drug violations. Car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario #6: Ken fails English in high school.

1967 - Ken goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2007 - Ken's cause is taken up by a wide range of activists. Newspaper articles appear nationally charging that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files a class action lawsuit against the state school system and Ken's English teacher. Teacher is fired and English is removed from core curriculum. Ken is given a diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he can’t speak, read, and write English.

Scenario #7: Jeff takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, and blows up an ant hill.

1967 - Ants die.

2007 - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security, and FBI called. Jeff is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates parents; siblings are removed from home; computers are confiscated. Jeff's dad goes on Terror Watch List and is never allowed to fly again. EPA files a lawsuit charging Jeff’s family with killing endangered ants.

Scenario #8: Andy falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher who hugs him to comfort him.

1967 - Andy soon feels better and goes on playing.

2007 - Teacher is accused of being a sexual predator, loses her job, and faces three years in state prison. Andy undergoes five years of therapy at school expense.

If you both laughed and cried at these eight scenarios, you understand the Clown on Fire nature of this sad situation. Growing up in the 1950's and 60's, I experienced situations similar, if not identical to all of the above. I attended a Catholic grade school, had plenty of spankings and knuckle-raps from the Nuns, and was never once molested by a priest (all of our priests were real men of God we still admired and respected). I did lots of stupid and dangerous things, and somehow managed to reach successful adulthood without drugs, lawsuits or anything other than the love and support of great parents, the attention of good teachers (nuns and lay people), and the spiritual guidance of a series of fine pastors.

You have to wonder why we can't do the same today.

Have a good day. Practice and encourage common sense. You'll probably find you like it.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

9 comments:

John said...

Several years ago I heard a comedian named Brad Stine talk about this very thing. His album "Put a Helmet On" pokes fun at the way we deal with life today vs. yesterday.

While it is good that we want to protect our kids or the helpless members of our society, we often remove the experiences that made us grow and learn to cope with life thus creating more helpless people...that need our help!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Funny so much of this has to do with psychology etc...maybe the Scientologists have it write in that area. Dear Lord, did I just type that?

La Chanson de Phoenix said...

Get ready for possibly the longest comment you've ever had...

#3 Hits a very sore spot with me.

My daughter was also diagnosed with ADHD, and there is a marked disability because of it, but I strongly disagree with the Dr.'s recommendation to medicate her, especially after trying three different ones and getting undesirable consequences from each. She is fidgety and easily distracted and you know what? This can all be managed with behavioral work at HOME. I stopped seeing her Dr. because all he wanted was to medicate her, not teach her to sit still, not show us how to manage it at home, not tell us alternative methods... nope, just prescriptions.

While none of them made her a zombie, one gave her intense and scary mood swings (she was starting to self harm at age 8), another caused physical twitches and tics, and the last one caused her to have symptoms of heart problems. That was it. I put my foot down and I don't regret it. She's fidgety in class, deal with it. The teachers in my school did when I did it as a kid. (I was more a daydreamer who got distracted, though). She just needs a little extra guidance and reinforcement for her behavior. Once she gets into a habit (good or bad) it sticks. That's all I need to do with her.

Okay, ranting over...

#5.. I find that one ridiculous, to be honest. Can't use aspirin? Please. There are much worse things to worry about, and they enacted that law when I was in high school. Do you think it stopped us? nope, we were just more discreet about it. Breathmint, anybody? hahaha.

Does #7 actually happen?!

I can tell you, Bilbo, that I went from your childhood to the childhood of 2007. I watched all of these laws come into play and start being enforced. In the 80's and early 90's it was much as it 'used to be'... it wasn't until the 90's wore on that these changes all took form, and to be honest, watching it unfold in that way was an experience I will never forget. I saw the end of an era and the beginning of paranoia, front row seats.

Amanda said...

Your post has me worried about the sort of childhood my son is going to have. We're on a similar wavelengths again today because I just had a post about remembering to enjoy childhood with Aaron instead of over thinking things.

zero_zero_one said...

If there are enough of us out there who know about "common sense" how come laws and rules come into place that completely fly in the face of "common sense"?

How can people who set these rules get into positions of authority if their thinking is so contrary to rational thought?

Bilbo said...

Great comments, everyone!

Zero_zero_one, your point is well taken...if things are as screwed up now as they are, it must be because "we," who grew up in the more "common sense" times, made them that way. Why should that be? I'll need to think about this one and get back to you.

Sue, your approach to ADHD was the right one, of course. And yes, #5 is unutterably stupid...but, unfortunately, true.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

An excellent post. One for my Quality Post list

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