Nouveau Thoughts: July 2007: Archives

July 5, 2007

Silver Spoon? Nah, I Prefer Platinum genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

It's All Rainbows

Not long ago I wrote about what I call our "Chain Letter Society"...the construct that we have become a society obsessed with being number one, being the best, being the person at the top of the pyramid. Parents seem to be teaching children that they are entitled, that they are the best and that the world will acquiesce to all of their needs and demands. I contend that this is not only a negative construct; it is going to handicap a generation that will struggle to understand why the world didn't react according to their expectations.

Much to my surprise, I found an article today that voices many of the same concerns. For the most part I agree with the author though I think he may place too much focus on forces outside the home. I'm more inclined to see the home as the primary source of this burgeoning problem.

I've included some excerpts below but I would definitely recommend reading the entire article.

Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, says it dawned on him last spring. The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A's.

"They felt so entitled," he recalls, "and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."

Fred Rogers, the late TV icon, told several generations of children that they were "special" just for being whoever they were. He meant well, and he was a sterling role model in many ways. But what often got lost in his self-esteem-building patter was the idea that being special comes from working hard and having high expectations for yourself.

While children may be influenced by television programs, the reality is that much of their behavior and their perception of the world are adopted from their parents. I could be wrong but if I were asked to bet what would happen if we took away Mr. Rogers (and his passing effectively achieved as much), the impact on the degree to which a child feels special or entitled will nary miss a beat.

Signs of narcissism among college students have been rising for 25 years, according to a recent study led by a San Diego State University psychologist. Obviously, Mr. Rogers alone can't be blamed for this. But as Prof. Chance sees it, "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting."

Prof. Chance teaches many Asian-born students, and says they accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them accurately. They didn't grow up with Mr. Rogers or anyone else telling them they were born special.

By contrast, American students often view lower grades as a reason to "hit you up for an A because they came to class and feel they worked hard," says Prof. Chance. He wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: "The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you'll have to prove it."

Don't get me wrong, I'm no proponent of teaching a kid to swim by throwing them in the lake...just as I'm not in favor of telling a three year old that they will win a gold medal because they swim well for their age. History tells us that reality is somewhere in the's the principle of the bell curve...a few people make up the extreme points and the rest are traveling shoulder to shoulder with the pack. I appreciate that mommy and daddy want the best for their children...but preparing a child for the world needs to be more than promises of bells and whistles.

In America today, life often begins with the anointing of "His Majesty, the Fetus," he says. From then on, many parents focus their conversations on their kids. Today's parents "are the best-educated generation ever," says Dr. Rosenfeld. "So why do our kids see us primarily discussing kids' schedules and activities?"

He encourages parents to talk about their passions and interests; about politics, business, world events. "Because everything is child-centered today, we're depriving children of adults," he says. "If they never see us as adults being adults, how will they deal with important matters when it is their world?"

I have a slightly different take on this final phenomenon. I think we've seen a gradual progression of the entitlement mentality and what parents are doing today is acting out the fulfillment of their own unmet expectations.

You see, they may be successful but the only relevant measure is whether they are as successful as their expectations. It depends on what they believe. While it may be reasonable to view their achievements as success, if they don't feel it as such, then the natural instinct is going to be to transfer that need to their children. It’s the, "By god, I'm going to do everything to make sure my kid doesn't miss any opportunities" mindset.

What we often fail to consider is happiness and how that is best achieved. Our consumption society is hyper-focused on a concept of happiness that is measured externally...what do you have...what is your well known have you become. The problem with that notion is there will always be someone who has more, has a better title, and is better known. Perhaps we need to adjust our notion of happiness?

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Daniel DiRito | July 5, 2007 | 7:33 PM | link | Comments (1)
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July 2, 2007

iPhone Premiere: Is It Real Life Or Is It Mad TV? genre: Econ-Recon & Indie-Script & Nouveau Thoughts

I'll admit that I like new technology...but I had to laugh at the iPhone hysteria over the weekend. As much as I like innovation, you would never find me standing in line at the launching of a new product. I think the following video clips offer some insight into the phenomenon.

The first is a skit from Mad TV in which Steve Jobs is unveiling the new iPhone to the Mad TV studio audience. Note the hysteria of the audience and the mob mentality...people feeding off of each others frenzy. If you've ever seen an episode of Oprah and watched when she announces that the studio audience is going to receive a gift, you'll no doubt see the similarities.

The second is a clip outside of an Apple store in New York City just as the doors are being opened to begin selling the new gadget. As you watch this clip, note the actions of the shoppers as they enter the store and head up the stairs. Many of them are taking pictures, shooting video, and seemingly taking their victory lap in front of adoring fans. Would it be safe to call these events modern rituals?

The last clip is a commercial spoof that Conan O'Brien did on his show a few months back. The thing that fascinates me about all of these clips is the degree to which the comic skits capture what I would call the absurdity of such situations. It's a priceless glimpse into human psychology and our culture's preoccupation with celebrity and notoriety. I'm not exactly sure that being one of the first customers to buy an iPhone should be the equivalent of a hero's parade...but it certainly looks like one.

I wonder to what degree the attention and the simulated hero's welcome plays in the motivation to stand in line and purchase an iPhone or any other product that draws this kind of coverage. Are these people simply tech geeks or does buying the product and being able to tell others that they were there and that they bought one serve to bolster some psychological need? Does the purchase of a $600.00 iPhone provide the same therapeutic boost one might get from a couple visits to the psychologist?

Feel free to share you own observations as I would love to know how you view these kind of situations and what you think they say about our society and our culture. My goal isn't to make fun of anyone that bought an iPhone this weekend but to understand the psychology that is at work. Maybe there's nothing to it at all...but it sure triggers my curiosity with human nature.

Mad TV Skit - Steve Jobs Introduces The iPhone

Outside An Apple Store In NYC

Conan O'Brien iPhone Commercial

Daniel DiRito | July 2, 2007 | 9:56 AM | link | Comments (0)
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