Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Infantilization of our culture

I have used this term before in previous posts, and I thought I would take a few moments to expound upon the subject with a few examples that I have seen during my time as a teacher and as an adult. What I mean by the infantilization of our culture is that I have noticed a disturbing trend at almost all age groups whereby people act less mature than they should. Don't get me wrong; I love how many baby boomers in their 50s and 60s refuse to hobble around like little old men and ladies like our wizened citizens of generations past. What I am talking about is immature behavior by some of our younger generations. A few examples:
  1. I teach at a middle school. I notice that many students, both male and female, wear backpacks that are way too young for them. I see 7th and 8th grade girls with backpacks adorned with Dora the Explorer and Strawberry Shortcake, and I see 7th and 8th grade boys wearing Spongebob Squarepants backpacks. When I was of middle school age, my friends and I would not have been caught dead wearing something that my 3 year old niece would go ga-ga over (she loves Dora the Explorer)
  2. The final time I went trick or treating during Halloween was when I was 11 years old, and even then, I felt really self-conscious about it. Once I reached middle school age, neither my friends nor I would have dared gone trick or treating. That was "kid stuff", which after elementary school simply wasn't done. Now? Last Halloween, my wife and I greeted high schoolers at our door, dressed up and trick or treating like they were still 8 years old.
  3. The intentional misspelling of words. This is one of my biggest pet peeves of this whole hip-hop garbage: Boyz, thugz, tha, Timbaland (instead of Timberland), ya self, wit (instead of with), gangsta, gurl, fo shizzle my nizzle, ad nauseum... Once upon a time, being grammatically correct and a good speller was something that people strove for. Now it is a sign of being an uptight chump. When I was doing my Today in History feature with my students not too long ago, I read to them about when Al Capone got convicted of tax evasion. Many kids had never heard of Al Capone, so I told them that he was a gangster in 1920s Chicago. Many kids laughed and tried to correct me - "Mr. Chanman, it's not gangster, it's gangsta." Uh, no kids. I can guarantee you that Al Capone never referred to himself as a gangsta.
  4. The younger generations intentionally dress themselves as inaccurately as they spell. I have talked about this before too. Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld came up with the perfect name for this phenomenon: the cult of inaccuracy. You can spot a cult member by identifying some very telltale signs: sagging pants that are four sizes too large, t-shirt that is five sizes too large, shoes untied, baseball cap cocked upward with the bill turned sideways. Please, wear the cap backward if you must, but for all that is good and holy, don't wear it sideways.
  5. Were it not for the wrinkles, I have sometimes had difficulty distinguishing a mother from her daughter as they were walking together. We know that many middle school and high school age girls dress like prostitutes nowadays. What is really disheartening is when you see their nearing-middle-age mother dressing the same way. I always wonder if it is a chicken/egg scenario. Does the daughter dress like that because her mom does, or does the mom dress like that in the hopes that her daughter will like her more for attempting to look hip?
  6. The discontinuation of dressing up to travel on airplanes and trains. Once upon a time, people dressed to kill while traveling. Now they just dress in whatever. We have lost much of our formality in society, and formality is a mark of maturity.
I am sure that I could think of some more examples, but you get my point. I am glad that some things have changed. I am happy that many men have eschewed the old father/son relationship where the father refused to put down the bowler hat and watch fob and actually play with his kids. But for goodness sake, Moms and Dads, please don't forget to instruct your sons and daughters that there is a time and place to dress up and to act in a mature manner. And never forget that you are not their friend (at least as long as they are kids), you are their parent.

Good Day to You, Sir


teri said...

AMEN! I wish there was a poll you could take to see how many other sensible adults feel the same way about these topics. I can't imagine what society will be like in another five or ten years with these fools coming of age. God save us. : )

Monsoon Girlie said...

"I can guarantee you that Al Capone never referred to himself as a gangsta."

That would funny if it weren't so sad. I can't believe they actually thought that gansta was correct. Oh well, that's what you're there for right? :)

Polski3 said...

Get rid of the TV or at least MTV and much of this crap would go away....... Good observations and comments.

Years ago, one of the fine young ladies I worked with at a summer camp had a great term for the girls that were 10-11-12 years of age and wanted to or liked to dress like they were 30 yr olds.....she refered to them as "trinkets". I believe this is a very appropriate moniker.

Ya, the hoochie stock in the companies that manufacture make up... I wonder what they are thinking when they show up at conferences with their kids teachers looking like they are ready for a long night at a night club ?????

George said...

Read my most recent and most troubling post - very infantile. After all that help the student still cries, "help me".

Deborah said...

You should read the posts (written by teenagers!) on -- see the sidebar called THE RISE OF THE KIDULT.

These "kids" act much more mature than many 30 year olds out there! I think they are representative of a new move in Christianity toward maturity, and I am super excited for our young'uns to follow a similiar path.

Oh, and I've heard that folks outside of California dress up for traveling by plane...? Is this true? I'm trying to think back to when I traveled overseas a few years ago, and I just can't remember much of what others were wearing. Californians would wear pajamas :)