One thing we never seem to be short of are studies in human behavior. Several recent studies point to some alarming concerns for the future of our country. Reading survey outcomes is a little like reading tea leaves. Each person can see what they want to see in the results, but these results have more than just a few experts reaching similar conclusions.
The first is the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults. The survey reports that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying is decreasing. American students have increasingly given themselves "above average" ratings on several attributes but bragged most regarding their "drive to achieve." Almost four-fifths of survey responders say they're above average in this category.
The other survey from Pew Research Center, asked respondents if they had ever received benefits from any of six major federal entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, or unemployment benefits. Pew found that in addition to the 55 percent of adults who had received benefits, another 16 percent said that while they had not received benefits themselves, a member of their household had — meaning 71 percent of adults belong to a household that has benefited from at least one of these six major programs. If veterans’ benefits and federal college loans and grants are included, the share of households with at least one recipient rises to a surprising 86 percent.
When you combine the results and begin looking at other factors one has to question if our youth will be prepared to be fully self sufficient when their time comes to take the reins and support a much larger and aging Boomer population.
Not only do entitlements breed a certain dependency but look at the popular trends today like Facebook or Twitter where young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the entire world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves, speak their mind on short posts and publicly connect to big name movie stars, professional athletes, politicians and musicians to whom they are digitally connected. They can quickly Google search any facts as easily as asking their phone for the answer.
It is a society where everyone is considered a champion, schools push underperforming students along, reality shows rule the airwaves, children who don’t fit the norm are drugged to conformity, energy drinks are the beverage of choice, video games are the great past-time and, as a nation, we keep borrowing money that this generation will someday be forced to payback.
It’s great that government and the taxpayers can lend a hand when you need it, but what happens when government reaches the point they can no longer treat the masses as special and individuals are forced to fend for themselves? What happens when reality really becomes real and it’s no longer just a do-over video game or TV show? Will our youth be prepared for the challenges which surely lie ahead of them in the future?
When you are young you’ve got nothing to compare to accept the events of the day. As you age you understand the difference between good times and tough times. As a nation we’ve been and continue to be on a good run economically, but at the rate we are currently spending one has to wonder how much longer the government can continue to borrow to support those who may not be up to the challenge of supporting themselves, let alone when they’ll need to support the Boomer generation.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and owner and publisher of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.