Over at The American Thinker, Charlie Nathan is worrying about the millenial generation:
According to the Josephson Institute for Youth Ethics 2008 survey on the ethics of American youth, 64 percent of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the previous year and 38 percent did so two or more times. 30 percent admitted to stealing from a store within the past year. Yet, incredibly, an astounding 93 percent of those same high school students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character.
My personal experiences have confirmed these statistics. I know of one instance where rich parents offered a brand-new BMW to an SAT tutor to take the test for their child, who was surely in on the scheme. The parents didn’t want their child to achieve on merit alone and encouraged cheating. The tutor declined the offer, but I am confident this is not the only case.
To share another personal example of twisted morality, two summers ago I was eating at a diner with some recent acquaintances. After we finished, I left a generous tip. As we were leaving, my companions started to laugh hysterically. I asked what was so funny and they revealed that they had taken my tip, a reward for service that was perfectly fine, and replaced it with a penny. These boys essentially stole the major source of income from a waitress, insulting her in the process — all to “teach me a lesson” about over-tipping.
His concern for his generation is admirable, but perhaps his diagnosis is misplaced. Hannah Arendt once observed that in every generation Western Civilization is invaded by barbarians, which we call “children.” People aren’t born good. It’s something that needs to be learned. Mr. Nathan seems to go off track when he writes:
From Enron to Madoff, we have witnessed the economic consequences of immoral behavior. The current financial crisis was in part caused by immorality: buyers bought homes they couldn’t afford, sellers sold homes to people who couldn’t afford them, and the government sat back, enjoying the show.
. . .
So far, we Millennials have not had much of a chance to step up to the plate and prove ourselves morally capable of becoming the leaders of the American economy. But we will have no choice and, unless we change our ways, our immoral behavior can have disastrous consequences.
There’s far more to criticize in what happened before the Millenials. They’re the children of the Baby Boomers, and have come by their narcissism because they imitated their parents. It seems a stretch of logic to go from “the younger generation has a selfishness problem” to “the institutions are failing because of the older generation’s selfishness.”
The logical connection, which Mr. Nathan nibbles around but doesn’t really get to, is that the older generation, which both trashed the institutions and raised the younger badly, is at fault. The Baby Boomers shortcomings are an explanation—but not an excuse—for the Millennials. How much the Millennials are like their parents will determine the course of the 21st century.