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Professor Quippy: Raising Narcissists

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

Professor QuippyPlato said that in the 4th century BC (back when men were men, women were not, and boys had to be watch the men carefully — kind of like the Catholic Church today.) But I digress; his was only the most recent version of the complaint. There are Egyptian hieroglyphs worried about the same things, thousands of years earlier. I’m sure cave men had the same problem. It’s a fact of human behavior that old people are frightened by young people, because they’ve lost what young people have in excess: vitality and passion.

So I initially took the headline in today’s Globe and Mail with a pinch of salt: “Today’s college kids are 40-per-cent less empathetic, study finds.”

However, we are talking about a scientific study — or at the very least, a study of studies. According to the Globe and Mail:

“Today’s college students are 40-per-cent less empathetic than those of the 1980s and 1990s, says a University of Michigan study that analyzed the personality tests of 13,737 students over 30 years.”

Now that’s a significant number of people they talked to, and apparently, the same empathy tests were given to all the young people they tested in the study, so I think we have to take the initial finding at face value. There is a general lowering of empathy in our young. But reading the story, I notice that we leave the science really quickly, jumping straight to causes:

“The influx of callous reality TV shows and the astronomical growth of social networking and texting – technologies that allow people to tune others out when they don’t feel like engaging – may be to blame, the authors hypothesize.”

The biggest drop in empathy comes after the year 2000, and I suspect the partying in 1999 may be the cause, but the authors suggest the social networking sites of MySpace and Facebook may be connected. Really? Social networking makes us less empathetic?

Thankfully the Mop & Pail talks to some people willing to go beyond the grab for headlines, and posits that, I dunno, maybe it has more to do with parenting. Could it be that two-income families, the rise of single-parent families, and a general lack of time could be at fault? Was there some kind of change in parenting and teaching attitudes post-1980 that may be causing this lack of empathy? (I’m thinking about something that would give young people an unwarranted sense of entitlement and self-confidence — I mean, more than the usual bravado of youth.)

Personally, I blame the metric system.

Alltop doesn’t care about anything but funny. You can find the original article in the Globe and Mail.

P.S. Obviously, it’s not because of the metric system in the U.S. Clearly, there it’s because of the Republicans.

P.P.S. According to Wikipedia, the only other countries that don’t use the metric system are Burma and Liberia. So there it’s clearly because of aliens.