Echo and Narcissus as Amaterasu and Susano in ...

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In my encounters with both university students and with younger children, I have found that the majority of young people these days are far more self-centered than previous generations. They really believe that the world revolves around them, that if they want to do something, they should do it no matter what it is, and that all that matters is “me, me, me.” University students line up side by side in the hallway and get miffed if I say, “Excuse me” and walk past them. Neighborhood children walk through neighbor’s back yards without permission, leave the fence gates open, and take whatever they can from the gardens–with no feelings of guilt afterward. They believe that it is their right to walk on another person’s property and to steal the products of his labor. They believe that everything is owed them.

This is no surprise since I have taught long enough to see such traits in people who now have college-aged children. When the parents believe that everything is owed them, and give without limit to their children without teaching about work and responsibility, it is no surprise that the children are even worse than the parents. The fundamental ethic among many Americans is “If I want it, I should have it.” Each generation from the baby boomers on has been filled with people with such an attitude.

It is probably too late for parents to do anything about children who are older–if they have a crisis in their lives they may change for the better. Parents should strive to teach the virtues of hard work, responsibility, and integrity, and set an example for their children. Selfishness permeates American society, but parents can do their part to stop the downward trend by rearing their own children not to believe they can take whatever they will. Many young people today have not succumbed to the trap of “me, me, me.” Hopefully the trend that began with the baby boomers will stop so that the next generation is more altruistic than the previous one. I am not optimistic, but hope is also a virtue.