Monday, February 22, 2010

Youth, self-esteem and the recession

Over at The Atlantic, there is an interesting article entitled, "How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America" (via Instapundit). In a section on the recession and American youth, the author makes some really good points about young people, self-esteem and the recession:

Many of today’s young adults seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has carefully compared the attitudes of today’s young adults to those of previous generations when they were the same age. Using national survey data, she’s found that to an unprecedented degree, people who graduated from high school in the 2000s dislike the idea of work for work’s sake, and expect jobs and career to be tailored to their interests and lifestyle. Yet they also have much higher material expectations than previous generations, and believe financial success is extremely important. “There’s this idea that, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to work, but I’m still going to get all the stuff I want,’” Twenge told me. “It’s a generation in which every kid has been told, ‘You can be anything you want. You’re special.’”

In her 2006 book, Generation Me, Twenge notes that self-esteem in children began rising sharply around 1980, and hasn’t stopped since. By 1999, according to one survey, 91 percent of teens described themselves as responsible, 74 percent as physically attractive, and 79 percent as very intelligent. (More than 40 percent of teens also expected that they would be earning $75,000 a year or more by age 30; the median salary made by a 30-year-old was $27,000 that year.) Twenge attributes the shift to broad changes in parenting styles and teaching methods, in response to the growing belief that children should always feel good about themselves, no matter what. As the years have passed, efforts to boost self-esteem—and to decouple it from performance—have become widespread.


The article points out that fewer young people know how to be entrepreneurs these days. Hence, they may not do as well as previous generations who knew more about how to make their way in the world. Sure, as the article points out, some are moving back home with Mom and Dad, but what happens when they are gone? And should parents really be using their income to pay for their kids when they need to pay for their own retirement?

This is what happens when you have useless social programs that promote PC feel good ideas as opposed to useful practical ones. People suffer from some of these idiotic ideas but at least they feel good about themselves while they do.

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41 Comments:

Blogger blahga the hutt said...

heh heh,

Oh yeah, it's not like I saw this coming or anything. Hell, I see that mentality from students all the time at my job at the university. Hold on to your hats, people, because you'll shortly be witnessing the largest collective temper tantrum in history play out.

3:59 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Jason said...

I graduated from HS in 1988, but I must've missed the self-esteem-boosting, 'cause I sure didn't have any!:-)

That said, I share the "I hate to work" ethic, but at the same time I'm something of a pinch-penny and don't expect Social Security to be there for me, so I save as much as I can and invest for the long term. I wonder where that puts me in terms of inter-generational attitudes...

4:04 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

I went to grad school at a very highly-ranked university for undergrad education. Our collective description of most of the Millenial entitled kids was "they can't wipe their own a**es."

I think it's worst at top schools, where the kids have always been smarter and more capable and told they are even more special; as a result they've gotten the idea they don't have to do menial tasks that most entry-level jobs and startup companies require. They think networking and their own self-evident awesomeness will pave the way.

As long as we are on the subject, grad school is an interesting mix of outliers - some of us were people who willingly sacrificed income and comfort in our younger years to work closely with the scientific problems that tickled our minds. But some were people deathly afraid of the real world who simply extended their college career and mindset into their mid-20's by enrolling in graduate school.

In the end I couldn't take it - I hated the lifestyle, the abuse of advisors (not mine but many others), the reflexive self-protection exhibited by almost every student, and the feeling that our lives were on hold until we finished. I suspended my program to take a real job, one of the best decisions of my life.

4:08 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"Hold on to your hats, people, because you'll shortly be witnessing the largest collective temper tantrum in history play out."

It will be worst among those who drank their way through college while honking away at a useless major that they didn't even apply themselves in.

Strong personalities can be successful no matter what their degree is in, but people who sought an easy major so they could "enjoy college" are in for a rude awakening that nobody wants what they are selling.

4:12 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I do understand that this new generation has a bit of an entitlement challenge. But just like college women having too much sex with alpha males, I'm not sure this is a challenge worth worrying about.

Some kids these days are protected from anything painful, having to do work, and are handed all that they want and they need from their parents. So it is a small wonder when these kids venture out into the world they find it distasteful and make a U-turn back to their parent's home. The very people who are causing the problem are the ones that end up suffering for it. If parents want to continue providing for their adult children until the either get tired of it or die then I guess that is their choice. Keep these kids away from me and I'm good.

4:18 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger blahga the hutt said...

Cham,

As always, you're totally missing the point so that you can make a shock-value statement.

Here's the deal. Politicians thrive on this sort of shit. They'll tell this generation that if they vote for them, they'll give them all sorts of goodies for free (actually, it's happening now, but look for it to be even more pronounced in the future).

All of this subsequent "free stuff" will have to come from somewhere. Since government does not create wealth, but takes it from its citizens, I can assure you that simply "keeping the kids away from" you will not do the trick. You'll pay for it somehow. The piper must be paid, and believe me, the payment will come.

I definitely see this country moving from center-right to center-left in the near future.

4:40 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

This is the logical outcome of a trend I noticed well over 20 years ago. Teens and twentysomethings believed they were entitled to start out at the same standard of living that it took their parents over 20 years to achieve "because they deserved it."

They want the money without doing the work or achieving the skills necessary to earn it. It's like they never got over believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy - beings that would give you stuff "just because."

There are some of this generation that are fine, upstanding people. They're the ones who are volunteering for military service in a time of war. This old vet admires and respects them greatly. As for the rest, not so much.

4:44 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger David said...

Cham..."The very people who are causing the problem are the ones that end up suffering for it"

This may be true if we're talking about 5% or 10% of the population. But if it reaches, say, 40%, then it has economic and cultural effects that impact everyone. By analogy: if 5% of your co-workers at a company are incompetent, tough on them. If 40% are incompetent, tough on you.

See my post superheated 'steem hits the workplace.

5:17 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Roman Wolf said...

As someone of the generation in question, I agree on the whole. My generation wants riches without work(granted, the generations before us were no saints either). This is a serious problem as my generation will fall for any smooth talker who offers "food and circuses".

As for respect for my generation? My first thoughts don't go to soldiers but to entrepreneurs. Especially now, with a government who is increasingly hostile towards them(in the name of battling "big business").

On my end, I'm probably going to become either a Military Officer or join a police force. The way I look at entrepreneurship right now is the risk is way too high for the potential returns.

6:47 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Aurelian said...

Roman Wolf

Good on you! I just finished a 29 year career in the Navy and it was the most rewarding thing I have done. And I get the point about being an entrepreneur. For all the lip service we give it it is increasingly likely that these type of folk will be less courted by the government over time. And also less people will want to do self employment. It's easy to talk it but when you have to deveote every waking moment to it......

7:50 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger blahga the hutt said...

Roman Wolf,

Yeah, the government isn't exactly keen on the military right now either.

Samuel,

I think you want the post above this one.

8:14 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Aurelian said...

Actually blahga they are hot on Junior Officers right now, especially the army. Wolf learn what you need to know to set yourself up for future employment. Then eject, eject, eject.

8:31 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

This brings to mind a comment from an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "When you sacrifice competence for self-esteem, what you wind up with is idiots who feel good about themselves."

Right on the money.

10:10 PM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger randian said...

Why do journalists always mistake "narcissism" for "self-esteem"?

5:43 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Jeff Y. said...

The social costs of unfettered economic immigration are devastating.

We have nearly 17% real unemployment. We're still giving out 1.3 million green cards every 18 months! It's completely insane.

The usually sterling Cato Institute still lies about immigration. They say each green card creates an additional five jobs. Where are those jobs? We let in 1.3 million workers. We should have over five million new jobs.

Well we don't. So, Cato is wrong. Dead wrong.

There are no freakin' jobs. It's been coming a long time. It's created a culture of dependency.

Blame the free immigration advocates. They brought this upon us just as much as leftist economic policies.

8:26 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger MikeT said...

The policy that will end up harming us with immigration is that we aren't handing out those green cards to the H1B visa holders. In IT and software engineering, the H1B holds down wages precisely because it is a **slave labor** visa that lets the holder get abused worse than an indentured servant rather than competing with Americans at American wages (which the H1B visa holders would obviously rather do than be like "hey, I'll do 2x the work for 1/2 the pay").

We also need to restrict or abolish family-based immigration. We need to follow the rest of the English-speaking world and at least put a discriminatory policy in place that prioritizes singles and then childless couples over couples with kids. "Reuniting the family" should not be an immigration policy.

8:45 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger yunkndatwunk said...

I was thinking about this the other day in the context of overweight people. I was very overweight, and all the feel good advice about loving yourself did nothing but help me make excuses to stay fat, unhealthy, and miserable.

Not just the kids but adults every day are told to just feel good and not actually solve problems and overcome challenges. That is what builds self esteem a lot more. Sure failing at something hurts, but not trying hurts a lot more.

9:19 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger God Of Bacon said...

Kids are starting to learn that hard work frequently leads to old age, financial insecurity, and bitterness. Millions of them have watched their parents work hard, preach the traditional work ethic, and end up being unceremoniously dumped by their employers after decades of service.

This is not the result of useless social programs. It's the result of unbridled greed at the top.

10:01 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen, et al.
RE: It's MUCH Worse....

This is what happens when you have useless social programs that promote PC feel good ideas as opposed to useful practical ones. -- Dr. Helen

...than that.

I understand that the Army is experiencing a rather high rate of suicides.

Nothing like REAL-WORLD combat ops to get one to experience life outside of the vaunted American public education system creche.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Infantry is where the tread meets the hard dirt. And image no longer counts.]

10:24 AM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

i spend hours a week listening to stressed managers in their 40s and early 50s wondering why they are being worked so hard and threatened with younger employees doing the same job for substantially less with more enthusiasm due to their niave ambition.

i will be 50 this year and realise most of my clients thought thier careers would advance in a satisfyingly linear fashion to ward million-dollar retirements...only to have their wings clipped.

to explain that it makes good financial sense for employers to treat them this way doesn`t help.

is this a new trend due to cut-backs, global economies, etc?

no.

this has always happened, only nobody talked about it....much like nobody tells a woman how much childbirth will hurt.

they have to find out for themselves.

2:07 PM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Alex said...

This is not the result of useless social programs. It's the result of unbridled greed at the top.

Because everyone is entitled to lifetime employment right?

4:29 PM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger God Of Bacon said...

As an employee, I'm supposed to give be loyal, hard working, and to "give 110%."

In exchange for that 110%, my employer is supposed to compensate me as little as he can, replace me with someone younger and healthier as soon as it becomes economically advantageous, and extract as much personal wealth from my labor as physically possible.


Um...yeah...I can't imagine why young people are so cynical about employers after watching their parents get screwed. Maybe they're spoiled or something.

5:56 PM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Alex said...

God of Bacon - the idea is to save for your retirement so that by the time you become economically unviable, you're sipping pina coladas in Jamaica.

6:06 PM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

and extract as much personal wealth from my labor as physically possible.

If you aren't making money for the company, then you're overhead. Overhead is always the first to get cut because they don't add to the bottom line. Don't like it? Do something that earns more money for the company than you cost in income, taxes, and expenses. People who do that are the last to be cut in tight times.

7:22 PM, February 23, 2010  
Blogger randian said...

Um...yeah...I can't imagine why young people are so cynical about employers after watching their parents get screwed.

Paying you less than your labor's marginal value isn't "getting screwed". Companies that don't do that don't make any money and go out of business. Then you really would be screwed, because you wouldn't have a job.

1:01 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger chris said...

Well these kids were given 'participation trophies' just for showing up for little league, ballet, swim team and every activity in their over-scheduled childhood years.

8:25 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Prime Designer said...

"Hold on to your hats, people, because you'll shortly be witnessing the largest collective temper tantrum in history play out."

Nonsense. They'll be old enough to vote and have a part in society. They'll just change the rules so they don't have to work and still get the good stuff in life.

Hopefully this won't mean a full switch over to Communism.

8:41 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Rich Vail said...

For a minute, reading the article I thought you were going to start spewing out the normal psychobabble...thanks for not doing that.

The largest problem is that our school systems have taken over teaching children everything but how to read, write and mathematics. Parents have adbicated their responsiblities of teaching their children how to be functioning adults in society. We've spent an entire generation listening to "educated idiots" who have convinced people that "feelings" are more important than skills.

This is what we've done, and now we have to live with the consequences...something we've taught our children they don't have to do.

9:11 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Dessert Survivor said...

A few years ago I gave the following writing assignment to college sophomores:
"In recent years, many schools administrators and teachers have become very concerned that students have a positive self-image. If children have low self-esteem, they are less likely to study and more likely to drop into paths that are destructive, both for the individual and for those around him or her. As a result, teachers try to avoid negative re-enforcement (criticism and punishment) and to use only positive re-enforcement (praise and reward).

In contrast, Socrates seems to have thought that it was his duty to tell people, including young people, that their positive self-images and high self-esteem were delusions and that they were not as smart or as good as they thought they were. As he says, “I question, examine and cross-examine him, and if I think he has no virtue, but only says he has, I reproach him….”

If the self-esteem proponents are correct, Socrates may have been a corrupter of youth who deserved to be silenced. On the other hand, if Socrates was right, then many in today's educational establishment have corrupted education.

Take a position on Socrates and self-esteem and argue it ...."

I expected most of them to defend Socrates and conclude that one could take self-esteem too far. I was wrong. Almost all of them decided that Socrates was guilty and deserved to die for his offenses against self-esteem.

9:35 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger goy said...

Martin E. P. Seligman made some great observations related to this a while back.

The problem, as noted in Atlantic quote, is that this phenomenon has festered for some 30 years, and - at least here in America - now infects our social infrastructure all the way up to the level of POTUS. IMHO it's a primary cause of what I've been referring to as moral adolescence - the tendency of chronologically and intellectually mature adults to act like children (see also: leftists).

I believe an understanding of that phenomenon is the key to preventing the perennial resurgence of widespread pathological dependency, which makes leftist ideology so attractive to some and enables a resurgence in socialism whenever classical education wanes.

10:21 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

A cold-blooded look at the education politics in this country leads to an unrebuttable conclusion: it's already over for the American Century.

We are in a population bomb, with "population" referring to the population of civicly responsible people necessary for a healthy modern society to take care of its business and at the same time not go bankrupt.

With the time it takes to turn around a boondoggle like our government schools (a generation at least) and the powerful forces invested in the status quo, we can't expect any

Look at the demographics - China and India are going to pass the US very soon in terms of an educated technical class. They also work harder and longer (there's a reason H1-B's and grad students in America are recruited from abroad).

Many Americans have gone off the grid in the form of private schools, but that can't solve the whole problem if most of the country is going to crappy schools run by union protectionism and learning nothing.

America has gone soft in the places it needs to be "hard," and it's allowed a plutocracy of cynical, self-interested leaders - CEOs, financiers, union bosses, Congress, the leaders of the executive branch, the legal class - to forward their own utopian, dystopian or just plain greedy ends.

That we are even having debates about whether self-esteem or actual factual instruction is the way to go in our schools show what rubes we are as a nation.

11:19 AM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

should have read "With the time it takes to turn around a boondoggle like our government schools (a generation at least) and the powerful forces invested in the status quo, we can't expect any _improvements._" Gotta stop the rapid posting!

12:48 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

My last point: like the latent misandrism we discuss here, American society actively denigrates sci/tech/eng people. Look at TV, or read Cosmo and the kind of professions they want their dream guys to have.

Yank TV is all about cops, docs, lawyers. We've moved past the "mad scientist" stock character to the "benign genius" of limited social impact.

Big Bang Theory? Hot girl living next to totally clueless geeks.

Bones? An inductive genius, but practically an Asperger's case.

Jeff Goldblum in several movies? A weirdo.

CSI? ...it's a start.

Bill Gates? The richest man in the world is still geek boy.

China and India (and Jewish society, in general) prize educated professionals including scientists and engineers. Publishing in journals is a mark of general fame.

Check out the college scene today. With so many layabouts going to college who have no real ambition, there's pressure to party and smoke your way through, and people who (gasp) actually study and work hard are derided as trolls, losers and other epithets.

Almost all American engineers I know have succeeded in their craft in spite of great social pressure from elementary school through the early 20's that either discourages their chosen direction or socially marginalizes them for it.

If American society wanted to grow up this might not be such a problem, but as Dr Helen's post indicates, society is regressing into a perpetual adolescence.

12:58 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Dewave said...

This is an entirely predictable result of an educational system that has forsaken teaching children life skills and preparing them for adulthood, and instead embraced the role of social engineering, with a heavy emphasis on 'sensitivity' and 'tolerance' and 'self esteem' and 'diversity'.

Implicit in much of today's education is a condescension towards those that actually work at 'real' jobs at make society function, and an unrealistic elevation of those who engage in more esoteric pursuits.

This, of course, flows from the world view espoused in our public schools. Instead of teaching that life is full of unfairly hard knocks that can, with dedication and hard work, be overcome, we teach that everyone is a brilliant special unique snowflake who deserves everything handed to them on a silver platter.

"If everyone is special, then nobody is"

2:01 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Dewave said...

In short, our students today are more ignorant in fields like math and reading than ever before, while simultaneously having a higher opinion of their own worth and intelligence than ever before.

This is not a winning combination in the globalized marketplace.

2:04 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Dewave said...

In short, our students today are more ignorant in fields like math and reading than ever before, while simultaneously having a higher opinion of their own worth and intelligence than ever before.

This is not a winning combination in the globalized marketplace.

2:04 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger randian said...

the tendency of chronologically and intellectually mature adults to act like children (see also: leftists).

I think that's the point: children don't see the problems with leftism, so they'll perpetually vote for it. Permanent vote rigging ala Stalin.

2:14 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger goy said...

Permanent vote rigging

Well, it's only 'permanent' as long as we keep on supporting - whether tacitly or otherwise - an education system where the constructivists, collectivists and marxists are allowed to rewrite history, emphasize self-esteem over self-respect and pursue egalitarian utopia by rewarding failure.

2:34 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Roman Wolf said...

Many good points have been made. However Topher, it isn't just engineers, scientists, and mathematicians who are discriminated against. It's actually anyone who's actually interested in the past and/or the truth. Hence, the hatred of science, conservatives, the ancient Greeks, European ancestors in general. Basically, anyone who isn't a Postmodernist Fascist pseudo-Marxist Multiculturalist Atheist who's prepetually rebelling against a unjust system that doesn't exist, failing to see that they are in fact part of a very failed, unjust, evil system(and they love every minute of it).

Aurelian,

Thank you for your kind words and advice however, I don't deserve any accolades for something I havn't done yet. I'll definitely keep everyone posted around here though.

2:51 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Heh

Why do you think that the Clintons and Obamas and all the rest of their ilk send their children to private schools?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The ignorant will always be ruled over by the better educated.]

2:57 PM, February 24, 2010  
Blogger blahga the hutt said...

Prime Designer,

"Nonsense. They'll be old enough to vote and have a part in society."

Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of.

"They'll just change the rules so they don't have to work and still get the good stuff in life."

i.e. part of the temper tantrum. They will scream until the politicians give them what they demand.

"Hopefully this won't mean a full switch over to Communism."

Yeah, I'm sure Neville Chamberlain "hoped" that Hitler would stick to the rules of the Munich Treaty in 1938. Reality worked otherwise, didn't it?

6:47 PM, February 24, 2010  

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