Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The end of authority (among other things)

The other day I had to walk to the building where I work along a narrow path through the snow that had fallen overnight. At some point, I came up against three teenage boys, maybe 14 years old, the tallest a little below my shoulder. Of course, they expected me to step aside and give way, which I obligingly did. Then, in class, a student got up and turned off the air conditioning without asking permission. A lot has been written about the perceived erosion of adult authority, but most authorities on the issue just scratch the surface. The usually emphasise the extent to which different “messages” or “lessons” can affect children’s attitudes. I would say Ekhonon Goldberg (The New Executive Brain) has a better grip on this. He argues that social and moral maturation is linked to the proper development of the brain’s frontal lobes, which can be influenced by the immediate and broader social environment. Something seems to be derailing this process on a mass scale now, and if it isn’t the chaotically complex and hasty social environment and the IT-related incessant excitement kids face, then it must be the socially seditious preaching of a few irresponsible intellectuals, teachers, feminists, social activists, etc. Or maybe the kids, as always, will turn out all right, and it’s a few grumpy adults who are out of touch – as they mourn their irreversibly lost youth.