Somewhere along the line, the educational system in this country went right off the rails. I’m sure it began with the best of intentions. A generation ago, somebody probably noticed that school cirricula were becoming a stagnant, inflexible compendium of diminishing returns – advances in child and adolescent psychology were outpacing the moribund 3 R’s, and educators raced to catch up. What happened next is exactly what you’d expect when academics try to run fast or otherwise exert themselves athletically – they tripped and fell on their faces.
A lot of what they came up with is just fine – teaching styles more precisely targeted at different learning styles, an emphasis on subjects other than simply basic math and grammar, and the recognition that a well-rounded education must include a cultivation of the individual, rather than churning out 100 automotons. I’m sure that the overall quality of education improved immeasurably. (Want proof? We’re still here. The Soviet Union isn’t.) However, all this emphasis on the individual student also had the effect of making each kid think he or she is special. That’s when everything went to hell.
The recognition that you are a special person, one of God’s snowflakes that is never to be duplicated, is a very powerful idea. For it to be properly employed in daily life requires a certain maturity and perspective. Elementary school-aged kids don’t have it. I remember when I was that age; I spent an inordinate amount of time being disappointed that I did not have super powers (especially supersonic flight and heat ray vision), and scheming to get them. My point is, kids are dumb. Even the smart ones. Dumb. So when you take a human being who considers the lack of a pet enchanted white tiger in his or her life a deficiency on par with homelessness and tell him “You are special and you can do anything you want in life,” it’s like adding weapons-grade plutonium to a lit firecracker. In other words, you get one obnoxious, self-absorbed little kid, who in all likelihood will grow up to be an obnoxious, self-absorbed adult.
Kids in school used to look like this:
Nowadays, thanks to all this encouragement to “express your individuality,” we’ve got stuff like this:
It’s disconcerting how hard it is to type “metal kid,” “goth,” and “gangsta” into Google’s image search and not find porn.
You know what, though? I don’t worry about the above classes of person. Metalheads, spooky goth kids, wanna-be gangstas (I’m told they are deemed “wankstas”), they pretty much all leave the world outside their scene alone. Metalheads light up the Blabbermouth.net message board whenever the Great and Powerful Oz makes the news, and the goths produce a lot of poetry about the withering black rose or whatever, but they stick with their own kind, usually actively avoiding contact with the outside world. The same cannot be said for these jokers:
Hipsters. Scour the globe, look far and wide. You will not find a more self-absorbed, self-impressed, sanctimonious class of person. Delighting in talking about themselves and what they’re interested in, reveling in exclusion, affectatiously displaying their new sunglasses or skinny jeans or canvas shoes or vintage tee, hipsters are the ones who develop a persona instead of a personality, and fill the emptiness in their lives with people just like them and with the sound of their own voice, loudly braying the MoveOn.org/Pitchfork-approved “Bush sucks, any record that’s sold more than 50,000 copies sucks” party line. And just when I was learning to tune them out, I come across this article on MSNBC.com:
Here’s the gist:
Four years ago when Andrea Frost’s daughter was an infant, clothes were among the obstacles that came with new motherhood. “There just wasn’t anything around for my baby to wear that I could tolerate,” says Frost, who vehemently dislikes pastels, bears (with the occasional exception made for a vintage Care Bear design) and any Disney or other character associated with big corporations. There didn’t seem to be any toddler Clash T-shirts or onesies calling George W. “president poopyhead.” So she made them. Now the Portland, Ore., mom’s business Babywit caters to people who want “something cutting-edge, hip and hilarious for the radical kids in their lives.” It seems more and more people are hopping on Frost’s bandwagon and marketing pint-sized versions of adult tastes. It’s down with Barney and up with the black CBGB onesies. Out with the primary colors and pastels and in with cool, contemporary children’s furniture. There are now lullaby cover versions of songs by rock bands such as Coldplay, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley. Even Gymboree is being challenged by hip events such as Baby Loves Disco dance parties, which are held at popular night clubs (but during the day).
It’s been several weeks since I’ve been seized with the urge to slam my fingers in my own car door so I could manufacture pain sufficient to distract myself from something so infuriating. Bad enough that these people already think they’re so much cooler than everyone else and need to show it off with jeans, record collections, and uninvited snarky remarks. Now they have to use their own kids as accessories to trumpet their vaunted non-conformity? What kind of a mother has her priorities so ass-backward, and is so self-conscious about her own appearance that she simply can’t bring herself to put her kid in a Blues Clues shirt, and instead has to roll out a clothing line so she can use her infant child as a personality billboard?
This is the height of egotism. Not only must the world know how devastatingly original these parents are when they’re out on their own, but God forbid, when they’ve got a kid on their hip, society get the impression that they have lost their edge. “No run-of-the-mill mom here, my kid loves Death Cab For Cutie and Che! Look everybody, I’m not going to put a Dora the Explorer shirt on my daughter, or anything else she might actually enjoy, like some loser…I hate Bush and you’re going to hear about it!” Fortunately, the majority of parents are sensible enough to realize that having a child does not mean having a walking talking genetic monument to yourself, but instead a whole new person with a long life of their own ahead of them. When it comes to dressing their little kids, most parents are perfectly happy buying clothes that might not get them in the door at The Whiskey, but look just fine on, you know…little kids.