Saturday, February 20, 2016
Only in America
As we all know, our country has the biggest defense budget; the biggest, smartest and most weapons of mass destruction; and have been in numerous battles within the last 75 years. We have violent sports such as football, boxing and physically fighting in cages to name a few. Also, we have numerous electronic games that feature fighting, death and violence. Hollywood and TV feature much killing, torture and physical violence. Our police even get in the act by killing unarmed individuals over and over again. Even some presidential politicians, talk tough about carpet bombing and destroying our enemies. And not too long ago, we witnessed a meltdown of the Dow Jones Industrial averages that somewhat rivaled the great depression. Underneath the anger, bravado, tough talk and culture of violence exists fear and anxiety. It’s simply easier to talk about the anger, in our country, as opposed to the real issue of fear and anxiety. In other words, there are plenty of these symptoms expressed in our culture. Let’s not forget our schools. For example, last year at the West Windsor Plainsboro School District, located in New Jersey, the superintendent in that district recommended mental health assessments for more than 120 middle school and high school students. The students were exhibiting signs of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. This superintendent wrote a letter to the parents and wrote “I cannot help but think that we may be failing our students by reinforcing an educational system that perpetuates grades at the expense of deep and meaningful learning.” Further, the school district is located near Princeton University and includes about 9800 students. This superintendent abolished midterm and final exams and instituted a no homework policy during breaks and some weekends. Not surprisingly, not all parents are happy because they are worried that these changes will leave their children unprepared for elite colleges. Other schools systems Like Montgomery, County Public Schools in Rockville, Maryland, which has and is one of the highest ranking school districts in the United States followed suit. This district voted to eliminate high school final exams and to replace them starting next fall with in class projects and other tasks. Some schools have even eliminated the advanced placement classes, saying that they contribute to academic pressure. Once again, the underlying issue is fear and anxiety or fear of failure. Even though some schools are making these changes, they are dealing only with the symptom. The real issue can be found with the parents. These parents are unfulfilled in some aspect of their life and likely simply fearful too. They may or may not have achieved that nebulous idea of success or happiness with themselves. So they, put pressure and their expectations on their children, not only for academics, but also for sports. In our culture, the nebulous definition of success is loosely defined many ways. For some it might be being part of that 1/10 of 1%. For others, it might be attaining CEO status, having that special occupation, attaining the dream house job, winding up with that special ZIP Code or some other illusion. For many, the drive for success and the pursuit of happiness is simply an unfulfilled illusion. They would be smarter seeking mental and physical health in their health span. On top of all this, as world becomes smaller, our countries ranking in academics or education is nowhere near the top even though we spend the most money per student. Well, don’t worry because Donald Trump’s is going to make our country great again. Once again, it’s a symptom of being inadequate, common or not special. Also, don’t forget all the superheroes from Marvel Comics; Jack Reacher; Mission Impossible; James Bond, etc. that save the day from world catastrophes. We like our heroes to rescue us from our ego ideal. The world of sports is another example of the craziness in our culture. Coaches at all levels, get fired, even if they have a winning record. The unrealistic expectation is that you have to win clear and simple. The acronym of the NFL, which means “not for long” says it all. Guess what: an 8th grade quarterback was given a scholarship offer from the University of Miami? And, LeBron James 10 year old son has already received offers from schools. If this commentary bothers you, one option is to just take a pill. For additional information, check out the February 13-14 2016 edition of The Wall Street Journal.