American students become more fragile, less emotionally resilient, and more traumatized

September 29, 2015 • 11:00 am

Psychology Today sometimes publishes some pretty wonky stuff, but this article, about the emotional resilience of American college students—or rather its decline—rings true from the kind of incidents (granted, anecdotes) documented on this site. Further, its author, Peter Gray, a psychologist at Boston University and expert in educational psychology, has impeccable credentials.

In his piece, “Declining student resilience: a serious problem for colleges,” Gray first documents the growing problem of the emotional fragility of students, and, at the end, suggests a cause.  As I said, I’m not aware of any concerted psychological studies of students’ emotional states, although Gray implies that there’s documentation about growing problems with student mental health. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that students seem increasingly more upset by things that challenge them, and are demanding accommodation, whether that accommodation involves getting higher grades or suppressing disturbing ideas. I’ve written a lot about “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces,” and student protests against what’s call “hate speech”: these are phenomena of the last decade or so, and anyone who’s been teaching for a long time recognizes that. But Gray documents it with more examples:

A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilienceamong students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life. Recent examples mentioned included a student who felt traumatized because her roommate had called her a “bitch” and two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when in comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively. Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.” Does the first response simply play into and perpetuate students’ neediness and unwillingness to take responsibility? Does the second response create the possibility of serious emotional breakdown, or, who knows, maybe even suicide?

The dilemma of the last two sentences is something I’ve faced. My first response, which of course is based on my own experience in college, is to tell the students to “tough it out.” But that’s uncharitable, for we receive these students with their emotionality already formed by what happened to them before college (see below). I suggest one solution below, but that’s only a quick fix to a problem that runs deeper.

That head of counseling mentioned by Gray reports that this trend appears to be nationwide, accompanied by a growing number of reports of mental health issues among students.  He added, “The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.” And that is indeed the case.

What is going on here, and what do we do about it? One solution, I think, is to train students not only in “sensitivity” to diverse viewpoints when they enter college, but also to train them in listening to differing opinions without taking offense. That, to me, seems an eminently viable tactic: let incoming students read, for instance, the University of Chicago’s “free expression” standards, and then let them discuss them. We must somehow teach students why universities should be places where all viewpoints should be aired, and that viewpoints that seem offensive or incorrect can be countered with other speech.

Here’s Geoff Stone, the law professor at the U of C and chair of the committee that produced our standards:

But this alone won’t solve the problem, for students arrive at the University already hypersensitive and dependent:

We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have. Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

Gray suggests that the cause of this problem is “helicopter parenting”: the tendency of parents to hover about their children, protecting them from all possible ills, dangers, and offenses. Those of us of a certain age know this: when I was a kid of 10 or so, I was allowed to walk to school on my own and, after school, ride my bike over to my friends’ houses, where we’d then take off in juvenile packs to explore our surroundings. There was no adult supervision save the order that we be home by dinner. That not only doesn’t happen any more, but parents who permit such roaming can (and have been) arrested.

Gray adds, though, that “helicopter parenting” reflects of other social trends, including “the continuous exhortations from ‘experts’ about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment.”

Yes, but why now? If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?

h/t: Cindy

280 thoughts on “American students become more fragile, less emotionally resilient, and more traumatized

  1. You can bet the discussion will long on this one. As an older viewer I am reminded of the father who told his kid how easy he had it compared to when I was your age. Yes, we had to walk to school up hill both ways in three feet of snow.

    Anyway, I’m sure there are many areas of poor parenting in more modern times that are causing these problems but what would the cure be. To send all parents to a training school – probably not.

    I would not know the answer but one problem that comes to mind is from my own experience. I did not go right on to college after leaving the lower grades and I cannot actually remember why. Lets just say I wasn’t ready and in those days, that could mean that Uncle Sam was right there to snap you up. While escaping the draft I did join the service and spent nearly 4 years doing something different. I went to college after and that might be something many of these kids today could think about.

    1. My T-shirt says: Young people suck

      It was a present for my birthday, and I think it was meant to convey that old people rule, but the more general meaning, that young people just suck, may be the way people who don’t know it was a present to a mature person take it.

      When I accidentally wore it to the grocery store recently I got either smiles and agreement or repulsion.

  2. LOL. I had a student write on his quiz paper that my quiz was “unjust” because:

    1. The answer to problem 3 depended on the answer to problem 2 (no, it didn’t) and

    2. HE was “behind in his homework”.

    In the past, my talking to the student has usually been enough to straighten them out; usually they act embarrassed.

      1. There is one key difference: in the “small college” level, the deans and administrators are likely to call the faculty member on the carpet for not being “student centered”.

        The atmosphere is now very “corporate: please the customer in the short term” oriented.

          1. Not really. But at community colleges you can run into situations where a part-time lecturer gets into trouble for flunking a customer er, I mean student.

    1. My friend’s husband is a math professor. He has had kids through full on tantrums in his office over marks. This is how emotionally underdeveloped they are.

      1. That is quite the dangerous trend. It does help me understand those who react in ontward ways over those disagreeing with them. Screeching and tantrums. Should anything major go on that would cause our civilization to falter they would be among the first to die out.

        They will certainly have undue problems in our society now.

        And if their problems are catered to over correcting their behavior will compound that problem, not settle it.

  3. Its very noticeable to anyone my age (born in the 60s) that we treat our kids vastly differently to how our parents treated us.

    Most obviously, our kids usually only leave the house when we drive them somewhere, whereas we used to just go off on our own, like JAC.

    I wonder if part of it is simply due to people having fewer kids, later in life, now. Parents aged 30-40 with 1-2 kids behave much more cautiously that parents aged 18-30 with 2-5 kids.

    1. I think you are right that kids today don’t get to experience independence and maybe that causes some of this problem at 18 or 19 and just starting college. Our main transportation at age 5 or 6 and on up was the bicycle. We went everywhere on those things and sometimes it seemed we lived on them. Much different than the back seat of a car being driven every place you went.

      1. We’ve started letting our 11 year old ride on his own now. He needed to show good judgment in traffic (not that there is much) before we would let him go. He does fine now.

        1. Considering the explosion of people, it is a bad idea to even have children much less more than one. Longevity also figures into it as much as the economy which is still poor for the average person.

          1. “Considering the explosion of people”…

            I thought Islamic radicals had a monopoly on that…

            (Sorry. Determinism made me do it)


    2. This is very mundane, but sedentary-ism and the presence of a huge amount of ‘play’ in the home may have something to do with it too. I rode my bike to the local ‘main street’ because I wanted to buy books. Now I just order them on kindle. I played outside in part because when I was inside, I annoyed my parents; in contrast, parents may not be annoyed by a kid playing xbox in their room, so they give the “go outside!” order less.

    3. It is interesting to wonder what the causes are. I am sure I don’t know. A sense that children are fragile definitely developed. The idea that you could “scar your kids for life” with a single bad experience, or a bad parenting choice, really took hold sometime between when I was raised and when I had my own child.

      All of this is closely associated in my mind with a general moral panic about child sexual abuse that hit in the 1980’s. There were panics about child sex abuse in daycares, adults reporting recovered memories of childhood abuse, high profile trials built on the testimony of highly coached 5-year olds, the popularization of terms like “sexual predator”, and a general atmosphere of hysteria. There is a grain of truth to all of this, of course. One does not have to look far in any direction to see actual sex abuse. But part of the hysteria seems, to me, to be conflating every kind sex abuse with child abduction and murder, to assume that every inappropriate contact a child has will devistate them for life. This idea is a piece with the trend to treat a groping as exactly equivalent to kidnapping and rape at knifepoint. That is, not only has the perception that sexual predators are everywhere really taken hold, but so has the perception that every sexual crime is an unrecoverable harm. The perceived stakes have been upped so much that, from an emotional basis, parents are feeling like someone groping their little Suzie at Gym practice is almost the same as if she’d been murdered, and given that groping and other such things are relatively common, compared to murder, this produces a kind of perverse degree of panic about going about normal life.

      1. There was research I saw that showed the unsupervised play area of grand parents, then parents and then kids and how it got smaller and smaller so its been happening for a while. That said it really seems to be accelerating.

        I agree completely with you on how big the Day Care Hysteria was in this. Antidote time but I just entered kindergarten and was in the 1st or 2nd grade when this was a national story and by the time I was in HS I could see a fairly big difference in how my class and those older acted and how those just 2 years behind acted and where treated.

        I also think Columbine was huge. Helicopter parent become a common term to describe kids that where just entering HS in 1999. I remember talking to an admin in 2006 for a T14 law school and she was mentioning how whinny the kids all of sudden started to become. The kids that where just entering Kindergarten and pre school are now making up the current super helpless kids on campus.

        Throw in that the first warriors for the campus political correctness battles would have been out of school for 15 to 20 years in 2010 which should be the prime time for them to be principals and other admins at high schools.

        1. But there are a couple of counter examples to my thesis above which are England and Australia which are just as bad as we are in treating their kids like delicate snowflakes that will break at every moment if not worse.

          1. Adult fears magnified, creating those fragile children by their constant monitoring and fear exacerbate the effects.

            My mother had to work an average of two jobs when she raised me and two brothers in the 1960’s so we were alone a lot till my Grandmother came and stayed for a decade. I walked to school and home on my own. The fear wasn’t there as much as it is now including any child molesters which are the only ones who have a red mark on their name. No killers, bank robbers or other criminals get that label.

    4. To rephrase your argument: “In my day, our parents accepted a 1 in 1,000* chance of death of their kids dying while young. Nowadays parents don’t even accept a 1 in 10,000* chance. Softies!”

      It doesn’t make the old ways so attractive when put that way. 🙂

      *Numbers made up for illustrative example.

    5. “Most obviously, our kids usually only leave the house when we drive them somewhere, whereas we used to just go off on our own, like JAC. ”

      At what age? I was born in the 60s and, as a teenager, I certainly rode my bike all over the place. And I played on the nearby railroad tracks. Knowing what I did, I’m not totally sure I’d give a kid the same freedom. 😉

      Part of the problem is that with modern mass communication, we’re all more aware of what sort of things can go wrong. It’s true, though, that we don’t have any intuitive knowledge of the probability. Modern parents think that a child molester lurks on every street corner.

      1. Were there even statistics made on death rates compared to parenting styles? If so they didn’t talk about it. Most people underestimate the risk of anything they undertook.

  4. There was no adult supervision save the order that we be home by dinner. That not only doesn’t happen any more, but parents who permit such roaming can (and have been) arrested.

    I noticed the same thing a couple years ago on a Fall afternoon when I took a walk. My neighborhood is laid out on a grid and as I zigzagged my way around it (passing probably 800 to 1000 houses), I noticed not a single kid playing outside. Now, that my oldest son is eight, I don’t generally let him wander far from the house for the fact that there simply aren’t packs of kids running around anymore. Not only does this make the streets actually more dangerous in the rare event of someone who wants to do a kid harm, but as Jerry points out, someone may call the cops.

    On that note, I have another truly bizarre anecdote–a few months ago, I took my sons to the local park (about a 10 minute walk from the house) and played a game of hide-and-seek with them. I hid beneath a pine tree that backs up to an industrial park and was watching them as they searched for me. A woman walking her dog passed by and gave me a quick glance. I thought nothing of it, but ten minutes later the police arrived and started questioning me about whether these kids (who were now next to me) were mine. The officer said they received a call that a suspicious person was watching children and the caller was worried I was a predator. The glaringly obvious problem with this woman who took it upon herself to report me to the police was that I was the only adult in the park and my kids were the only kids. Is the most reasonable assumption in this scenario really that the one adult is a predator? And, if that is the assumption, this lady just left the kids alone in the park with a “suspicious person” for well beyond the time it would take an actual predator to snatch them. It seems the world really has lost its collective mind.

      1. Yes, but we had TV. I spent summers with my grandma, and she let me watch one TV show a week, and even sitting inside and reading was frowned upon. She tossed me out the door, and it was out and about until supper. It’s not that there are reason to stay in, it’s that parents don’t challenge them.

        1. When we were kids, we tried to watch a lot of TV; but running around outdoors with friends was much more fun.

          The main thing I remember hearing from my parents on weekends was, “Go outside and play!”

          Every year or two, we would have our TV time rationed. It would slowly revert to unregulated.

        2. I wonder how much of that is just inconvenience though. We had one TV, in the living room. If the kids were using it, the adults couldn’t and plus the kid was using ‘main house space.’ Nowadays, with bigger houses and computers and TVs in every room, kids can play in the house without inconveniencing the adults. So I wouldn’t necessarily pat ourselves (or our parents) on the back for being ‘more challenging.’ In terms of motivation they may be similar to parents today, they were just more aggravated by inside play.

        3. We had three TV stations and the cartoons were done after early morning. Soap operas and game shows were all that was left. Boring…..

      2. Yes, this is a huge thing.

        It is leading to kids who expect to be entertained, rather than pay attention in class. It trains them to expect flashing lights, loud noises, instant gratification.

        There are teams of people working hard to make those games as addictive as possible. This, it seems to me, is very different from TV.

        Games are pretty much banned from my house. (No game systems, period, of any sort. My wife lets my son play some games, some of the time, on her ipad. I try to stop/limit this.)

          1. And the schools are ruled like police states so that whenever martial law is declared it will just mean “like the old days” in school.

      3. Having kids now and reflecting upon my own upbringing I think it is more complicated than just video games and mobile devices. Personality and environmental influences are a major though not sufficient means for promoting a healthy, independent upbringing.

        I must have watched billions of hours of TV growing up, but I spent more time the most of my friends playing outside. One of my sons has a preference for video games (mobile) but the other hates them, like I do. They are both very physically active and more or less disciplined. I should hope independence will grow into them as they build their confidence in who they are, respectively.

    1. A proper question to the cops might be, “Whatever happened to the police summer league park activities, the baseball, flag-football, cookouts for kids with and without families? What are the cops REALLY doing to make parks safer, by getting kids to play in them?”

      1. It seems be willing to cut them down no matter their age if they aer carrying a water gun that looks “real”.

    2. I let my four-year-old run around the neighborhood green areas as long as he’s in sight of me and I can reach him quickly (i.e., I don’t sit on a balcony and watch; I’m in the green area too). Haven’t had any police calls yet, but twice an adult who was walking by on the street freaked out about the ‘unchaperoned’ kid. I guess that’s good???

      My completely anecdotal estimate is that 20 feet seems to be the limit. Closer, everyone assumes everything is fine. Further than that, bystanders run around asking “is this your kid?” Maybe its an age relationship; 5′ per year?

  5. Living in Ireland I am not sure I can comment on American students, but I wonder if one reason for the rise in fragility (this applies also to the non student population ) is that as our basic needs are met our ability to earn money, maintain status and esteem relies on our ability to perform well technically and intellectually. Although why students should appear to be becoming more fragile seems strange given our awareness of emotional intelligence and building resilience. As a therapist in his mid fifties I am increasingly drawn to responding by saying ‘it’s not the end of the world, get real and get over it.’ Not terribly helpful really.

  6. It is very difficult to make such broad generalizations, although one does entertain thoughts that students are different now because there is a significant increase in the #s of students who seek counseling.
    Assuming this is true, I think the fact that children are not allowed to roam like they used to might be behind some of it.
    When I compare what I used to do when I was just 8 or 9 years old, compared to what is the norm now; well, there is a world of difference. Heck, I would spend hours roaming my town, crossing busy roads, and traipsing thru the woods. With friends or alone. I would be in big trouble if I had let my children do that when they were young.

    1. “ecause there is a significant increase in the #s of students who seek counseling.”

      Surely there’s less stigma these days for seeking counseling? That alone might explain an increase.

  7. Indirectly this direction is an unintended byproduct of anti bullying movement. It’s a short step from expecting protection from bullies (unfortunately sometimes very loosely defined) and expecting protection from people whom your might not like or might not like you.

    I was reading one sociological discussion that listed three kinds of interaction: honor base (some tribal groups as well as treet gangs where victims or their relatives seek retribution directly), rule of law (our typical state operated sysem) and a newish version where people ‘enhance’ their social power over others through claims of victimisation. In trying to support people that as perceived as disadvantaged, modern liberalism, I think, has contributed to a concept where victimhood is a social resource, and others are guilted into fighting the battles of the (often self perceived) victim.

    Response to people who feel feel emotionally threatened by others ideas or speech (not talking about real threats here) could involve some emotional support for the victim, but never should include trying to shut down the speaker. And the victim must be kept aware of that. You will help them deal with their distress, but not try to stop it.

    1. “a newish version where people ‘enhance’ their social power over others through claims of victimisation.”

      That in itself is not new. I’m sure that kids throughout the ages have come running to their parents crying “my brother hit me!”, and expected the parents to take their side. What’s new is maybe that this has become a modus operandi for adults.

  8. In most parts of the country the evening (and perhaps the earlier news to which I never listen) is, to a large extent, taken right from the police scanner. The station sends some college age kid out to take pictures of a shooting , a beating, an accident, a house burning, or some disaster befalling a child. To be somewhat cynical I can say that a really favored disaster is the murder or kidnapping of a child. This can be followed for months. Actual news is either ignored or fit into the spaces left when not enough local disasters happen to which the station can send a “reporter” and a camera.

    The impression given by TV news (even in New York City I found the same format) is of a thoroughly dangerous world – full of perverts, murderers, kidnappers, sexual predators – so – keep your kids at home. And even at home a car driven by a drunk can smash into your living room and kill someone, or a stray bullet can come through the wall. It’s full time terror livening in 21st century America.

    Life is lived on a screen – TV or phone. People, like my niece and nephew, are addicted to it. The real world is just not as interesting. When I retired from 35 years of university teaching 10 years ago self reliance was well on its way to extinction as students streamed out of the building and whipped out their phones to ask, “Where are you?” or “What are you doing?” The electronic umbilical cord is long and strong. The world a dangerous place.

    1. The ‘pixel worship’ is so true. When I walk down a hallway between classes, there are gatherings of students waiting for the next class to open and all of them can be looking at their phones rather than talking to each other.
      But much of that is spent texting, and checking texts. Actually I think that this constant contact with friends is a pretty good thing. There is an intimacy there that we never had.
      At least I choose to think of it as a good thing.

    2. I was about to make a comment along the same lines. I hear young parents talking at work, see them on Facebook, and they’re so paranoid. They see mass shooters and child molesters lurking behind every corner.

    3. “And the perverted fear of violence
      Twists the smile on every face
      Common sense is ringing out the bell

      “This ain’t no technological breakdown
      Oh, no, this is the road to Hell”

    4. I am happy to report your words seem foreign to me. I have two kids, both under 12, and I am completely oblivious to the threats that surely thwart other parents.

      Unfortunately, my kids do spend too much time near the house and do not explore on their own; certainly not my fault as I have never told them not to explore. Maybe I will begin to insist they make large forays into world with the condition that supper is at sunset.

  9. “Yes, but why now? If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?”

    A most excellent question and answers to it may suggest solutions to the problem. I don’t know. It’s not as if society has gotten more dangerous for kids, exactly the opposite is true – it is FAR safer today to let kids roam than it was when I was a child and I don’t just mean abduction.

    Personally I think our ubiquitous and very broad social media is partly to blame. I mean news sources (TV, radio, web, movies), entertainment sources (same) etc., all vying for our attention and eyes or clicks. When I was young there were three TV stations, a handful of AM radio stations, two daily newspapers and magazines that came monthly to compete for our attention. Not today. We are inundated with media.

    In such a competitive climate appeals to lowest common denominators are inevitable and fear sells like no other.

    1. Sorry. My post basically duplicated others here. My only excuse is that I walked away for a bit and didn’t refresh before typing.

    2. Back in the 90’s several of the skeptic magazines were investigating and writing about a huge rise in conspiracy-mongering concerning anything to do with children. Millions were being abducted and abused every year, according to several ‘watchdog’ organizations which placed far more emphasis on empathy than they did on data. These statistics eventually seem to have turned into a sort of mega urban legend, believing in which signifies membership into Concerned Parent status.

      Questioning the reality of the danger now signals that the skeptic isn’t concerned about the children.

      1. Questioning the reality of the danger now signals that the skeptic isn’t concerned about the children.

        I think it’s worse than that. Questioning the danger is liable to cast at least mile suspicion on the skeptic.

        1. On that topic…especially if you’re male, you do not want to be seen anywhere near a child who’s not your own. You don’t even want to go to a park with a playpen unless you’re accompanying your own children.

          Never mind the fear of strangers instilled in children; strangers have far more to fear from children. Well, not the children themselves, of course. Just having everybody point and scream, “PREDATOR!” if you so much as glance in the general direction of a child.

          It’s bad enough if you’re a parent and have the cops called because you’re playing hide-and-seek with your own child, as described elsewhere in this thread. Can you imagine how you’d deal with a similar situation if you didn’t have any children and weren’t doing anything more than eating a sandwich on a park bench with some kids playing nearby?


          1. Well if you have a beastie in the pen, you aren’t typically considered a threat to the other beasties in the pen regardless of your gender. Of those who don’t have a beastie in the pen, yes the men get met with more suspicion than the women – by both attending mothers and fathers.

            On the other hand, as a parent I can tell you there are about a million things more interesting for an adult than hanging around the pen. I’m there because I have no choice, not because its a wonderful intellectually stimulating event. So if I see someone without a kid hanging around the pen, yes I do wonder why the frak they would choose to spend their time that way.

            Now, if you’re talking about a big nice park or zoo or something like that, as opposed to a playground, then I would agree with you that the people who take offense to adults (sans kids) being there are just being paranoid.

            1. Now, if you’re talking about a big nice park or zoo or something like that, as opposed to a playground, then I would agree with you that the people who take offense to adults (sans kids) being there are just being paranoid.

              Yes, that’s exactly the environment I mean. Parks, zoos, shopping malls…if you’re single, especially if you’re male, you do not want to be anywhere close to kids, even if it’s the kids who encroach on your space.

              I’m not kidding, either.

              It’s even getting to the point that, if you’re over 30, you’ll get people calling you out for being affable in a conversation with a college undergraduate. Not for anything you did or even any suspicion of amorous intent on your behalf; it’s just for your own good, in case somebody else says anything.


          2. Once my dad was walking his dog in a park and my mom called him on his cellphone (a flip phone). A woman approached him and told him that she didn’t appreciated him taking pictures of her grandchildren. My dad asked how in hell he could be taking pictures of her grandchildren when he was talking in his phone to his wife and didn’t have a camera. The person was embarrassed and thought that just using a cellphone somehow allowed you to take pictures clandestinely. This because people had done so with phones that could take pictures (my dad’s phone didn’t have a camera).

            1. Stop the world — I want to get off….

              People think I’m crazy for being paranoid of children…until they realize that these sorts of things happen all the time.

              You know what really scares the shit out of me? Being the only adult around when some strange kid wanders off lost or gets hurt or some such. There’s just no way to come out of something like that unscathed…help the kid and everybody accuses you of being the one to kidnap and / or injure the kid in the first place. Run away and how do you live with yourself?


              1. Yep, I’ve mulled that situation over in my own mind. I’m a 30-something man who doesn’t make a whole lot of effort to regularly trim his facial hair. I live a block away from a park and school. What if a little girl falls and hurts herself and nobody appears to be around? If I try to help, would I have to fear a sudden physical assault from an angry and suspicious father who won’t listen to anything I say? It worries me. But the hypothetical hasn’t happened yet, so…

              2. As an angry and suspicious father, the answer is a provisional no. Its when the 30-year old single dude rushes over to an *unhurt* kid that things look weird.

                Having said that, the “no” comes with two caveats.

                First, don’t bother for minor injuries such a knee scrapes. Remember we’re all complaining about how kids are too fragile? An adult rushing to the scene for every bruise is a contributing factor. As a general rule, if it’s the sort of problem you would expect your kid could handle on their own, don’t interfere with someone else’s kid for it. Let the kid find the parent in those cases, if they need to.

                Second, pay attention to your surroundings. I think a crying child tends to naturally focus our attention, narrow it down and may cause us to naturally ignore our surroundings. But there’s about a 99% chance the parent or a guardian is coming, even if you don’t initially see them. Also, the kid isn’t going to want a stranger, they’re going to want their adult, so going in when the responsible adult is 10 seconds behind you will probably exacerbate their emotional state rather than ease it. Even in those cases (where I was around and coming to help, but the Samaritan didn’t see me), I’ll probably thank you for your help rather than get angry or litigious. But I’ll be annoyed inside, because coming to my kids aid when I’m around basically implies that you think my responsibility as a parent was to be visible to you as a bystander, and that just isn’t true.

      1. There you go again. Political Correctness is the flimsy fill all reasons why we are so weak. Can’t call fat people “fatties” is a horror and against the 1st amendment and such trash. You can always find those who carry it too far so we can only operate from none at all to over bearing and ridiculous, but nothing in between? Sheer garbage.

        1. Most young people get twelve years of schooling before attending university, and those who do attend university tend to be those who were most attentive and receptive to what the school was offering. It would be surprising if their world-view wasn’t somewhat affected by the experience.

  10. Another example of looking for authorities to censor is a link I posted on a previous thread, noteworthy mainly because of its source. The UN working group on women is porposing sweeping internet censorship; demanding that ISPs and search engines that don’t block ‘cyber violence’ be pulled off line by member governments.

    Keeping in mind that actual violence is pretty hard to do over the internet, and accepting that an actual credible physical threat could reasonably be included in ‘violence’, their claim that over 70% of the women in Europe are victims of ‘cyber violence’ still seems like a complete redefinition of the word violence has been created.

    Fortunately, as ineffectual as the UN is in real life, this hopefully means not much will happen.

    1. I saw that link and it’s horrifying. And I agree, 99% of ‘cyber violence’ is almost certainly BS.

      I see they call themselves ‘unwomen’, I’d like to make them ‘unpersons’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that crack, but have they never read Orwell? I suppose I’m guilty of cyber violence now).


      1. Some people have come to the conclusion that if only one complains it is just the reason to censor over saying fine only one. How many like it? Doesn’t seem to count at all.

    2. Yes, and they want to require every site (such as Facebook, Twitter, and WEIT) to read and if necessary censor every single comment before it’s allowed to be posted, in addition to requiring search engines to censor any links to pages deemed offensive to women. This goes beyond even China’s famously extensive Internet censorship.

      They say “The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and center”. As much as I’d hope women and girls are respected on the Internet, I don’t want the Internet to be redesigned to make that the number one priority. It even strikes me as sexist itself.

      I hope the fact that their proposal is so over-the-top and is, in practice, impossible is enough for it to not be taken seriously…

  11. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it

    Let me pose another contributing factor (other than helicopter parenting): the internet and the permanence of mistake history.

    Back in our old fogie days, sure it was the case that we played outside on our own. It was also the case that there was no permanent recording of Alice hitting Bob on the playground. No college could look up what Alice did on her senior break when deciding whether to admit her or not. Yes parents push high standards on kids – but so do peers and organizations and social media, and their standards for acceptable behavior have grown higher too. Society doesn’t forget as well now.

    So in some ways, this response is socially adaptive rather than a maladaption. They’ve grown up in the internet age and internalized what that really means in terms of the cost of social missteps. Reactions to grades and mice sightings are IMO really just indicators of this broader adaptation to a less failure-tolerant society. Missteps are punished more harshly and remembered longer by society as a whole, so is it really any surprise that they freak out about missteps more than we do?

      1. That was my reaction, too. 😉

        I have to admit, though, that my grown daughter freaks out at the sight of a mouse. She didn’t get it from me!

        (I think she’s actually disproportionately afraid of Hanta Virus…)

  12. If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?

    Good question. Now I was born in the mid-60s, so I can’t speak to them personally. My impression has been, though, that part of the revolt against the status quo, also involved the way people had been raised — sexist, authoritarian. Someone else confirm that, but, if so, surely this must be the fruit of that reaction. The timing seems to fit.

    1. I’m not so sure. Born 1950 so a bit older and while growing up in the 50s/60s we were always told how much easier and better we had it than our parents. I think every new generation revolts some against the previous one. But we were not coddled or allowed to live at home to the age of 30 or anything like that. You were expected to go to school or go to work and the idea of dropping out in high school was not acceptable. Maybe 15 years later you felt it safer to revolt a bit more but we didn’t dare.

        1. Yes, but you would be talking about my parents. The small ones through the depression and signed up to fight WWII. Precisely why they told us we had it very good in comparison and they were right.

  13. Not sure that you’d like my solution, but developing exactly this kind of resilience is why I support Scouting. A 14-year-old kid who survives an 86-mile Trek at Philmont generally makes a much better college freshman four years later than a kid who spent the summer doing nearly anything else.

    Sadly, recruiting Scouts lately I’ve run into more than one parent who said ‘I don’t think my boy is ready for those challenges.’

    How will they get ready?

    1. I loved Boy Scouts (well, the camping, hiking, etc. — not earning merit badges or ranks).

      Trouble is the anti-gay thing they have going. And the religious side of it (read the details of the admonition for a good scout to be reverent).

      We take our son hiking in the mountains. We haven’t gone overnight — mainly because I’m getting rather old for it (I started a family very late in life. I used to spend nearly every weekend under the stars.).

      1. Anti-gay thing? BSA voted to not bother to ask Scouts their sexual orientation, nor to expel them, regardless, two years ago. Earlier this year, BSA lifted the ban on out gays being leaders.

        Biggest “gay problem” we have right now is the few odd charter organizations who stop sponsoring Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops because BSA no longer discriminates.

        Please spread that word.

        1. Yes, we were happy with the changes; and I could probably convince my wife if our son becomes interested. It may have a long hangover.

          When my son was of the age to start cub scouts, the gay prohibitions were still in place. (We have a gay son and many gay cousins and friends, so it’s a big deal for us.)

          I felt bad about it because I loved scouts. At the time, it was the only organization that took boys out camping. I mainly wanted to camp and hike and learn how to make fires, cook over a fire, pitch a tent, lash poles, build things in the field with a saw, knife, and rope, etc. To me, it felt like gaining independence.

          “few odd charter organizations who stop sponsoring Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops because BSA no longer discriminates”

          Indeed. I hope they find new homes.

    2. “A 14-year-old kid who survives an 86-mile Trek at Philmont generally makes a much better college freshman four years later than a kid who spent the summer doing nearly anything else. ”

      Perhaps, but I’d need to see evidence.

        1. Well, those are anecdotes, which don’t offer support for your generalization.

          There’s also some self-selection going on. Highly self-reliant people may choose scouting, but that doesn’t mean that scouting can turn someone into a self-reliant person.

          Not saying it’s false, just that it shouldn’t be stated as obviously true. There are a lot of skills that don’t get generalized very well, so excellence in one endeavor doesn’t necessarily result in excellence in other areas.

          1. I’d also worry about correlations with class and income confounding the connection. I’d want to see a rate of completion in 4-5 years (or maybe GPA) statistically significantly above those of the middle class before I’d say it helps with college.

            OTOH, who cares? You’re spending time outside, away from screens and gadgets. Its healthy, it teaches physical skills you might not otherwise learn, etc.2 and gives the kid a new social group in which to meet friends. It seems worthwhile to me regardless of whether it means you do better in college or not.

            1. “It seems worthwhile to me regardless of whether it means you do better in college or not.”

              Probably so, but *I* don’t want to do it. I like indoor toilets. 🙂

              1. BSA has put flush toilets in many camps, just for you. You can let your kid get high adventure skills, and still crap in relatively civilized fashion.

          2. There’s research to support it, too.

            I didn’t mean to kick off a discussion where I have to defend high adventure outdoor activity.

            This study is limited to Eagle Scouts — 50% of my anecdotal sample:


            Scouting builds the sort of character Dr. Coyne laments the dearth of.

            I agree Boy Scouts is not the only way boys and girls (14-21) can get such experiences; but it’s the leading, organized program dedicated to doing exactly that.

            Pick up a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook, and if you have a son or daughter, ask yourself if there is anything in that book you wouldn’t want your kid to know. Most rational people would be happy if their kid grew up knowing half of it.

            Then the other question I use in recruiting: Can you name any other program where your kid can get all of that?

            I can’t.

            1. “where I have to defend high adventure outdoor activity.”

              You don’t. The only statement I questioned, and still do, is the relationship between that and performance at college.

              As eric pointed out and probably no one will dispute, the outdoor activity is worthwhile for its own sake.

            2. The research, by the way, is still subject to the self-selection bias. It basically says that people who are organized are organized. 🙂

              To even get a start on the sort of data you’d need, you’d need to put some kids into scouts who otherwise wouldn’t be there.

              1. You might be able to find that from programs for “at-risk” kids. I’m sure there’s some juvenile court judge who’s ordered young fuckups to join the scouts, or some sort of orphanage-equivalent with outdoors adventures, or some variation on the theme.


              2. Hmmmm. Never met a Scout who was organized enough to put together a project, assemble the portfolio and get through the boards of review, before starting on the quest.

                If we put kids on the path who wouldn’t otherwise get on the path, we’d have the same selection bias. It think the statisticians at Baylor took proper account for that.

              3. Courts in central Utah used to give kids a choice of Outward Bound or Larry Olsen’s survival courses at BYU. I think I’d have to refuse to sign an app from a kid who was sentenced to Scouting. Free choice, and all.

              4. “Courts in central Utah…”

                Courts are notorious for buying into all sorts of superstition.

  14. I wonder if perhaps a “Fail 101” class might not help.

    Rig the class in such a way that students are given impossible problems to solve, and make the grade dependent on solving them. Nobody comes out of any assignment or test with anything higher than a B — and that only rarely and for obviously-bullshit and seriously unfair reasons. Kids who actually solve the impossible problems get flunked with prejudice for being smartasses. Every student ends the course with a D or an F — and it goes on their permanent college record and incorporated into the GPA. At the end of the semester, the teacher decides which students can actually handle failure and which can’t, and requires repeat semesters of those who can’t.

    No need for a drill instructor to shout at them that they’re a bunch of maggots. A smiling, kindly, gentle old face sorrowfully explaining that, sorry, but that’s just not good enough and they’ll have to try even harder next time would work just as well.



        1. Ah, yes, I remember getting the blue books back with a number somewhere in the 60s scribbled in red on the cover and then rushing to see the mean for the quiz (usually a number somewhere in the 60s).

    1. That’s fine as long as someone isn’t going to bring that grade up many years later and count it against you – something which certainly happens in the UK and seems to happen in the US too.

      1. I have never, in my entire life, had anybody ever ask me for an academic transcript, except for the University when I enrolled out of High School. Nor have I met anybody who’s ever said anything about supplying a transcript except in similar circumstances.

        Hell, nobody even made a big deal out of Bush’s Yale transcript; not a single A, a C average, and a D in astronomy, according to Wikipedia.

        The most I’d really ever think it might happen would be for an internship or a very first job out of college, and even then only for the most insanely competitive of jobs. But, after you’ve got that first job, it’s guaranteed that nobody gives a flying fuck what your GPA was.

        Hell, GPA doesn’t even matter for university faculty positions….


        1. You have been very lucky then.

          In the UK employers are apparently increasingly interested in the grades people get in their A levels (the exams they take at 18) because they believe this is a better indication of a persons academic abilities than how they do at university. So a bad grade at A level might be difficult to overcome even if you do exceptionally well subsequently at university.

          I have experienced this myself under slightly different circumstances. My A level grades were not as good as they might have been because I was taught the wrong syllabus for two years by a teacher. I subsequently got a first class degree and won two academic prizes as an undergradaute but still found that some people were still more interested in my A level marks. This had caused me an extraordinary amount of difficulty.

          The UK educational system is perhaps much more unforgivig than the US system. Nonetheless, I now live in the US and my lack of a US-style transcript is causing me endless problems. I am 44, have three degrees and many postdoctoral research years behind me but I am still asked about my inability to produce a piece of paper showing exams I took over 20 years ago. If everything I have subsequently done is unable to compensate for this lack of transcript, I suspect that it would not be able to compensate for a transcript with lousy grades on it.

          Anyway, my point generally is that a bad grade at the wrong time in the UK can have quite severe consequences.

          1. I’ve never even heard of an apocryphal anecdote of anybody other than college entrance boards who even pretended to care about SAT scores.

            Well, one exception. MENSA, the club for people with high scores on standardized tests, will accept SAT scores as a qualification for membership. But that’s just one of a great many options, and a low SAT score wouldn’t at all disqualify you.

            If your own troubles have to do with admission to an educational institution, I could maybe understand that. Knowing bureaucracies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they require transcripts from all previous institutions to be on file. But I can’t imagine anything other than the most recent relevant degree being used for consideration for admission. You could be a complete loser in high school, have a barely-adequate record in a community college, just sneak into a public university on some technicality, almost flunk out your freshman and sophomore years…and then finally buckle down in your upper division classes, do great work, win over somebody in the department, make it into the Master’s program, keep doing great work…and, sure, you’ll get some questions, maybe some ribbing or even grilling, about your younger days when you apply for a Doctorate program, but it won’t be held against you.

            Part of the difference might be that America loves salvation stories, loves people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But I think we also realize that it’s who you are and what you know and what you can do today that matters, and that your past is only relevant to the extent that it made you who you are today.


        2. To expand on Merilee’s comment, graduate schools will ask and consider undergraduate transcripts. Along with GRE and recommendations, its probably one of the top three criteria used for acceptance.

          As someone who works at a company employing temporary interns, I can also say that corporations look at grades when considering interns. IMO that would also probably apply to people applying for non-intern entry-level positions.

          IMO there seems to be a “one job back” rule. Colleges looks at high school grades. First employers and grad schools look at college grades. Employers beyond the first mostly just look at your performance at your most recent employer. So grades can be important in getting you to the career you want to have, but after that, they’re mostly irrelevant.

          1. Yes — your “one job back” rule perfectly matches my experience. With a bit of flexibility…if you’ve got a good record overall but something was wonky about your last job, many would be willing to consider the possibility that it was your boss that was the problem and not you. You might be in a weaker position, but not out of the game.


    2. I’m forever telling people “fail fast” when coaching Agile. There are things you can’t fail at (legal stuff, compliance) but a lot you can, so take risks, try things, learn and if you fail, learn and do so fast enough that it doesn’t affect the project too badly.

      1. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is perfect. Unless you’ve got some sort of mindless repetitititititive job, if you’re not making lots of errors, you’re not trying hard enough.

        The key is to not worry about screwing up, but, paradoxically, to be quick to recognize when you have screwed up and to figure out what you need to do to fix it. Do that, and you’re golden.


    3. “Rig the class in such a way that students are given impossible problems to solve”

      While I think it’s a good idea for everyone to fail at something occasionally, I don’t think that a rigged failure teaches anyone anything. To be a learning experience, the failure must be earned.

        1. And they still won’t know what a failure is if you artificially create one. That’s not a real failure, it’s getting screwed by those in authority. Everyone already knows what that feels like.

          1. + 1

            What Ben suggests is flat-out cruel. If a student didn’t start out with a fragile tolerance of stress, he or she would sure have be so afterwards.

            1. It’s the cruelty of the closed bedroom door; the removal of the training wheels; the rolling of the canoe into the cold, deep, dirty lake. Or, as others have noted, the cruelty of the freshman physics class, or boot camp, or cross-country solo hike.

              There’s still a safety net there. The few students who really can’t hack it will get caught by the net — and far better to flush them out up front than give them false hopes of an easy glide to a future they’re incapable of living. The rest will hate it with a passion at the time…and then tell their own kids that it was the most important class they took the whole time they were in school.


  15. Flipping back to my own blog I note this post from years ago is once again at the top of my daily popularity list:

    Maybe the kids need more poetry. Not one of those poems argues for a soft life, nor recommends counseling.

    What do we take into our beings as foundation for how we shall act?

    Send ’em to lit class. Make ’em read the transcendentalists, and maybe some Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service along with the high-faluting stuff.

    (Why does no one ever talk about low-faluting stuff?)

    1. Writing and poetry and music with dark imagery is a good idea. I think some kids need to understand that depression and unhappiness and psychosis can have added value to life. Great artists frequently come from these shadowy places.

      In the face of adversity there is the potential for greatness. Kids need to see how failure inspires. I have never witnessed anyone who did anything useful with their life unless it was clear that made a huge number of mistakes.

        1. Agreed.

          I was just at the library looking at YA lit. for my son. He was there too; but I picked out a bunch of stuff for him to try — he gets stuck on certain authors/series.

          The percentage of books with scary/mystery/struggle themes was very high. I think most kids crave this stuff. Maybe more so now that they are so protected?

        2. They had bad tribulations for children because they were very heavy-handed, heathen equivalents of ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons, telling kids (and adults) that if they disobeyed their parents or society’s rules, horrible tortures or death would ensue. In the original Cinderella story, for example, birds peck out the wicked stepsister’s eyes for treating their stepsister badly. Because the moral of the story is that if you treat your family badly, you’ll end up blind, maimed, and poor.

        3. I note that this is true of a lot of Inuit stories as well. A lot of them end badly for all. I wonder if other hunter-gatherers are the same. Any cultural anthropologists around?

      1. Any one who uses dark imagery are subject to examination for violent tendencies and possible rampage.

  16. I think that parents want the best for their children and so spoil them – perhaps inadvertently.

    The children expect instant gratification and have their egos massaged regularly so they expect the world to conform to these parental indulgences. Perhaps some experience in the real world before university would mature them – maybe doing voluntary work for a year?

    1. I think specialization is best. Promote one skill – one instrument or one sport or one activity. Too many parents insist on ten different activities and the kids end up smothered and trained to be ADD as well as needing to multi-task to feel useful. This is utter crap. They need to focus, as if life is one PhD program that makes you capable of enduring long hours of tedious work. The rest will fall into place.

      1. I only partly agree. A diversity in skills and an ability to connect concepts across disciplines can lead to new ideas and significant advances. But this should come from the person’s own curiosity rather than being forced. And it is important to specialize, but I think that should come later, after you’ve had some broad experience to discover what you’re passionate about.

        I would say that parents should introduce their kids to new things and encourage them to give them a try to see if they like them, but not expect them to keep pursuing anything they don’t like (with the caveat that you expect them to eventually find some useful skill to pursue and develop).

        1. I’d agree. (And I’m a generalist – which suited my engineering career, though less so as time went on and *everything* became the province of specialists).

          Much better to let the kids discover things for themselves.

          Personally, I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for artificial ‘exercises’. I was once sent on a week-long course which purported to teach management skills – it was one of those with hypothetical problems to solve. It all seemed ridiculous to me. Pretending (i.e. acting) in a classroom to be trying to build a bridge with imaginary planks to get an invisible truck across a non-existent river. I went along with it (i.e. stopped poking fun at it) when it was pointed out to me that some of the participants took it very seriously and it was important for their careers.


      2. I agree with you, Kevin, but US college admissions committees seem to want “well-rounded” students above all. Something in the sports column, something in the arts column, something in the service column, Yada, yada.

            1. I was the opposite of “well rounded” was only interested in a few things. Not sports though I lifted weights to build up my body. But no extra curriculars. The same with my grades and math was something my mind rebelled against. So people like myself would have had to go to smaller colleges anyway.

    2. Volunteer work is usually a good experience for people of any age. I used to volunteer with the horse show part of our livestock exposition, particularly in the “horse arrivals” area where Coggins papers and health certificates need to be checked.

      For some shifts, we’d have young volunteers from programs for “at risk” (whatever that means) teens from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. I remember working with one young man, who quickly learned the basics of horse coat colors and markings from me, and then was eager to climb up on the trailers and report the numbers and identifying features of the horses, donkeys, and mules therein. It’s not always easy for even an athletic middle-aged woman to repeatedly climb up on horse trailers, balancing a clipboard, Coggins papers (which blow away easily), and a flashlight, so I was happy to have the help. I got the distinct impression that few, if any, adults had ever taken the time to teach this young man a basic skill, assumed he had the competence to do it properly, and given him the chance to work as part of a team. Pretty depressing, actually. It’s not always the children who behave badly – I think some attention from caring adults would solve many problems.

      But I’m an eternal optimist.

      1. Yeah, I think everyone enjoys feeling helpful to others. They only need a push in the right direction, and some good treatment, and they’ll usually be decent to you in return.

    3. Nowadays many high schools require some amount of “volunteer service” for graduation. For a lot of students this means cooking up some putative service or simply lying about it. Such dodges are often parent-abetted.

  17. If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?

    Another completely crotchety and possibly irrelevant anecdote:

    When I had my children back in the early 80’s, I would occasionally put them in the playpen while I did various household chores which required some focused attention — or maybe just when I needed some uninterrupted free time. I was surprised to discover that, in several mother’s groups I belonged to over the years, this was really frowned upon.

    Playpens were a “cage” which inhibited and damaged toddler’s self-esteem. Most of the other moms either announced that confining a kid, even for a fairly brief period, was ideologically unacceptable — or insisted that their child wouldn’t “allow” them to use the playpen (how? by crying.)

    Apparently being a parent at home meant a willingness to engage in 24-hour quality time supervision, nonstop. Mommy is always available, always ready to play. When one friend told me how much she hated having her little kids in the bathroom when she had to ‘go,’ she almost cried when I told her I thought it was perfectly okay to lock the door and ignore their howls of pain and outrage over the neglect. They won’t die. Or remember it when they grow up and need therapy.

    Recently, I was informed by several of my friends that if anything it’s gotten worse over the years.

    1. I would agree that that sort of frowning is still around.

      We needed a harness/leash arrangement to prevent our son (when he was a toddler) from charging out into traffic, instantly losing himself in stores, or running off mountain cliffs.

      Some people gave us some pretty weird looks (and some also asked us where to get one!) To me, it was a very simple and practical solution. (I was too old to run after him or try to bend down and grab him while running after him!)

      And we had playpens too. I pretty well don’t give a damn about other people think. Comparing our results with theirs, I’m confident we’ve done well with him.

      1. I remember the harness and rope business. Some would tie the rope to something on the front porch so the kid could not make it to the street. Probably not PC today.

  18. I can measure some of it by Halloween.
    When my daughter (now 36) was young, children would come around alone (occasionally) or in small groups (usually) for “trick-or-treat”, with parents nowhere to be seen: every house had candy, and every house expected children. Then it became children in escorted groups. Now, no-one comes – children go “trick-or-treating” in shopping malls escorted by parents, or are driven around to the houses of their little group: no more calling on strangers or even neighbors.
    I don’t lament that change as such, but it does seem that excessive concern for “protection” (scare quotes because I think it’s really over-protection) of children is training them into fearfulness/passivity.

    1. The newest thing is “Trunk or Treat.” Everyone meets in a parking lot and people hand candy out from their trunk. No more of having to walk your kid house-to-house.

      1. Next year…there’ll be an app for that. No need to leave the house; Amazon will deliver the candy right to your doorstep. No need to dress up, either; just take a selfie and tap on something to transform your picture into the character of your choice. Extra candy for the character with the most “likes.”

        …this is progress…?


  19. Actually, I doubt it is a result of parenting, or even mostly a result of parenting. I suspect it is more a result of our culture becoming more of a high stakes, winner take all affair. One bad grade as an undergraduate can torpedo a career. One blemish on your record can forever close opportunities. One unwise post on Facebook can haunt you forever. No wonder a single bad grade can cause such turmoil.

    1. But that’s not the case at all!

      Just look at the Republican Presidential race. Carly Fiorina’s incompetence utterly destroyed once-mighty HP; The Donald can’t stop stepping in it on social media or even in debates; and Ben Carson is a laughingstock of an idiot who doesn’t even understand grade-school Newtonian mechanics. Yet each likely has a better than 10% chance of being the next President! And let’s not forget drunkard cokehead Shrub Junior who flunked his way through an Ivy League school and deserted National Guard duty.

      If complete fuckups like that can become President and, and basically zero successful people in our society are without similar cockups to their name…where on Earth does this myth of even the tiniest indiscretion being relevant come from?

      Yes, people have their lives ruined all the time. But the variable clearly isn’t the types of indiscretions everybody’s so terrified of.


      1. This is OT but if we’re discussing defective mentality it’s sorta topical – I’ve recently got on to some demented paranoid fruitcake spam list or other and I keep getting emails like this:

        “California Ground Zero of N.W.O. Massive Depopulation Plan
        Date: Wed Sep 30 04:07:55 2015


        Mainstream media has not said a word about it
        but the scandal of the century is unfolding
        right before our own unsuspecting eyes.
        America’s elites and their governmental puppets
        have engineered the biggest depopulation plan
        in modern history.
        [link deleted]

        Over 100 million “useless eaters” are to “disposed of ”
        within the next 12 months.
        At this very moment, the final pieces
        of this savage agenda are being put together…
        Even more shocking is that Senator Ted Cruz’s
        Father, Rafael, warned us about this over
        a year ago.

        This leaked information will cause a
        massive tsunami within our government
        and take the heads of some fat Democratic cats.
        Click here to find out what you can do to make sure
        you and your loved don’t end up at the wrong end
        of this sinister plot.

        Good for a laugh if nothing else.


      2. It is not necessarily the case but it can be. See what I wrote above. And perhaps it is different in the UK where the education system is much less forgiving and where it is certainly not a myth that the tiniest indiscretion is relevant.

        I was utterly stitched up at my UK secondary school where my teacher taught me the wrong syllabus for the two years of my A levels. This has, as ajcpi puts it, completely torpedoed my career and caused my years and years of anguish.

        It is possible for people to be completely derailed by a bad grade at the wrong time.

        1. I was given an F in 17th cent French Lit my LAST quarter at Stanford ( I was to have graduated a quarter early) by my pompous prick of a prof, and dept. head, for skipping a few classes ( only classes I ever skipped). I read 12 plays ( en français), wrote 6 short papers and 2 long ones en français), midterm and exam, all of which I passed with Bs and Cs, and the bastard failed me!! This was the only time I ever complained to a teacher/prof about anything and his ego would not see reason. He was also his own superior – some kind of dean. So, I had to wait till summer to take a half load of classes, and got a B+ from a visiting French prof from Yale in a grad-level course (which I resisted rubbing in Numbnuts’s face). Flash forward five years and I’m applying to med schools ( with high geades in all my science courses and high MCATs) and nearly every interviewer asked me about the effing F in French!!! Yes, I grade can matter.

          1. I’m not surprised they’d ask you about it, but it’s dollars to donuts that they don’t care at all about the grade itself and instead want to know about your reaction to it. That’ll tell them far more about you and your worthiness as a candidate than whether or not tu parle Francais.


            1. I wrote letters to numerous colleges in the UK explaining the circumstances surrounding my lower-than-hoped high school grades caused largely by the teacher teaching the wrong syllabus for two years. Every place wrote back explaining that they required better grades regardless of the circumstances.

              I once got on a train to the other end of the country to meet – uninvited – with an admissions tutor to explain some of this. I thought that my determination and initiative might overcome the grade – but no.

              Ben, you point out that it is probably only colleges or universities that are interested in SAT scores or grades. But depending on what you want to do in life, your career can be torpedoed at that atage. You don’t need to go to college to president or Prime Minister. You do if you want to be a medical doctor or an optometrist.

              1. I’ll admit I have no experience with the medical profession. I would expect it to be the same with lawyers, and I know lawyers with less-than-perfect academic records…but, again, I don’t remember ever having such a discussion with doctors, so I don’t know.


              1. I think it should be ‘vous parlez’ anyway. ‘Tu’ I believe is considered a bit intimate and therefore not entirely polite. (Could be wrong about that, my grasp of the nuances of Francais is tenuous)


              2. Tu is fine; we tutoie among amis. But Diana is right that tu parles does need an “s”. Enuff about this merde de taureau🐮

              3. Depends whether Ben was addressing Merilee or an impersonal hypothetical “you” (i.e. what the English would call “one” or the French “on”).


              4. My mom tried to get me into French immersion school but they wouldn’t take me, saying I was “too old”. It sucks because my immersion friends are all bilingual and I had to make do with regular French classes in elementary and high school. I would have taken it in university, but because I had my grade 13 French I was not allowed into the real intro French and I wanted to take that French because I hadn’t taken it for a while, ha OMG finished it in the first semester, etc. So I took non intro German instead and kept taking it until 3rd year. I want to learn Russian next but that’s proving tricky.

              5. Much different story from mine…in junior high, you were expected (required?) to take a language elective. All the college-bound kids took Latin, which I had initially signed up for…but it turned out that the only Latin class was at the same time as band, and no way was I giving that up. So the next obvious choice, this being California, was Spanish. But by the time the Latin snafu came to light, all the Spanish classes were full. That left French.

                I don’t have any complaints about the French class, but I’ve certainly never put it to good use. And I probably should still learn Spanish, what with living in Arizona and all…but almost all the native Spanish speakers here speak better English than I’ll ever learns Spanish, and my path basically never crosses those of the migrants who don’t speak English. Probably make more sense to learn some Navajo and Hopi, to break the ice and make friends with people living in certain photogenic locations up north….


              6. WithFrench bing an official language in Canada, it is advantageous to learn it as it allows you Federal government jobs and other government type jobs.

              7. Thanks, D:-). I actually parlayed the français quite fluently – wrote it, too. The issue was that I dared not to find Prof. Lapp’s lectures extraordinarily scintillating every Tues and Thurs from 2-4. Can’t believe I remember the days and times. He was such a bore and it was his way or the highway on every “explication de texte”.
                Arrrgh….bad memories.

              8. I had a similar experience with a Victorian English poetry prof. It didn’t help that I hate everything Victorian. He called me into his office to tell me I was stupid and shouldn’t be at university and it was the system that had convinced me otherwise.

                He used to attend the dean’s honours list ceremonies and I always was on it so I made sure to go so he could see me there. Either the whole system conspiratorially decided to convince me I was smart when I was dumb or I was actually smart.

                What an ass. I managed to hold my tears until I got in the elevator so he didn’t see he had destroyed me as I thought I was stupid to begin with and here was a professor confirming it.

              9. Oh, Diana, how terrible! You seem to have run into more than your share of toxic people in your life!

              10. Maybe i run into the same amount of jerks as everyone else, but I just remember them because they make such an impression on me. 🙂

    2. I don’t think the one bad grade stakes are any worse now than they were in the 60s and 70s, depending, of course on what field you wanted to go into.

      I remember the shock of getting a C+ in first quarter Freshman English at Stanford after years of rarely seeing anything as low as a B. It was a blow to the ego, but it did not require counselling or a hissy fit. I just needed to work harder and/or recognize that with our curve, I was still in the top half of a pretty competitive pack. ( at our Freshman Convocation they told us that half of us would be in the bottom half of the class. Duh, but still a shock…)Brought myself up to possibly a B+, but never an A in English. Did manage some As in chem and math and comp sci and Italian.

    3. No, I think you’re wrong. I think it is the infantilization of today’s youth by over-protective parents that is producing the results we are seeing. Afraid of a little mouse? Good grief. I’d immediately flunk any student who could not set a mouse trap.

      What ever happened to problem-solving skills? They disappeared, thanks to mommies and daddies who made sure the road to success was smoothly paved without the bumps and bruises of life.

      But what are they going to do without mommy and daddy? And what are we to do with a generation of whinners?

      1. And to think I went to school with a girl who told a story about how her house (packed with students) was riddled with mice. She said she saw a baby one in the shower with her and remarked how it looked cute when it wiped the water from its eyes.

  20. I think this has less to do with a lack of roaming on behalf of the children, and more to do with their mental state. Anxiety disorders are on the rise — which is caused by over-protective parenting in the emotional, and not exploratory, sense. Just imagine being anxious because of poor parenting (criticism, emotional detachment etc, caused by stressed, overworked parents) and then end up in college and have your views criticised. That’s how mental breakdowns are had.

  21. > If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?

    I have two guesses here, one a bit more arcane than the other:

    First, maybe this is for the same reason we see a rise in anti-vaccination activism? That is, because actual rates of child mortality, child molestation, etc. are at an all-time low, parents are less “accustomed” to the possibility of something happening.

    Second, it might be caused by a perception that the world becomes more and more insecure (especially true for post-9/11 USA), so in child care, where they have the power to do so, people exert their urge to make that world safer – “at least I can protect my children!”

  22. I am a university teacher and have much experience with “touchy” students. I disagree with most commenters. What they write may be true, but I find it irrelevant.

    My observation is that many of the bad students just pretend to be over-sensitive. They shed tears when they get a non-passing grade, complain etc. because they expect to win this way. They hope that the teacher will succumb to their pressure and give them a passing grade so that not to feel bad, or maybe not to see them ever again.

    To me, the solution is to write the non-passing grade and to order the weeping student out. This increases her resilience. In some cases, it even improves her academic performance, but even if she comes to the exam unprepared (like a guest, as we say) for a second time, she is far less likely to try the same BS again.

    1. I applaud your refusal to buckle under the pressure to accommodate overly sensitive students. Giving a student a passing grade because she starts crying, or for any reason besides demonstrating acceptable academic performance, strikes me as a kind of fraud (even if not a malicious kind)…

      I just worry that professors who take a hard line will be run out, or at least filtered out of the next generation of professors, by the rise of administrators who want to avoid any bad feelings.

      1. The only time I gave some leeway when tears were involved was when my very best programming student, a young East Indian girl, accidentally deleted 2 hours worth of program during the final exam. This girl had done everything right all semester, with nary a whine. I calmed her down, let all the other kids leave at the end, and quietly let her start over while staying an extra two hours. Fortunately no other class came in after ours.

        1. A very humane decision and exactly what you should have done. Exam results are supposed to reflect ability and it would be quite unfair to effectively penalise her hugely for one single mistake.

          (In fact programmers make mistakes all the time, that’s what debugging is about…)


    2. I agree that that applies to many of the delicate flowers. But teachers are inhibited from such responses these days from both the top and the bottom. Universities are corporations and students are customers, and customers must be pleased. From the student side we have the weapon of online teacher evaluations.

      1. What is so funny is universities hate the words “corporate” or “customer”. I’ve probably offended many using these terms. I went to a conference with people from universities from around the world and they universally spoke about this.

        1. Universities have their own version of PC speech. 😉

          Just like other corps save benefits by cutting hours, then call their part timers “independent operators,” part-time professors (no benefits) are “adjunct.”

      2. I find it appalling that one of the main categories in every teacher evaluation form I’ve seen has been “Easiness.”

              1. That’s what you called easy courses? ( not that we had many…). In Ontario mickies are those little bottles of booze you get on planes or in hotel mini-bars.

              2. At the ASU School of Music, we called them all, “Jazz in America.” Because that was a very popular course that music majors were expressly prohibited from enrolling in lest we laugh hysterically at how trivial the content was. And it was, far and away, the one class with the highest enrollment numbers in the entire School of Music, easily outstripping even marching band.

                Common wisdom amongst us music majors was that the only way to actually flunk the class was to never go to any of the classes…and, even then, we weren’t too sure….


              3. That’s because you use all these fancy newfangled measurements — litters, miters, grahams, and now Mickeys. What’s worng with good ol’ barrels and hogsheads, leagues and furlongs, stones and hundredweight?

                ‘Tain’t us who’s confused….


              4. See? That’s what I mean. Eleven puppies to the litter. How on Earth is one supposed to remember such an odd conversion factor!? So much easier to remember 63,360 inches to the mile, or 20,160 minutes to the fortnight.


              5. Mickey as in Mickey Mouse Course. Surely you’ve heard that?

                And a chuckle at Ben & Diana.

              6. “Micro agression”? I’ve just invented nano-agressions. My brain operates by them. One neuron zaps the next neuron and that zaps the next and so on…


        1. Let me guess…in a sign of all that’s perverted and fucked up with today’s schools, being seen as “easy” is a desirable trait in a teacher?

          When I was in school, the professors used to compete with each other to see who could get the reputation for being the hardest of the hardasses. They wore their SOB (son of a bitch) reputations with pride. One in particular…for a certain introductory research class for Master’s students, he’d always have an assignment that asked for the fingering for a low Eb on an ophicleide, or something equally obscure. And, though the answer would be even harder to find than you’d suspect, the answer didn’t earn you any credit on the assignment…you had to fully document your search for it, provided full bibliographic details, the works.

          But, as much as students bitched vocally while they were in his class, they couldn’t sing his praises high enough later when they were working on their theses….


  23. A (hopefully) interesting insight from Mexico:

    Here we have public and private education from kindergarten to graduate school. Public institutions are are free (i.e., paid for by tax payers); the private ones are basically big corporations that those who can afford to opt into almost without exception. Poor people use the public system and rich people (i.e., middle class and up) use the private system almost exclusively.

    The public students are much, much tougher, mature, and resilient than the private kids. I think this may be because here the private system is NOT concerned with providing education, but rather social status. Students at private institutions rarely, if ever, fail any class. Even the dumbest ones graduate on time with OK grades. Students at private institutions are basically seen as customers who are to be kept happy. The actual educational content is the same for public and private institutions; indeed, nearly all the precious little science Mexico does is done at public institutions.

    I lived this, having had private institution education all the way up to an engineering undergraduate degree, and then moving to a public institution for physics grad school. When I first got there I felt like such a wimp! The public system simply doesn’t care what your emotions are; there are courses, exams, and deadlines, and you’re expected to comply regardless of your background, personal situation, past traumas, ethnicity, etc. After all, you’re just a number and someone else is paying for all of it!

  24. Back in the day (yes,yes, I know) kids were failed and repeated a grade, at almost all levels of school they didn’t meet the standards.
    Today no-one fails, no-one receives a zero for not completing an assignment…. resulting in kids unable to accept that they effed up and they’d get a chance to try harder and do better.

  25. While the increase of things to do inside has to contribute to children staying in, I don’t think that’s the dominant pressure in the slightest. I was born in 1975, so I grew up with access to constant TV and videogames. Yet I still spent a lot of time outside, wandering very far afield with my parents having no clue on my whereabouts until I arrived at home. I still recall wandering the neighborhood with friends at the age of three.

    I’m convinced it’s to do with fears about safety, which in turn are due to an inability to recognize the difference between absolute and relative statistics as they pertain to crimes against children.

    The rate of such crime, as a percentage of the population, has dropped precipitously over my lifetime, and continues to fall each year. But the knowledge of such crimes grows even faster, it seems. There are many more people here now than there were several decades ago, so there are more crimes to report, even though the rate at which they happen is lower. And we now hear about almost all of them.

    So parents hover about their children, because they’re taught by society at large that they’d be irresponsible if they did otherwise. Children are prevented from roaming the environment on their own because that’s considered neglect. And now we reap the rewards of our unjustified paranoia.

    1. Remember that rather juvenile film “Days of Thunder”? In which our heroine (the sexy Nicole Kidman) tells our hero (the idiot Tom Cruise) that control is an illusion? I think we oughta make parents watch that film for that one significant scene. Safety? What a joke!

  26. That mouse story reminds me of a college roommate I had some 20 years ago. She wasn’t exactly clean in the kitchen, and when she moved in she took all my dishes and cookware out of the cabinets and put them in a small spot under the counter and filled the cabinets up with all her stuff. She also, rather than taking the garbage out like a normal human being, would throw it out the window of our tenth floor apartment.

    So, we had a roach. Probably the American cockroach given how freakily huge it was. And she flipped the hell out and went completely, abosutely bonkers just knowing this thing existed. She dealt with it by unloading a can of roach spray on my dishes and cookware until a friend and I physically removed her from the apartment. She was in tears. My friend and I dispatched the roach. We located her in the RA’s room where she was crying. It wasn’t nice, but we told her that we put it on a fork and left it on her pillow for her, which sent her freaking out again. The RA attempted to set us strait but I informed her that my roommate’s reaction was one that could send me to the hospital or kill me if she sprayed her poison all over my dishes and then I cooked and ate with them without knowing. I think the RA then told her to stop freaking out, the roach wasn’t really on her pillow and to explained to her what would happen if she kept unloading bug spray on my cookware (probably involved a suspension and paying my medical bills).

    (I also fully admit that American cockroaches always shock me with how huge they are every time I see them. I have been known to yelp when discovering one.)

    1. “Freaking out” as in a panic is the worst thing any human can do. The thing we need to somehow get everyone to never do. But our society isn’t set up that way. Should some major happening threaten us like a pandemic, or New Madrid fault erupts or the Yellowstone Caldera blow up, many will die just from panice alone. And kill more around them.

      Forest roaches have wings, only come in when they are in desperate need of food and water then they leave. But I have found some dead from coming in and still dying.

  27. I think a lot of the helicopter parenting is due to the climate of fear that we live in. Your kids are much less likely to be victims of pedophiles now, than back in the 70’s/80’s, but the fear and awareness is much greater. However is the level of safety because parents are more aware now or not?

    As a parent, I do find myself a little worried about my kids doing things I used to do unsupervised when I was there age. However they also do not seem to be as adventurous as I was at their age, and the idea of going bicycling around the neighbourhood by themselves doesn’t seem to appeal to them.

    It’s also annoying the way society is headed. If the kids are dropped off too early to school (more than 15 minutes before the bell) or not picked up soon enough, then I’ll get a call from the principal (we live too far away for the kids to walk to school).

  28. “If Gray is right, what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?”

    This has been happening for decades now starting with “…We don’t keep score…everyone gets a medal” mentality. Everyone can’t be a winner all the time. Besides, the kids always knew what the score was regardless.

    Kids have to learn to be resilient. Babies fall down all the time before they finally learn to walk. Today’s kids are told they’re supposed to be OFFENDED because their toys come in pink or blue. It’s their wacky parents who are doing this to them. Is everyone just looking for their 15 minutes?

    1. Regarding the dad angry about the “inappropriate” toy, I say that whenever people resort to calling something “inappropriate”, it means they don’t really have a coherent argument against it.

      1. Yay! Heartily agree.

        They’re also completely misusing the word. They mean ‘offensive’ (whether it’s trully offensive or only to their over-sensitive Puritan instincts). But they don’t want to say that because it’s too blunt.

        ‘Inappropriate’ means something completely different. Just another case of weasel words (like using ‘non-approved’ for ‘forbidden’, for example).

        I find that misuse of ‘inappropriate’ both inappropriate AND offensive, what a surprise. 😉


  29. “what has happened in society to create people’s need to protect children from everything?”

    Like witch trials, it’s a self-perpetuating hysteria, IMO.

    The ‘fragile’ kids are just responding to fashion, doing what’s expected of them. Also IMO.

    And I agree it’s all nauseatingly stupid.


  30. An article I read a while back said that one thing that makes kids less resilient is by praising them for success. This makes them less willing to try hard because they want to keep getting praise.

    On the other hand, praising effort results in kids more willing to exert themselves, because failure is less risky.

    1. That’s a good point, and I’d phrase the first part as “praising success makes them less willing to risk failure”, but I’d counter that you can’t only focus on praising effort either, or else we get the mentality where kids are given trophies just for participating (i.e. everyone wins and gets a trophy).

      I think you should praise both: praise effort, praise success even more, and criticize a lack of effort. And perhaps shift from effort to success as they mature…

      1. Why praise success at all? People can’t control success, they can only control effort. This concept applies just as much to adults as it does to children.

        1. I think effort can be directed in many directions, some of which are useful and beneficial, and some of which are even counter-productive. I think learning to work effectively is as important as learning to work hard.

          1. Agreed, but that’s all part of effort. The direction of effort need to be modified if it doesn’t produce the desired results.

  31. I’ve made a few retorts here and there as I’ve read through ALL of the comments above. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I can’t abide students who whine and cry about the grade they EARNED, about how unfair life is, and how they are so offended by someone exercising their right of free speech. And I find the reaction of faculty and administration reprehensible when they back students’ demand that speech they find offensive is inappropriate for the college campus environment (the inevitable result of education becoming big business). But then, I was a student of the 60s, and we were, if anything, unleashed from the current zeitgeist. After all “you didn’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

    College students are totally unrecognizable to one who was an active SDS member, who marched against the Vietnam War and for desegregation with MLK in NYC. “Where have all the flowers gone?” To pansies, I guess.

    I totally support the University of Chicago’s “free expression” standards, and find it absolutely mind blowing that such standards even need formal expression. University sure has changed since “the good ole days.”

    Maybe I should have more “faith” in today’s students (tomorrows adults)? Nah! What a bunch of whiners. Please, current generation, grow up and embrace the adventure of life. Until you’ve risked it all, you haven’t lived. Nothing is sacred, and nothing is safe. Think there is such a thing as control? Ask any man who has just experienced a myocardial infarction. Forget mommy and daddy, they ain’t always gonna be there to help. Whadaya ya gonna do then?

  32. What seems odd to this baby boomer is that students now trust the police. This isn’t the way it used to be; in high school and college we were committing a felony just by possessing marijuana. Some of us were supported by our parents, but at that age we were trying to get them out of our lives.

  33. Having taught on the college level from the late ’60s into the early ’90s I don’t find a lot new in what Jerry has to say about today’s students and the ones I encountered. Many undergrads seemed to feel that it was the duty of faculty to award high marks to all students regardless of the quality of their work. On the other hand, the administration was highly critical of “grade inflation” on the part of faculty. So we faculty got student complaints for low grades and administration complaints for too many high grades. All of this complicated by the Vietnam war during a significant segment of that period.

    I would get pleas from some students, “Please give me a high grade, my grade point average is so low I’m about to be kicked out of school (and end up in Vietnam)”. Unfortunately, they did no better with me than with my colleagues. I remember a parent, desperately pleading to allow her son to retake a final exam he’d failed so he could escape the draft. I let him retake it and he failed again. I hated having to give the bad news to her but what can you do?

    Fortunately, I got my share of good to excellent students over that period and they’re the ones I most happily remember. Special pleading has always been around. Only the circumstances differ over the years.

    1. What may have changed is that now the admin is also caving to grade inflation, sometimes more than the teachers ( at High School level anyway).

  34. … two students who had sought counseling because they had seen a mouse in their off-campus apartment. The latter two also called the police, who kindly arrived and set a mousetrap for them.

    Oh boy, are they ever going to be traumatized if the mousetrap actually catches the mouse…

  35. This issue is one of the primary reasons for my first divorce. My ex-wife and I grew up in the 50s and 60s. Both of us had a lot of freedom. Though I was either caddying to make money or playing sports most of the time, my parents mostly had no idea where I was from the time I was about 8 or 9. She says it was about the same for her. And yes, I got into trouble that my parents could have prevented by keeping me on a leash, but I also got out of trouble and I usually did so by getting caught and having to face the consequences without an adult to take care of it for me. I was 17 when I left for college and I never lived in my parents’ house again. My ex left for college at 17 also, on her motorcycle. I’m not suggesting that we were mature, but we were more mature than my own kids could have imagined.
    Our marital problems stemmed from the fact that she always intervened whenever any of the kids needed help. She never let them do a half-assed job on their homework so they could discover the negative consequences of turning in work that reflected a lack of effort. Instead she would either stand guard over them with instruction after order after suggestion to the point that one might wonder who actually did the work. Or she would try to appoint me to the position of Sergeant at Arms to police their homework. I often refused or I would pretend to hover while I watched the football game with my good eye. Needless to say, the arguments ensued and gradually became more intense. I suggested that our children would be much better off learning how to do things from beginning to end including learning to motivate themselves and learning to manage their time. But no. I was accused of refusing to be a parent.
    The rest is the same story you’ve all heard before. My kids struggled with organization and time management after they left home, but they eventually figured it out after she finally left them alone when each reached 40-50 years old. No. Just kidding. They each learned how to deal with the world as it is, not as they wanted it to be, eventually, but for two of them it was a real struggle. My 32 year old still looks to me when he has a problem. As always, I help, but I don’t do the solving for him, I give advice by asking him questions. I think it’s a lesson better learned at a much younger age because the fact remains that the world is mostly going to be what it is and we mostly have to learn to accept it. There are a few things we can change, maybe, but most real change is accomplished within ourselves.

  36. Sorry if this have been brought up earlier…I think part of the problem has been the increase in the number of working Moms. (Which I’m all in favor of, FWIW.)

    Kids nowadays need to be supervised the equivalent of 8-to-5, 5 days a week, nearly every week of the year. Well over half of my kids’ classmates went from school to “aftercare” until parents got off work. They’d been in day-long daycare before even getting to pre-school. Every time a school vacation comes up parents have to hustle to find other custodial services for their kids–many organizations, a lot of them churches, step in with day-long summer camps. There are also “camps” for winter vacation, spring vacation, etc.

    This leaves neighborhoods more or less empty during working hours. As someone’s already mentioned above, that in itself makes being unsupervised less safe–there’s no “village” any more to step in during emergencies. And when the kids get picked up from whatever arrangements they have to spend their days in, they often have enough homework to fill the hours from dinner to bed.

    Week-ends become a time to catch-up on chores, play sports, and of course do more homework. Even before we add the ubiquity and lure of video games and TV, it’s the lucky child these days who can find some time to carve out for personal adventures; and even if they can, chances are their buddies aren’t free to come along.

    This every-minute-scripted way of life not only leads to kids with no experience-earned resilience, it also leaves many of them with no idea how to entertain themselves (beyond electronics).

    1. So different from when I was a kid and had a key around my neck to let myself in. My dad got home about half an hour after I did. I’m sure m parents would have been charged with neglect doing so these days.

      Of course there was an uproar about “latch key kids” back then.

      1. Yes, and latch-key-kids’ parents were frowned upon in many quarters. IIRC, many kids were told to come home, re-lock the doors, and hit the books. Many were much more, uh, creative, of course.

      2. Yes, I remember my mom talking condescendingly about the latch key kids whose mothers were not at home when school was ovee. Ironically, due to financial difficulties, I myself was a latch key kid by the age of 10…

    2. That’s an excellent analysis of a dimension of this that I don’t think anybody’s brought up yet.

      Do kids these days even have a chance to be bored, let alone a chance to figure out how to make themselves not bored?


      1. It often seems they don’t. Children shouldn’t be keeping the equivalent of adult working hours in constantly managed situations. (Many parents have no choice, of course.)

        (And for all of today’s “enrichment activities” [think of all those “camps”], wasn’t it just today that the SAT folks announced that average scores had hit a new low?)

  37. Women’s self-defense teachers cannot call it “self-defense” anymore. (Because that means you are blaming women who *didn’t* take a self-defense course.)It can now only be correctly spoken of as… “self-care.”

      1. Sadly, yes! It seemed to start about a year ago with a new site called Everyday Feminism, who posted a very mild article on self-defense. It was angrily denounced by women who said they had been raped, and that self-defense didn’t help *them.*

        Article was pulled by the end of the day, this is what the editors said: “It was not a piece about self-defense; it was a piece about ways that women can “protect” themselves against sexual assault, which we felt was victim-blaming rhetoric.”

    1. Aargh! is my reaction too.

      “Self-care” is a stupid term to use in that context. It sounds like trimming ones nails, or using hand lotion, or even checking one’s vitamin intake.

      Using it to mean ‘self-defense’ is not only replacing a reasonably accurate descriptive term with one that means something else altogether, it’s going to corrupt the meaning of ‘care’.

      Aargh again.


      1. Oh, and using ‘self-care’ in that context implies, of course, that rape victims have failed to take care of themselves, or have been careless. So it’s just as much ‘victim-blaming’ (if that were true) as the original term that was objected to. Fail all round.


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