May 31, 2012

When the parents don”€™t handle their kids, the burden falls on the community. And in the nanny-state era, “€œthe community”€ is just another term for the local government. Taxes are funneled toward handling this problem, further straining an already weakened economic base.

Managing youthful exuberance”€”which sometimes shows up as violence”€”is nothing new. Teddy Roosevelt, the first progressive president, wrote in the first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook:

The movement is one for efficiency and patriotism. It does not try to make soldiers of boy scouts, but to make boys who will turn out as men to be fine citizens, and who will, if their country needs them, make better soldiers for having been scouts.

Modern city leaders, community organizers, and academics would recoil at such a suggestion’s patriarchal authority. Such goals are different than those of a “€œFun Safe Summer.”€ The Boy Scouts sought to actively teach”€”to impart some sort of culture-wide wisdom onto its young participants. A “€œFun Safe Summer”€ isn”€™t so proactive. It is purely responsive. Such gimmicks accept the fact that these kids are a problem but that they cannot be improved, shaped, or molded”€”only temporarily distracted.

Christopher Lasch wrote in his book The New Radicalism in America that the tension between youth and age “€œworked itself out within the institutions of the larger culture, and the claims of class, religion, and family exercised a countervailing influence over the natural rebelliousness of the young, and in the end overrode it.”€

But those institutions are now toothless. We no longer aim to shape our youth. We don”€™t have the manpower or the will. We only try to distract them, hoping it keeps them off our yard for just a little bit longer.



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