Tuesday, September 13, 2011

David Brooks Wishes Kids Had More Problems?

Today David Brooks talks about a study showing today's young people are bad at thinking and talking about morality and values.  Some of the evidence he gives for this is that young people can't recount any moral dilemmas that they themselves have experienced.

I know this isn't what he means, but it sure sounds like he's saying he's upset that kids have so few difficulties in life.  Some of the evidence from the study, as he describes it:
When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.
Well, yeah.  I mean, aside from the fact that people of all ages are hazy on the concept of "moral dilemma," it's funny to say What's Wrong With These Kids, Having So Few Problems in Life!

I mean, the classic dilemmas are situations in which you face a difficult choice because you have multiple obligations you can't meet.  You have to lie to keep a promise, or you have to neglect one person to help another, or you have to decide whether it's better to protect your friend or to tell a truth that will cause her pain.

But these are young people.  They haven't had many professional duties, or complex life relationships.  For them, the obvious causes of dilemmas are:  cheating friends, unintended pregnancy and children, neglectful or ill-behaved parents, and adults who mistreat one another.   

I can see why the fact that kids couldn't think of personal experiences with these as a real cause for handwringing.

Kids these days. When I was their age, I had to decide whether to save my father or a famous writer from a burning building, whether to join the resistance for my country or help my ailing mother, and whether to flip the trolley switch, killing one but saving five.   All before breakfast.

Those softies. 

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