Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cheating for Success?

I heard a very disturbing report on the NBC News this evening. The premise was whether there is an epidemic of lying, cheating, and stealing among American teenagers. I wouldn't have thought so. I would have thought that that kind of behavior was anomalous, surely affecting only a minority of kids. I would have thought that the majority of teens are basically honest. I would have been wrong.

According to the report, among the cross sample of teenagers surveyed, 60% admitted to cheating and 42% admitted to lying. Something like 28% of them admitted to stealing. As if those numbers aren't in your face enough, some of them even admitted lying on the survey.

The kids who admitted their dishonesty said that they have to do whatever it takes to get ahead, and if it takes lying, cheating, and stealing, it's okay. If that doesn't scare you, it should. These are the people who are going to control our country and affect our lives someday if we're still alive.

Where do these attitudes come from? Clearly, parenting has to be the main factor. Home is where these kids' minds and attitudes are shaped. We as a society tend to coddle kids from the cradle on. If they grow up believing they can do no wrong, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by these findings. And that is the message we send, perhaps inadvertently, to our children. Some parents seem to believe it's wrong to discipline children, and they're never to be punished in any substantive way. They must be praised. They must be rewarded. They must be stimulated and entertained at all times. A lot of kids these days can't even ride a few miles in the car without DVD players. What happens to over-privileged, over-stimulated, over-indulged children? It seems to me that they grow up to think it's okay to do whatever it takes to get ahead and get more stuff -- even if it involves lying, cheating, and stealing.

Adults lie occasionally, perhaps cheat from time to time, maybe even steal. I do think those folks are in the minority, though. I don't personally know anyone who indulges in that kind of behavior. Not in the real world, anyway. Online is, of course, a completely different story, a whole different demographic. Grown, otherwise sane people will get on the Internet and pretend to be people they're not, make wild claims, tell tall, convoluted tales and lash out when they get caught in them, flatter and cajole to get something out of someone else online, etc., etc. And who even knows whether the someone elses are also masquerading as something they're not? Sometimes they'll puff themselves up with the bravado born of anonymity and stalk, harass, and harangue anyone who dares to disagree with any of their crap.

It probably wouldn't hurt us as a society to go back a few decades to some basic tenets of decent behavior. The Golden Rule, for example, never hurt anybody. What's wrong with treating other people as you yourself would want to be treated? If the PC people would come down off their high horse, it also wouldn't hurt people to observe the ancient proscriptions against stealing, killing, coveting, etc.; i.e., the Ten Commandments. They're solid rules for basic human decency and nobody ever suffered from paying attention to them. People do suffer when all the rules break down and nobody is required to take responsibility for their own actions.


RexZeitgiest said...

I agree, so many of todays youth just seem rude and apathetic...I was a pretty wild kid, but I always 'yes sir', 'yes ma'am'.....

It was a given.....Manners come directly from the parent and todays youth seems to be lacking in their social graces.....

Excellent piece Serena......

Serena Joy said...

Thanks, Rex. I was a pretty wild kid, too, but a total angel compared to what a lot of kids get away with today.

I think you said the key word -- apathy. Too much too soon leads to being jaded, which leads to boredom, which leads to apathy, which leads to rudeness, and so on and so on.

Anonymous said...

I was actually arrested for hatching a plot to murder my guardians. (no lie). I guess I was a bad kid. I had a lot of hate in me. I was disowned by my family when I was sent to prison. Shortly after that on an armed robbery charge. Thank goodness I got control of my emotions and just enjoy posting on the net now. As far as rudeness yeah I'd say I was a very rude kid. It's tough to learn manners in and out foster care and juvenile hall. Teachers try but they are more worried about not get assaulted these days.

Liz said...

Scary statistics, Serena.

I agree that older people on the whole don't go commiting those offences but there are a lot of older people with a great many prejudices - another evil in our world.

I also think a lot of young people would say 'what's the point of honesty when others get away with dishonesty?' And the ones who get away with it seem to get on in the world too.

We've tried to bring our children up to be honest and decent but we even see them being afected by what they see happening in the world around them.

It's a sad state this world is getting into.