As an American historian, I am aware of the patterns of social change that have occurred in the past. Since the 1900s, there have been several shifts in American society where the old ways were replaced by newer thoughts, theories, or norms. Some of these things were great strides in improving the nation while others have not had the expected or promised outcome. Right now, our nation is in the middle of such a transition. Some people point to the inauguration of President Barack H. Obama as the start of this transition, but in all fairness, the shift began long before he was nominated as the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2008 election.
In the beginning: politically correct little league sports
I first became aware of this trend in 1997 when I was attending classes at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. One afternoon, in between classes, I was in the student center watching CNN news on one of the overhead televisions when a story about a new trend in the Northeast began to run. The story highlighted the newest concept in building of the esteem of young athletes. Instead of only the winning team members receiving trophies for their efforts, everyone that participates would receive trophies. The article announced that the next season, scores would no longer be kept because the interests is in having fun and not in competition. The news story reported that all this was done so that those who were not good at baseball would not be stigmatized about their lack of athletic talents or abilities.
Now, almost twenty years later, and as a society we see the results of this line of logic. Instead of those youngsters being challenged to practice and get better and develop the skills needed, the challenge was removed. They were given a trophy – traditionally seen as an item of recognition for some great feat – simply for participating. This became a nationwide trend through the first decade of the twenty-first century with an unexpected result as the “everybody wins” mantra was adopted by the nation’s school systems. As early as 2000, it became almost impossible to fail students in elementary and junior high schools – instead the trend became “social promotion” where teachers were instructed to find ways to pass students, even if it means ignoring assignments that were completed less than satisfactory or not even submitted by the student. In the ten years I have been teaching at the college level, there has been an increase in students needing to take development courses in English and math. When I first began teaching at the college level the summer semester of 2004, I only had about 2 students out of a class of 30; this semester, the spring semester of 2014, I have 11 out of a class of 24. Political correctness and the “fear of failure” has now hamstrung public education to where it no longer effectively teaches students the basic skills needed to academically succeed.
This morning, as I stopped in at my favorite drive-thru fast food place, the manager began to ask me if my college students this semester were as bad as some of her employees. As we began to compare notes, she told me that she has nearly fired every person she hired after last year’s high school graduation. She began to tell me that they refused to follow the restaurant’s policies, refused to show up on time or stay after to make up their missed time, and would often use cell phones while at work. She even was threatened by one of the persons terminated because in the words of the young man, “she demanded too much of her employees…” On the college campus, I often hear students who will state they do not plan to work for any business, hospital, or even school if they don’t pay at least 45k to 50k to entry-level employees. Because of being raised in a “no one is allowed to fail” attitude, they have no understanding how the real world works. Not only are the young people of our nation not prepared for the academic world, they are not prepared for the working world either.
The continued emasculation of the American male
Earlier this year, the Obama administration released a new public service announcement encouraging young people below the age of 26 to talk to their parents about their healthcare coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act. This is a continuation of the changes in American society; effectively it expanded childhood to the age of 26 and the campaign itself further served to emasculate the image of young adult males.