The New Cold War
The alienation of the generations
I was born as the last remnants of the “free love” era was coming to a close (though my father would argue that the term “free” had a bastion of hidden taxes attached); school was just that, school. From nine to three thirty, Monday to Friday, except for holidays and the two day teacher’s convention that occurred around the end of February. Kids passed or failed, depending on the letter they received on their report card and occasionally the class would be blessed with some poor student-teacher to whom we would apply our best and cruelest of psychological torture upon. If you got too out of line, there were three options: a warning from the principal, a strapping from the principal, and thirdly was being suspended from school for x amount of days.
After school you looked forward to quickly doing your chores and homework so that you could go outside and run around until night’s fall called our day to an end. It seems that, in most cases unless it was a single parent situation, one had to check in with a parent/guardian who stayed at home. You would always look forward to Saturday morning the most because that was when you were allowed to eat your cereal in the living room and watch the cartoons that flashed before your eyes. When the last cartoon ended around noon, you’d eat your lunch quickly so that you could go either outside, or play inside or on those real special Saturdays, catch a matinee at the local theatre where you’d meet up with all your friends and fight for the seat behind the girl in school had matured the most over the summer so that you could look over her shoulder to catch the faintest hint of a nipple.
Looking at the life of a child being born at the beginning of the twenty first century is like something I would have read as a twisted sci-fi satire written and drawn by Don Martin or David Berg. Today, school is fluid in its hours. For instance, the Catholic school in town begins their classes at ten to nine and runs until three twenty, five…four, sometimes three times a week. Every Monday the children are let out at two ten because the school district decided that embedded “professional development” was the way to go. This doesn’t replace the teacher’s convention nor the entire days off for “professional development” (though there are fewer this year than last year, in which there was a PD every month). In the lower grades, children are not rated by letter grades but on a sliding scale of “proficient at grade level” or “not proficient at grade level”. Today’s schools are not seen as punishing the behaviour but understanding how to correct the behaviour with talks between the students, counselors, principal, teachers, and if they have time, maybe the parent(s)/guardian(s) before suspension from school or x amount of days occurs. Homework, grades and teacher’s messages that were once sent home with a student are posted on line, creating havoc for rural parents and students (For example, it took 40 minutes for a rural student to down load her two page homework assignment) and forcing parents who do not currently have a computer will be forced to get one lest the child fails to thrive in school.
After school, kids run or lope quickly home, or more often to their after-school centre as they listen or watch their I-Pods or mp3 players as both parents have to work or are separated so no one is home, so that they can turn on their television to watch the cartoons that are offered twenty four hours, seven days a week, or they turn on their video games or text their friends who live next door, until their primary parent(s) or guardian (s) pick them up to take them home. Going to the theatre isn’t a big deal; after all, they can just order the movie on a movie channel or watch it on-line. Playing outside for long is discouraged because sunshine is harmful and there could be a number of vile predators trolling the streets for their next prey. To see a nipple, today, all one has to do is type in “nipples” and page after page of sites appear.
There is the impression that ‘free time’ has to be scheduled and managed so that there is ‘quality’ to what the child does. As a child I don’t remember any real schedule with the exception of homework and chores, but today, children are enrolled in classes, when not involved in organized sports. Where once children had to learn how to structure their days, it is now more the more taken out and managed by adults so that the time isn’t ‘wasted’.
The trend towards complexity has entered the youngest of our global citizens. As a child, “Lego” came in a big box with rectangular, square, or occasionally with a square with tires, in the colours of blue, yellow, green and red. At best there was a single piece of paper contained in the box with overtly simple pictures to show how to build something. Today, “Lego” kits are sold with complex instruction booklets, specific pieces that can only be used for that kit (example, the “Star Wars” line of Lego products. You can build an X-Wing, AT-AT, etc). It makes the kit more realistic to the ship or scene in the movie, but how much does it allow for the child to learn about memory games or alteration? “Lego”, damn it, should be as it was, a subversive toy that creates the synaptic nerve endings for problem solving.
As I look around I see the words “let children be children” but the actions and media messages that are sent and received are counter to this. One can see the conflict clearly by sitting down and watching one of those cartoon networks; one minute you are watching “Chum Chum and Fanboy” (with an amazing degree of flatulence jokes) then the next minute a tampon commercial is running. Look down the toy aisle; play make up, guns, child-friendly computer applications are aimed at the younger market. The “toys” that had been for adults are being miniaturized for child-consumption.
Was my upbringing so barbaric, so primitive, that I just cannot fathom the changes that have happened in the past twenty or so years? Are there so many psychological scars that my mind can’t see with clarity on how society has bettered itself? Did being out in the sun for too many long hours fry my synaptic nerves to the point where I can’t see how Wile E. Coyote and his plans to capture the Road Runner was just plain bad because there was no moral message or educational significance to his actions? If we, as a society, have made such great leaps in our global caring, why are there so many acts of violence and cold actions being carried out by the children who have it so much better than I did when I was a kid? Perhaps it is not that I had such a perverse upbringing after all; perhaps it is the result of having too much of a childhood for so many that has corrupted the vision of today’s power groups.
Stalin’s Resurrection….Sort Of
Reviled by the Western world to the point of paranoia, especially by the American government in the nineteen sixties, the ideals of communism have infiltrated our culture. It could be argued that the pure ideals of communism are not as threatening but more in line with the current thought processes of liberalized equality parameters that even the staunchest of conservative governments will hold up as their goals for their nation in order to garner popularity numbers in the polls. Where communism fails is in the transplantation to reality because of the conflict with the human ego’s need to achieve its own notoriety and success over others. Joseph Stalin, in Western histories, is vilified as an iron fist bent on crushing not only the Western world but his own population for personal gains.
The individual rights and freedoms are held up to the developing regions as symbols of Western democracy, yet they are simply cardboard cut-outs meted out for video cameras then stored away at some government storage centre until the next photo opportunity is scheduled by the civil service handlers. To avoid being held as responsible, heads of governments prefer to deflect that inference by non-personal pronouns or third person language such as “the people of [insert country here] need…” or “researchers”; no specific names in order that if their intent fails, it falls into the no man’s land of accountability, and more importantly, personal retribution. Consider the following actions:
The Canadian government hosts a conference on the future development of the far Northern areas of the world – it does not invite representatives of the people who reside within Canada’s borders in the discussion area.
Israel on a regular basis engages in combat strikes within the Palestine-Israeli “neutral zone”, rationalizing these incursions as protecting the Jewish settlers who are moving into Palestinian disputed land. Western leaders express their disapproval but take no tangible sanctions against Israel.
The American government is holding thousands of captured soldiers in Guatanamo Bay without having set any deadlines for release or trial dates, contrary to the United Nations war conventions that the United States did sign.
In 2003, Canadian and American forces usurped the legally elected government of Haiti. In the years following, under the pretense of NATO and United Nations edicts, Iraq and Afghanistan have had similar fates. In all three countries, the government that were declared as “corrupt” or “evil” initially were supported by Western nations such as Canada and The United States. It was not until those governments refused to be manipulated any longer in exchange for arms, foreign “aid” money or political patronage that they were taken down and replaced with a compliant government.
The actions of government are seen on the smaller scale of society, though governments would prefer the public to believe that political actions do not influence socio-economic reactions. How can one rationalize that violence in the urban and rural streets of Winnipeg cannot be correlated with the actions of the military in war or ‘peace keeping’ zones around the world? Political power is an aphrodisiac that all subconsciously desire no matter the age or lack of definition. It is not politicians that can be solely assigned accountability for the lack of civility on Western streets, but the educational system, particularly those who are turning out the messiahs for the younger generational disciples.
Religion, politics and education stem from the same root; control of others through the psychological warfare axiom “you must or you will be damned because we say so”. When a church’s followers lose faith, it loses its power and soon fades away. The education system, however, has kept its power though it has lost their students and their families faith because it has a symbiotic relationship with politics. The education system, without governmental regulations and acts would no longer exist; it would have withered and died a decade ago. As with the Western political systems, education does not have a specific face that can be pointed out as being accountable for the actions; spreading out policy decision responsibility thinly through pronouncements of “educational researchers” or “school boards” or when all else fails, “government policy” – though those policies are shaped by educational professionals who garner favour with politicians over ordinary parents/guardians.
The New Berlin Wall
Governments and their mainstream media lapdogs are pushing the message that today’s children are out of control; but children are not out of control, society is. The insistence of labeling, segmenting and defining in attempt to create order has resulted in a violent negative reaction to the natural order of existence: Chaos. There has to be a broad element of randomness that allows individuals to see themselves as individuals, to expect that they have choices. The clutter of strict regulation has taken this perception of choice from people and has put an enormous amount of duress upon the shoulders – especially those under the ‘legal’ age. From the experimental sixties the Western world slid into the “Me” seventies and half of the eighties, two decades would make the beginning of the overt slow death of family and true community. The children of today are not the only ones caught in the legislative mudslide that the educational and political tyrants have started.
Today’s parents and guardians are victims of the thunderous torrents, they have been conditioned by their school experiences that you don’t buck the system. Authority figures, especially the principal and teacher are always right and bad things happen if you don’t conform. They pass this on to their children In the case of psychologists and the educational system, reverence and respect aren’t to be earned, they are demanded because that’s the way it is. Schools don’t want students to guess, they want the students to recite and learn by rote what information it deems is important. It is easy to point a finger at parents –there is no defence that can be given when ‘professionals’ have plugged up the ears of government officials with dense packs of certificates and diplomas.
The New York Times reported recently that the Obama presidency will be submitting a bill next year that targets the companies supplying internet services. The bill would legislate that:
Any service that provides encrypted messages must be capable of unscrambling them,
Any foreign communications providers that do business in the U.S. would have to have an office in the U.S. that’s capable of providing intercepts
Software developers of peer to peer communication services (such as Facebook, Skype and Blackberry) would have to redesign their products to allow intercepts
The rationale, according the article, from FBI lawyer Valerie Caproni is “We’re not talking about expanding authority. We are talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect public safety and national security” (1).
What does the educational field expect at the beginning of the school year when they open the door? They hope that the majority of the children walking through the door have been diagnosed or will be diagnosed with some sort of physical, mental or learning disability. It makes it easier for teachers and administrators to pass the responsibility of actually teaching students onto the mystical and fantasy filled world of specialization and coding. When a child is tested, probed and classified, there are predetermined limits and expectations that teachers and the school administration have for that child. Children aren’t stupid. They catch on quick to what they are expected to and they adjust themselves accordingly. They watch the teacher and they figure out what they can do and cannot do and just leave it at that. Why? Why not? If you can get away by having someone else doing it or the easy way out, most adults will do the same thing.
Fear is by far the greatest tool used by the educational system. Many parents/guardians are under the mistaken impression that if they rock the boat and demand a better system, it’s their children that will beget the consequences of their actions such as told in “Scar Wars, parts I and II (2,3). Somehow, the service as become the master. To the same extent, some Early Interventions use the same tactic but it’s harder to catch since we, as a society, have chosen to think that developmental theory is etched in stone rather than what it is; someone’s opinion written down and someone agreeing to publish it as TRUTH. There have been guidelines set out saying that a child should be doing this at this age, that at that age, without allowing for the fact that no child develops the same skills or talents at the same time and that some children just don’t fit the mold. But low and behold, it becomes THE WORD and THE WORD must be upheld as truth. Developmental theory is like a religious fervor – as long as it has its followers, and those followers have no inclination to question the findings, then that has to be the TRUTH. The greatest part of developmental theory is when they are wrong (example, the most of the TRUTHS from the fifties no longer are around, they have changed – from believing a spank on the butt is okay to being one of the greatest sins known to mankind and child abuse, so technically, shouldn’t all our parents, grandparents be put on trial? Of course not, that would be stupid) but what happens twenty years from now when the TRUTH changes to MISGUIDED NOTIONS and the new TRUTH emerges? Are any of the people on today’s child development theory pedestals going to offer to do jail time for their sins against today’s society? Nope, it’s going to be rolled under the carpet and forgotten. The only commonality that continues to be any sort of truth is that it’s always the parents fault, never the system. Fear of being called a bad parent is what the system that was supposed to work for the family is now wielding a large stick and yelling for obedience instead of listening to what families want for their children.
The more kids that schools can classify, the more funding they can ask for. It’s a simple case of mathematics. Schools don’t get funds for having average or normal students. Schools get funding for students with learning, mental or physical disabilities. True educational courses do widen the strategies that a person can pursue, however it only applies to people who aren’t afraid to take responsibility for their actions. If a person is too scared to make a decision on their own then whether they have been given ‘formal’ education or have plain old common sense, is moot. Western society, however, has been conditioned to the point where unless there is a series of initials behind a person’s name, the information they are providing is not legitimate.
Despite the tactics used by politicians and educational professionals to minimalize the importance of the roles of the parent/guardian in the educational system, they still need to give the impression that the parent/guardian have a role to play in the dynamic. The process is not a two-way dialogue of suggestions, but a monologue that though the actions are to be carried out within the school setting, the inference that the failure of the attempts will be placed upon the shoulders of the parent/guardian. Often this is done through the creation of IEP (individual educational plans) that while educators like to say is a ‘working paper’ only, a parent/guardian signature on it allows the educators to shift any blame or penalty on its failure from their actions, or parent/teacher conferences. The educational system, to show how serious they are about these conferences, for example, in Detroit, one prosecutor is attempting to get a bill passed that will make parents serve jail time if they fail to show up for a conference (4).
That’s the crux of power, but its only power when we allow it to be powerful. Somehow, the ideas of family first have given way to system first, feed the system, keep the system happy and just try to fit the family in somewhere. I surmise that it may have happened in with the invention of mass communication and the best communicators got the opportunities to become rich. Both good information and bad information became the basis of “getting ahead of the Jones” and conforming to the norm in order to succeed yet instead of teaching students to think and create, we are digging deeper into a ditch of this group does this, and that group does that, therefore this is what they are going to be given to learn. There is the objective of creating a sense of elitism, no matter the job or career choice by the educational system’s push towards accreditation and certification to be regarded for that position. Not only does it keep the educational fed of students and therefore profitable, the majority of those who have to go to the courses often have to take out government issued student loans, which then make the student under the fiscal thumb of the various forms of government.
Chipping away at the Wall
It is a fallacy that Shangri-la can be legislated into existence; specific Utopian ideals are unique to an individual’s experiences and influences, not a group phenomenon, therefore the conflict generated by counter or slightly delineated goals can never be resolved. Take the notion of something as simple as “Children should eat dinner at 6:00”. A group of people can agree that this sounds as a reasonable time, but as individuals what “dinner” is can be greatly debated. A Muslim will agree to the time, unless it falls on Ramadan, A Catholic will agree as long as the meal does not consist of meat on Friday, a vegan would not consider meat as part of dinner, a dietician would argue against trans-fats, an allergist would have issues if there is a chance of a reaction to glutton, milk, etc. Those who feel entitled to manage our culture cannot interpret the individual over the masses; the micro-management of the parent/guardian is effective they can identify the differences and adjust accordingly.
This is why Western society is doomed to fail unless power is placed back into the family unit and informal community structure. The cost of the lack of an informal community ran be seen daily on any newscast – What has an increase restrictive reach of government and social watchdogs generated in the past decade?
Pitt Meadows, British Columbia – a sixteen year old girl is gang raped at a party, pictures are taken of the crime then posted on Facebook. People make crude and cruel comments about the girl. (5)
Red Deer, Alberta – A twenty year old man attacked and almost fatally wounded a 22 year old man with a machete. Upon the victim’s release from the hospital, he joked about the close call on his Facebook page. (6)
Toronto, Ontario – A twenty-three year old woman faked having several severe forms of cancer and set up a mock charity called “Change for a Cure” on Facebook. (7)
It is not a generational gap, per se, but a societal one. In an effort to behave humanely, we have become callously inhumane. To alleviate suffering we have become masters of torture. To espouse the grandeur of equality we have developed into a strict caste system. Western society has adopted the mantra “you have to be kind to be cruel”; the Marquis de Sade and Caligula would be proud of their suspiciously spurned utopian visions have become reality. Today’s community is not informal where neighbours communicate to each other and look out for one another but a government regulated formed community in which people have been slowly phased out of the equation to be replaced by edicts manufactured to mimic ‘caring’ on an equitable scale for the profit of the elite in powerful positions. It is the lack of having the awareness of ‘humaness’ has been filled by the awareness that the individual is unimportant, the system is what matters.
Perhaps the hedonistic and excessive approach to life in the seventies and early eighties caused a massive self-guilt trip to be laid upon government and higher learning institutions because western society today has disengaged a face from a problem, disassembled a pace from a solution, creating a lack of perceptional depth to its sincerity. If it’s just a chunky mound of regurgitated information with all relevancies in front of a person already absorbed by another, why would the expectation be that person to be using the spoon to digest something that someone else couldn’t stomach?
Choice is the cornerstone to a content mental state; in encourages growth and a sense of security of one’s importance in society, allowing a person to feel that their opinion matters. Oppression has many forms but the consequences to the psyche of an individual are the same: the desire to break away from it. While governmental choice for what the perceived needs of the individual for an equitable society are made by the few, the notion is hidden behind the facade of variety in the selection of wants in rampant consumerism. Decry that it is the basis for capitalism that the market’s demands are such that supplies must be widespread – but the crafting of selection creates the illusion of control to those who in essence are powerless. It is a strategy of curbing unrest through distraction. This strategy begins the moment a child is born into today’s society. Today’s children have less choice in play; most toys manufactured have specific goals or educational outcomes to compliment specific items; even dolls now speak, defecate, urinate, burp and cry, mimicking the behaviours of babies. This is sending three messages:
(1) We know how you should play,
(2) You do not have to worry about creating; we will do it for you, because
(3) We know that you don’t have the ability to be imaginative.
Though the educational system likes to assign blame to parents/guardians for the negative behaviours being displayed, the reality is that there is an expectation that children today are sent to preschool or playschool starting at age 3 or 4, taking the social behaviour modeling from parental/guardian guidance to structured and formal professional modeling. But is school really a proper forum to teach social skills? School often divides the students into cliques and it could be argued that the structure of the school’s mirror society accentuates the differences in those cliques over understanding of the similarities of the children. Once children have been ‘welcomed’ into a certain clique, their behaviour and choices are crystallized to be in line with those cliques’ unwritten rules of conduct. Walk down the halls of any school and you can see how the students have divided and separated themselves from the general population into their cliques areas, shunning those not in that circle to participate in what that clique is doing at that particular time.
The school system is based on an archaic European aristocratic model that doesn’t fit into different cultures, the assessment used don’t account for the cultural differences and importance. For example, an educational psychologist will regard a student’s lack of eye contact as an issue; however eye contact is considered disrespectful in some societies. Currently the education system favours the educators and those professionals linked to the system, such as educational psychologists, speech therapists or occupational therapists in its curriculum design and application. As teachers move from teaching to becoming more facilitators, the universities and colleges have pushed to make themselves indispensable by pushing for accreditation standards and certificates for employment purposes. School has become the sticky tape of old to the new, but its cheapness is not withstanding the cascade that flows unrestrained in the global information storm.
Though research (and what should be naturally known but since it was ‘researched’, therefore not heeded) of how people learn has continually countermanded how today’s educational system applies its practices in regards to individualism, it remains unchanged at the core. The expectation of students to sit and learn has become counter to the educational system’s own research in education, especially when it is in regards to male orientated instructional techniques. The school system, as it is structured today, cannot facilitate the learning styles of the students.
It may sound as an argument for more physical classroom space, more teachers and smaller class sizes, but it is the opposite; that the education system isn’t working because teachers are no longer certified in the processes today’s students require. Educational assistants are given the proper tools yet thy cannot address the concerns they see with parents or guardians as per the code of conduct does not allow for direct answers or questions – everything has to go through the teacher though she or he may not be aware or have the time to be fully aware of the needs of the individual students. It could very well mean that schools, as a physical structure, are phased out. It is up the community planners to offer the student’s casual socialization outlets, whilst it is the duty of the parent(s)/guardian(s) to facilitate the child’s use of those outlets.
Schools like to use is ADHD; its fashionable nowadays to have almost any child who shows any kind of energy or lack of attention to give them a diagnosis of it. In the” W-5” investigative report a couple of years ago on misdiagnosing ADHD, one mother was told that the school wouldn’t allow her child into the school if she wasn’t on medication for her behaviour. Another mother was told that if she didn’t put her child on medication, Children’s services would be called. A nineteen year old tells the same story, that if he didn’t take his medication, he would be out (8). Recently, there has been ‘new’ developments in the drugs that doctors prescribe for the ADHD have huge possible negative side effects; cardiovascular disorders, hallucinations and even suicidal thoughts when the majority of the behaviour issues could be resolved by simple solutions such as through diets that exclude chocolate, sweets or gluten, changing behaviours or just old fashioned exercises. But that requires active engagement on the part of the parent/guardian in that child’s life, so schools prefer to use strong arm tactics than try to actually do something non medicinal. Better to keep the universities and colleges happy that all the useless graduates they are pumping out brainwashed in the psychobabble that they’re shoveling out employed than to turn out healthy well adjusted children – where would all the specialists go? Dr. Robert Spitzer, the man responsible who identified attention deficit disorder and developed the classification in the ‘70s and 80’s, in a BBC2 documentary called “The Trap”, admits that “the classification led to many people being diagnosed as medically disordered when their mood swings and behaviour were simply normal feelings of happiness and sadness.” So you have the person who said this was what the TRUTH is turning around and saying, “Oops”. Do you think that for a moment that every person that has been told that they have ADD or ADHD is now going to get an apology? Compensation?
It could be reasoned then that the behaviours that the children of today with overtly violent and/or cruel results are not the lack of parenting, but the result of institutionalized and regulated parenting. In order to provide good role modeling for the younger generation a person has to prove to those they are mentoring that they are worthy of earning the respect and have the time for that generation. This however has become increasingly improbable as the pycho-emotional needs are being replaced by material goods as markers for mental health through the overabundance of distractions that children “gotta have to be cool” which parents/guardians have to work longer in order to provide those in their care with. The mental and monetary drain on parents/guardians allows for the infiltration of the government regulated professionals into the forefront of the children with the message: to make it in society, you have to be one of us. Individualism is important for a child’s development, without it a child can feel abandoned, alone – being part of a team is not satisfying unless at some point there is the expectation to be the star, if only for a moment – The institutionalization of the family unit is incapable of promoting or grooming this psychological need. There are a percentage of parent/guardians who are not responsible, but the greater number of professional interference in the maturation process is far greater than those.
The violence that is increasingly becoming a norm in our society in youth is not the only outlet that the new generation is using to retaliate towards the un-defined threat to their freedom. The introduction of texting has become a replacement for the standard structure of the English language, a facet that is probably causing many colleges and universities night horrors over the prospect of attempting to adjust their courses accordingly. This is the primary problem with Western society; the production of new technologies and methods that youth are easily picking up are proving difficult for their adult counterparts to keep up. The more control that is exerted to curb this inequality, the deeper the resistance by youth will bury itself into the new fertile ground. Stuck between the children and the political-educational powers for control over their destinies are parents and guardians. Damned by education or the government if they side with their children, damned by their children if they heed the threats of the education and government edicts.
Call it de-evolution; curl your lip into a scowl at the thought of a return to the lawlessness of the Wild West, but consider the route forward Western society is taking. Society is glutted by a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” mentality that is reflective on a childhood that has no relevance today. The result of this mindset can be summed up as the cultural apocalypse of Western political and scholastic society. The four horsemen of the apocalypse aren’t riding horses anymore; they are riding on degrees and certification. The bottom line is that our Western society is a sinking ship that its political and educational captains have taken to the lifeboats, leaving in their stead the children to slowly die in the freezing waters of oppressive legislation whilst parents/guardians watch through telescopes of the tragedy they are powerless to stop since the local constabulary, on orders of the mayor, have locked the gates to the docks. The great Red Bear of the U.S.S.R. may have gone extinct, but its spirit is now haunting Western Society.
A.B. Thomas: Governments and their mainstream media lapdogs are pushing the message that today’s children are out of control; but children are not out of control, society is.