Wednesday, April 18, 2012

If it’s not Washington’s fault, then what’s wrong with the American people?

 In a Foreign Policy interview, Financial Times columnist Ed Luce blames the majority of federal gridlock on the fact that polarization is “deeply rooted in trends beyond the Beltway, in the real America.”  Our political system is designed to function on the basis of compromise, so it is unsurprising that it “fails” when ideological factions refuse to work together. 

Luce contends that the American K-12 educational system, and Americans’ approach to education, is largely to blame for America’s “competitiveness” and “cultural” problems that facilitate gridlock.  Our children’s minds are not prepared to deal with the reality of the future – namely that they will surely face failure, “C grades,” and “deserved reprimand.”  Luce attributes this to soft parental approaches to education and preparing children for the real world, results of the “neediness of overworked parents' desire for the love of their child.”  Further, the columnist labels this approach as “un-immigrant and therefore quite un-American.”

Luce rejects lack of educational funding and testing as the sources of America’s declining global competitiveness, but instead blames parents’ approach to raising the nation’s youth.  Personally I find his argument forced and unconvincing; perhaps the sheltered upbringing of younger generations does indeed have an impact on America’s global standing, but so too does our declining relative performance in mathematics, the sciences, etc.  Luce begins the interview mentioning gridlock, but completely fails to relate the topic of the “spoiled youth” to the current political crisis, although it would be relatively simple to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I would tend to agree with you that the argument is a little forced. "Soft" parenting is, according to what I've read, on the rise in places that we would tend to think of as strict, or in economic powerhouses. The "Little Emperor" syndrome in China is a problem in which parents, limited to only one child, spoil that child (and commentators have linked this fawning over a single child to problems like the rise of childhood obesity in Chinese cities).

    I think you could also argue that "coddled" children would be better at empathy, at respecting others' feelings, perhaps better at working in groups as they get older - things that would help reduce problems in our intransigent government. Children who are raised to believe that everyone wins might, in fact, be able to communicate better in government because they'd be less likely to see politics as a zero-sum competitive game than someone who, say, had a Tiger Mom.