Ever wonder what happened to the fiery young people who used to march and protest in the 1960s ? You know the ones who knew all the words to Phil Ochs songs and Country Joe and The Fish and The Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers ? Bruce Levine has some ideas why today’s young people seem so passive. He is a clinical psychologist and author and writes for the Huffington Post as well as Alternet.
How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?
1. Student-Loan Debt: Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force.
Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt.
When you are in hock up to your eyeballs, it is very difficult to rationalize taking part in anything that might keep you from getting a job. This is especially true these days where a degree is no longer a guarantee you will be employed. So you play it safe and keep your head down.
2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance.
In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD).
In short drugged into submission. Like in Girl Interrupted meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Instead of actually parenting their children and talking to them and seeing what the problem is, they are medicated into compliance. And these are the kids of boomers and before who somehow forgot that rebellion and anti-authoritarian behavior is part of growing up. So as to keep them from being disruptive.
3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy: Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.”
And oldie but a goodie. But this has been the case – at least in primary education – from the get go. This country still engages in the Elizabethan concept of Children should be seen and not heard. And seen as little as possible. Schools have become more like penitentiaries than they were when I was young. And this incident where a simple prank gets a HS Senior 8 years in prison is one of the best examples of just how paranoid this country has become.
4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”: The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society.
Training grounds for The Hitler Youth. What can I say.
5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education—But Not Their Schooling—Seriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”
I have to admit I tolerated school mostly. I would set in the back and pay just enough attention to the teacher as to not get in trouble all the while reading Popular Electronics, Electronics Illustrated, Radio TV Experimenter and any other magazine on radio and electronics I could get my hands on. School for me was at best breath takingly boring. it was still mostly rote memorization of disconnect facts most of which seemed to be propaganda.
6. The Normalization of Surveillance: The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s e-mail and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes.
All I can say is this is horrible. When ever I read of something like the school board that was snooping on some kids computer, it just makes my skin crawl. But it does not surprise me. I was lucky as I grew up in the country and romped about all over the woods and elsewhere. Biked to where ever I please and nobody checked up on me. Do that now and you get your sorry ass locked up someplace.
7. Television: In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).
I was never that big on television. I liked the science shows and science fiction like Mister Wizard and Science Fiction Theater. Saturday morning cartoons but spend most of my time in the summer out doors and in the winter in my room doing radio stuff. Beside the TV was my parent’s domain for the most part. How this would turn out now, I do not know. But I still watch very little TV.
8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism: American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways.
This is so true. There is a book out called Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman. Where he thinks that we are headed to a Huxleyist society of non-thinking drug and gadget addicted automatons who willingly do what we are programmed to do. Combined that with religion – hey people…there is no magic man in the sky or happy place when you die. Dead id dead. Deal with it. But we drug ourselves with drugs and technology and some long disproved mythology. What is worse we are doing it to our kids. Talk about child abuse.