Tuesday, July 15, 2014

self-segregation on the basis of core western values

npr |  A new study holds up a mirror to America's parents. A surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students in 33 different schools around the nation about what they thought their folks cared about most: that they achieve at a high level, that they are happy (defined as "feeling good most of the time"), or that they care for others. Almost 80 percent of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while about 20 percent selected caring for others. The survey also shows that about 80 percent of kids themselves rank achievement or happiness as most important, paralleling what they believe their parents value most.

Mari Brennan Barerra and Joel Barrera are your quintessential do-gooders. They both work in the public sector, sit on multiple nonprofit boards, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and even picked their church because it was the one most committed to community service. Not surprisingly, they also say they have made it a priority to raise their kids to be caring and contributing.

If their daughter, Mila, 15, had to say whether her parents cared more about her being good to others or being successful, she says it'd be close, but she'd have to say "good," she hedges.

Her brother, James, 13, however, doesn't hesitate.

"Successful," he says.

How does he know? Because achievement in school is what his parents nag him about, and reward him for, the most. For example, they let him quit volunteering at the soup kitchen when he didn't like it, but he gets no such pass on schoolwork. Similarly, Mila says, her parents got really happy and took her out to a nice restaurant for dinner to reward her for getting a B instead of a C.

"It's one of those things people say, like, I really want you to be a good person, like that's my main thing," she says. "But deep inside, it's like, but I really want you to be successful."

Rhetoric Vs. Reality
Rick Weissbourd's at the Harvard Graduate School of Education published the study. Weissbourd says the results reveal a "rhetoric-reality gap" on the part of parents. In other research, parents have claimed that they value caring above all, but that's not what kids are internalizing.

"Kids are picking up on these mixed messages," he says. It could be little things, he says, like letting your son inflate his community-service commitment on a college application, or not asking your daughter to reach out to a friendless child on the playground.

"I don't think parents realize that these messages are drowning out other messages about caring and equality and fairness," Weissbourd says.

The study doesn't necessarily point to a decline in morality among young people. Still, Marvin Berkowitz, a professor of character education at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, says the results are troubling.

He references a Teddy Roosevelt quote: "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."