Sunday, January 08, 2012

Our Morally Abandoned Kids

Nuthatch, in my back yard

When I read Christian Smith's Soul Searching a few years ago I thought that everyone who cares about American midadolescents needs to come out of their recliners and read it.

Smith has continued his research, and some of it is summarized by David Brooks here. Results include:
  • How bad 18-23-year-olds are when it comes to thinking and talking about moral issues. "They just don't have the categories or vocabulary to do so."
  • The default setting of 18-23-ers is that morality is just a matter of "individual taste."
  • A common response is: "I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel." (Yikes! Yet..., from what I see teaching at our county community college, I know this is accurate.)
  • Smith et. al. emphasize that young people "have not been given the resources - by schools, institutions, and families - to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be morally degrading. In this way, [Smith's] study says more about adult America than youthful America."
  • The youth that were interviewed were "completely untroubled by rabid consumerism." (Tis was just before the crash of 2008.)
  • Alisdair McIntyre wrote of this, about "emotivism - the idea that it's impossible to secure moral agreement in our culture because all judgments are based on how we feel at the moment." (Yikes... again.)
  • Today morals have been separated from moral sources. "People are less likely to feel embedded on a moral landscape that transcends culture."
  • Today, more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it's thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart." And even that is not really "thought about."