First of all, I love Dennis Prager. He has written with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, whom I believe to be brilliant. However, I don’t agree with him on this one.
His premise is that choosing risky behavior is for thrill seeking. I don’t believe it. I think people get tats and piercings for very personal reasons. Some people may be out for a ‘thrill’, but it is not the people that I know. Risky sexual behavior? A myriad of reasons. Low self esteem, not understanding that sex is not love, etc. Not really a thrill-a-minute.
His writing in extremes (MTV worse than tobacco? MySpace a ‘cesspool’) is distracting and belligerent. And he is working from the assumption that children are unhappy and that it is because they are bombarded with excitement.
First, I don’t know that children are unhappy. I have a small group whom I know well. Most are happy. Second, I think that kids who are constantly entertained are the ones who will complain about being bored. I don’t equate constant entertainment with excitement. I think it is the opposite of excitement. I think it is a low-grade white noise that they miss when it is gone.
I agree that we need to look for happiness in smaller, deeper, more personal places. I think children need to learn to entertain themselves away from a screen or without mom’s help. However, the hyperbole is keeping us from having a real discussion about the development of children.
This is what happens when I get too busy and rush to put up a post – I don’t read thoroughly.
You’re right Anna. His examples aren’t very good. And even detrimental to his point.
I was struck by the reality that seeking excitement is a never-ending, bar-raising path to insanity. I know. I lived it. Perhaps that’s why it hit me so hard, because it helps explain why my wild youth was so much “fun”, but also so full of anger, unhappiness and not ever feeling full.
Happiness comes from a place much deeper. It’s impossible to know happiness when we’re always looking for the next thing that will distract us.
But like you said, the things he listed don’t universally manifest themselves as escapist excitement.
And I was also thinking – what’s the difference between excitement and enthusiasm? Is enthusiasm for life a better way to describe the kind of giddiness we get when we’re happy? Is excitement a side-effect of enthusiasm, but not the goal?
Just some thoughts. I’m off to a conference this weekend, so posting might be sporadic. I’ll give this some thought. And I’ll be careful from now on to read things entirely before linking them (and coming to an opinion.)
I’ve found your “education rant” blog and started poking around. Found this post and had to comment.
First off, disclaimer: About 25 years ago (gawd, I’m old!!) I spent a month at a camp for college students run by Dennis Prager. It was a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE experience for me. The camp was the Brandeis Bardin Institute and was a Jewish immersion experience for young adults. (My mother had attended 25 years before that and –under a very different kind of director– had enjoyed it immensely.) If I hadn’t felt completely secure about my Jewish identity when I went in, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more. He was/is ultra-conservative, dogmatic and a demagogue. Being in his presence was like being in the presence of a Jewish Jerry Fallwell. So, just thought I’d let you know where I stood when I read that his article had given you an “epiphany” moment!!!
His article was not particularly incendiary or radical. I agree with Anna, his comparisons are fairly ridiculous (MTV vs. tobacco…come on!). I’d even argue that many people take drugs not for the excitement but to tune out the world or slow down (in fact, many take drugs…and become addicts…to alleviate brain chemistry issues that never have been addressed in a safe and controlled way).
I’d say that kids these days are used to being stimulated. I even recall my kids had a mobile we hung over their changing table decorated with black and white pictures called a “Stim Mobile”! But, being stimulated in and of itself is not a bad thing. Stimulation activates the brain and causes neurons to fire and connections to be made. That’s exciting! But, the constant spoonfeeding of stimulation and the fact that kids are not left to create their own stimulation may be the real problem the next generation faces. Isn’t that what we’re always saying about homeschooled kids? They know how to find what interests them because they’re not expecting us to lift the tops off their heads and pour the information in?
Kids do seem to have shorter attention spans. They also don’t have much patience. Here’s a link to an interesting article on the lack of patience in kids today http://tinyurl.com/364f3n . I hadn’t really thought about it before I read the piece, but it makes perfect sense. People used to have to wait for everything! Nothing came quickly. You had to have patience. Today, there’s not a lot to wait for, but being able to wait (and not always have immediate gratification) seems to be a skill our kids could use. What do you think?