Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Are teens more ethically-challenged now than in the past?

I have to wonder after reading two different articles sent in by readers (thanks!) about the types of ethics that teens are learning these days. The first link was to a study showing that teens are cheating and lying more than ever these days:
American teenagers lie, steal and cheat more at "alarming rates," a study of nearly 30,000 high school students concluded Monday. The attitudes and conduct of some 29,760 high school students across the United States "doesn't bode well for the future when these youngsters become the next generation's politicians and parents, cops and corporate executives, and journalists and generals," the non-profit Josephson Institute said.

As if the current crop isn't bad enough!

Blogger Cheryl, who sent me the study points out this troubling statistic from the study:

The end of the article tells the rest of the story: Some 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own character and ethics, with 77 percent saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Perhaps the kids are telling the truth. The other people they know may be even more sleazy than they are themselves. But is it okay just to be better than the other sleaze balls you're hanging around with?

The other article about teen depravity is from the Smoking Gun blog entitled, "Teens Charged In Nursing Home Abuse." It seems that a group of teen girls spat on, spanked and humiliated infirm elderly according to cops:

A group of teenagers working at a Minnesota nursing home abused and sexually humiliated elderly residents suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia, prosecutors allege. The six young female caregivers were named yesterday in criminal complaints charging them with a variety of cruel behavior at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Albert Lea, a city in southern Minnesota.

The first article stated that boys were more likely to steal or lie according to a survey but my guess is, they are more willing to admit antisocial behavior and girls are more likely to hide any type of antisocial behavior. Girls, like the ones mentioned above however, are turning to more unethical and troubling behaviors, just like the boys.

Here is my two cents. Unethical behavior is often overlooked in our society today--there are few consequences for acts of lying, cheating or even stealing. I have worked with teens who got away with all three until finally, they comitted some atrocious act that no one could overlook. And what should we expect when we do not hold certain people and groups accountable when they mess up? If one lies to the public, they can go on to earn six figure speaking gigs rather than suffer for it. If companies fail, they are bailed out by our government. The public is enthralled with aberrant behavior as evidenced by the fascination with shows that portray the bad guy as the hero and the good guy? He's now a chump. With ethics like these, what can we really expect from our kids?


Blogger pdwalker said...

Unethical behavior is often overlooked in our society today

Well, you must never hurt their precious feelings, you might damage their self-esteem!

7:43 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Not to take this too far off topic but take a look at this:

The end of the article tells the rest of the story: Some 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own character and ethics, with 77 percent saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

I am wondering if you present that statement to a portion of the adult population, how would they respond to that.

8:04 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Susan said...

As an elementary school teacher I see behavior every day that could potentially turn into lifelong unethical behavior. Many 5 and 6 year olds will deny being responsible for doing something wrong even when they have been caught "red-handed." When the parents are informed of the behavior, many teachers get nasty emails or other communications accusing that teacher of picking on their child and, often, blaming another child for making their kid misbehave.
When parents are willing to take the word of a 5 year old over the word of a teacher there is no incentive for kids to take responsibility for their own actions.

8:30 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Marbel said...

I think pdwalker is right - it's all about protecting that precious self-esteem. Bad behavior is simply "a poor choice" and there is always an excuse for it.

And people wonder why some of us homeschool our kids rather than surround them with cheating, lying, stealing classmates. (Of course, there are homeschooled kids who engage in the same behavior, but they're pretty easy to avoid.)

8:44 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger smitty1e said...

As Fred Thompson explains, the government thinks ethics is purely notional.
Why should children think otherwise?

8:56 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm not convinced kids across the demographic spectrum are more unethical today (read stories of the working and lower classes in Victorian England and your hair stands on end), but I do think the disconnect between behavior and self-perception is likely different.

This entire self-esteem movement is so insidious that it's become a challenge with dealing with my own children and their teachers.

On the other hand, I remember sitting in church years ago (when I still went to church) and hearing two adults behind me bargaining what pirated software they would give each other!

9:16 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

Strange, the account I read in today's paper did not highlight the sex differences in lying about money and stealing from stores...
There is probably some difference in self-reporting, but I think boys are probably more likely to engage in such conduct as a generalization than are girls. Girls score higher on Agreebleness in personality scales and this may account for some of it, as may risk aversion and lower incidence of overt antisocial behavior like stealing.

However one notes no sex difference in the self-reported rate of cheating.Hmmm

The level of self-deception I think may as often be found in adults. Persoanlly, I have observed that " Christians" seem to behave no different than others, baiscally ignoring The Gospels when its to their advantage and nominal "liberals' to be no more altruistic in 'real life" than libertarians or conservatives. Of course, that is a testable hypothesis-- but I recall one study of divinity students on the way to give a lecture on the parable of The Good Samaratian-- and the vast majority did not stop to render aid to a person in obvious distress!
I imagine "liberals" are altruistic-- with other people's money--- and privately are just as "selfish" as "conservatives" or " libertarians".

Self-interest seems to override any ideological beliefs or ethical norms in most people.

I think most people lie and cheat if they perceive the stakes high enough-- and then deceive themselves that they are "Christians" or " ethical " to maintain their self-esteem.

10:17 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

As far as the sadistic abuse of the eldely Alzheimer's /dementai residents-- abuse of the vulnerable is all-too-human-- the elderly infirm , the mentally retarded ( witness Geraldo Riveria's expose many years back ) and especially the mentally ill, usually in state institutions. These individuals are not seen as fully human, and thus have no rights. The treatment of the mentally ill has long been a scandal-- as they are subjected to abuse and dehumanization on a routine basis ( see Goffman, Aslyums)-- and their health care neglected, dying 25 years earlier on average than those in society.

Amazingly-- Minnesota is in the Dark Ages as for as protection of Vulnerable Adults-- the girls sadistic and sexual abuse of these people warranting only a fifth degree misdemeanor assualt charge, with hardly any penalty. In Mississippi, striking a vulnerable adult is a felony-- and you can get 20 years for doing so. Indeed,using a Power of Attorney to exploit a Vulnerable Adult in Mississippi is a felony, with a ten year prison sentence.

Minnesota obviously doesn't give a damn about protecting Vulnerable Adults.

10:47 PM, December 02, 2008  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

But why should we have expected anything else? Our society has systematically dismantled or undermined every one of the supports to traditional moral constraints. Imagine the worst moral violation you can, short of murder or rape. Then imagine a typical 2008 American teenager being asked to pass judgment on it. You're unlikely to hear him say anything but "whatever's right for you." Some of them would no doubt find justifications for murder or rape, too, "in a good cause."

The conception of a decent society, whose members discipline themselves, is lost to us. One no longer has to go to New Orleans to find the laissez les bon temps roulez philosophy in the saddle. Given the condition of the Big Easy, that's welcome news to the sociologists if no one else.

5:01 AM, December 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kids? What about adults?

I get told more lies on a daily basis, from resellers and end users than I can keep track of. Even the people I work with are full of it - a couple in particular. And they know who they are. I remind them when the crap starts to flow.

I think that is the main reason I love working with design and application of huge machinery and equipment, even complicated systems. It can only perform within design parameters, within the laws of physics. You can't "lie" to a piece of equipment. It fails. Root cause of a failure is almost always discernible.

5:37 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger uncle ken said...

Francis W. Porretto has it right. Our sense of right and wrong is inherent; religion and other societal constraint systems (Boy Scouts) merely codify acceptable behavior. Examples abound. Both Jim Jones and the Islamic Fundamentalists of Mumbai were acting in ways consistent with their religious precepts. Nope, if teenagers have become less ethical and more vicious in their actions it is because such behavior is no longer linked to unpleasant consequences. I was a normal little kid: my buddy and I started a fire that damaged his family's garage, we stole candy at the store and played "doctor" with the little girls. I can still recall the consequences: sometimes I do believe my butt still glows in the dark. Needless to confirm, my pediatric ventures unto the dark side of the street soon ended!

7:05 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

What I don't understand about our judicial system is why we can't punish parents when their kids perform a heinous act? We claim that parents are responsible for their children, but we don't enforce that concept. Parents have kids, the kid destroys property or performs a violent act upon another person, and the parents shrug their shoulders as to the reason junior was roaming the street at 2AM with a baseball bat. The parents walk away expecting the judicial system to take on the responsibility and cost of punishing junior and teaching him/her a lesson. I think society would be a different place if mom and dad got to be guests of the state along with their kid when their offspring commit a crime. Also, if junior has the least bit of a behavior problem custody battles would become very different.

A few years ago my city started locking parents up when their kid had more than a few unexplained absences from school. You should have heard the screams and howls from moms and dads, but truancy rates decreased right after that.

Maybe my suggestion is too radical, we all know the minute you drop a kid from between your legs you become the second coming of Jesus. ;)

9:02 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

I cannot help but notice the intemperant tone of many of the posts on this topic. It seems less charitable and more condescending than is normal. What gives?


9:34 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Intemperate tone? I don't think so. Some of us are really sick and tired of being terrorized by children.

Not that I was going to bring this up, but yesterday while standing in the cashier line at Wal-Mart I was smacked over the head by a 3 three year old who was standing in a grocery cart wielding a 3 foot long role of wrapping paper, while his mother watched. She thought it was cute and smiled at me. She didn't apologize nor did she take the weapon out of the little tyke's hands. I had to back my cart up about 5 feet as junior repeatedly attempted another smack at me. What is this?

9:50 AM, December 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, tmink, I have little to no faith in mankind. There are exceptions to the rule, but very few. We all fall short, eh?

It is, however, harder to judge once one wears another's shoes for a while.

There are varying degrees, Cham. I'd rather be hit by wrapping paper than run over by a crowd. I would have probably taken the wrapping paper and lightly touched the child's head with it in a representative response. And if the mother protested, I would probably smacked her as hard as the kid smacked me. And not apologized. Even though the mother would most likely have called the cops on me, being totally blind to what I would have been trying to accomplish - and me being a male and all. You weren't wearing an Obama T-shirt, were you?

10:11 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Brett Rogers said...

I think kids grow up without rules or consequences. I gave my kids four rules when growing up:

1. Do what you're told without talking back, unless you can't do it.

2. You are responsible for your things. If you need help, ask.

3. Treat others like you want to be treated.

4. If it's not yours or you don't know what it is, don't touch it.

Anytyhing they did wrong, I tried to tie it back to the rule broken, and that worked pretty well. I didn't realize it at the time, but it helped to teach them the value and importance of private property, a lesson missed by our president-elect.

What societal "rules" do we hold forth and enforce? Are there any? I think there once were. The Boy Scouts codified the 12 characteristics of a scout: cheerful, brave, thrifty, clean, reverent, etc.

I think Bill Bennett tried to give some stories about this kind of thing in his virtues books.

What other channels/vehicles exist for promoting ethics in a secular way?

10:18 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

This is not a teen problem. This is a parenting problem.

10:44 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Quasimodo said...

...eldely Alzheimer's /dementai residents-- abuse of the vulnerable is all-too-human-- the elderly infirm , the mentally retarded ...

Soon enough these will become capital offenses. The kids are just anticipating the direction society is heading in. In some places the state will not pay for your treatment but they will assist your suicide.

...Unethical behavior is often overlooked in our society today
Well, you must never hurt their precious feelings, you might damage their self-esteem!...

Truer words were never spoken!!

...ethics is purely notional....
Ah, the joys of relativism!

...This is not a teen problem. This is a parenting problem....

With respect, it is both.

...intemperant tone ...
reflects the magnitude of the problem and the dire consequences if it is not addressed, and soon.

target rich environment

11:21 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

cham --

Your suggestion only works if you strip away the laws that essentially prohibit the more severe punishments a parent can dole out.

If there's a law that says I can't confine or spank my kid, screw wanting to lock me up as he/she runs the streets.

I think the percentages have indeed increased, but I see around me a distinct proportion of less than thirties who have good judgment.

11:31 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


You can thank Dr. Spock, experts who warn not to spank or harm self-esteem and a culture and government that scares parents into doing nothing when it comes to really disciplining their child. You may want to blame parents for bad behavior but parents have learned not to do anything in terms of discipline less they be found guilty of child abuse, sex abuse or just plain ostracism. There are many examples of parents punished for what was considered harsh discipline (e.g. slapping a teen for staying out all night, being charged with sex abuse because a kid is angry with a father or stepdad and makes false allegations etc.) and that leads to parents being taught to do nothing instead or learning that the state (school, or juvenile court will deal with unruly kids).

Parents have little authority in this country --if you think so, try telling your local school why little Johnny wasn't there this week and see how far you get if you don't have a doctor's note. Parents are seen as suspect and not allowed to discipline (except for a time-out which teaches a child little) or decide what is right for their child in the larger society. The price for that is that kids act like brats and no one does anything. I agree that the mom in the store should have done something. You could have said something but I bet you hesitated. If so, ask yourself why. Then you will know how parents feel on a daily basis.

12:55 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

"Intemperate tone? I don't think so. Some of us are really sick and tired of being terrorized by children."

Cham, surely you see the intemperate tone even in your response!

And while I think the mother's response to your being struck in the head by a 3 year old is really bad parenting and very poor manners, I cannot equate that with being terrorized.

I dislike unruly children as much as the next person, but I have found that addressing the children about their behavior tends to solve the problem. The kid either freaks out or gets smart then leaves. If their parent comes to accost me I smile and report what I said and why. If the parent gets irate I just smile and respond if the situation looks interesting enough.

Whatever happens, the unruly child leaves me alone. And I often get a laugh out of it.


12:58 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger 1charlie2 said...


"Terrorized by children" is a perfect description for the helplessness one feels when confronted by some misbehaving little monster. You know it's not the kid's fault, but kicking the $#@%& out of the parent is often out of the question as well. I genuinely think "terrorized" is a good synonym for feeling helpless in the face of another's aberrant behavior.

In the military, facing an aggressor, I felt afraid but not helpless -- I was trained to take action, and so had a job to do. Were I to confront Al Quaeda today (okay, an extreme example but go with me here) as an unarmed civilian in Philadelphia, I'd feel helpless, i.e. terrorized.

Do I sound "intemperate" toward kids misbehaving badly in public ? You betcha. I spent almost a decade as a volunteer with troubled youth. I like to say I was the conductor on the train whose next stop was Incarcerationville. Many of our clients could certainly have used some "intemperance" early on. As could their parents.

Absence of such intemperance and excesses of "understanding" are part of what causes this misbehavior to begin with. That's why my boys' behvior is public is generally very good -- it's in private that they are creatures of the Dark Side. They know that in public they'd best behave or Dad (or Mom) will drag them home in an instant. I've done it a number of times, once tossing one over my shoulder and carrying him out to the car, to the applause of two Sherriff's deputies watching (who'd no doubt seen too much of the oppposite behavior at the Fair)

As for addressing the children ? Maybe it's worksedfor you, and more power to you. Sometimes it doea. But, I know any number of teens that would sneer and laugh at you. As well as some parents who'd come to the "aid" of their pre-teens instantly were you to so much as question their behvaior.

For me ? I keep a good stock of invective on hand. When Little Precious acts out (like the approxmately 5 year-old girl who hit my son with a thrown rock in front of a memorial while her mom watched), I go at mom or dad with as much vitriol as I can muster. No physical confrontation, but certainly audible.

"Is that little vermin YOURS ?!? What in the name of GOD are you teaching your children ? Your duaghter THREW a ROCK and HIT MY SON. How STUPID and MENTALLY DEFECTIVE must YOU me to think that's OKAY. Are you so CATASTROPHICALLY BRAIN-DAMAGED as to THINK THAT BEHAVIOR IS CUTE!?! HEY EVERYONE, this RETARDED, PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A PARENT thinkis it's OKAY for her child to THROW ROCKS AT OTHER PEOPLE. EVERYONE take a GOOD LOOK at her kid so you can RECOGNIZE HER LATER WHEN SHE STARTS STEALING CARS!"

Et cetera, ad nauseam.

1:35 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger 1charlie2 said...


Sorry, I should have qualified one thing -- I only get that spun up about violent behaviors, i.e. those that should be easily recognized. I sorta drifted off the original topic a bit there -- I really don't get in people's faces when their kid jaywalks :)

1:38 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

I didn't say anything to the mother or her kids because it wasn't my kid or my problem. I was on my lunch break in the middle of a business deal that was creating more havoc at the moment than I had anticipated and didn't need to further complicate my day. I had wanted to go to Wal-Mart and quietly purchase a few needed items. I thought I was getting into a cashier line that wouldn't take very long, but the mom in this case was having a bit of a problem with the cashier. She couldn't find a credit card that would work for the $500 worth of crap she was trying to buy. This is why I spent 10-15 minutes watching junior miss my head by inches with the roll of wrapping paper. It took 3 different credit cards before the mom could leave with her purchases.

But, wait, there's more. Since my purchases only took a few minutes I caught up with this mom at the entrance. When she got to the Salvation Army guy ringing the bell she stopped and dipped into her wallet for a donation. I'm thinking that if it takes trying 3 credit cards to find one that works, maybe the mom should be at home trying to balance her checkbook then handing money over to the Salvation Army. I think she wanted to impress upon junior that she is a giver. I shake my head.

Your kid isn't my problem. Your kid is your problem.

1:40 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger James D said...

The end of the article tells the rest of the story: Some 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own character and ethics, with 77 percent saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

I am wondering if you present that statement to a portion of the adult population, how would they respond to that.

I'm sure the results would be similar. We see the same thing in those Congressional polls - Congress has a 10% approval rating, but the vast majority of Representatives have very high approval ratings among their own constituents. "Our guy/gal is great, it's the rest of them that are crooks/incompetent/etc"

What I'd be more curious about is, (1) Do the same kind of results obtain in other countries? and (2) how do these results compare to similar surveys done in the past?

1:50 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger ak said...

Maybe parents do feel hamstrung in punishing their kids, but many, many parents I see rush to their idiot spawn's defense no matter what the situation. They are on their kid's "side" regardless of how wrong the kid is.

I think this stems from the halfwit baby-boomer belief that you should be friends with your child. It's more important to be seen as a "cool" parent rather than one who imparts any actual wisdom or guidance. It's part of the dumbing down and infantilization of America (and, from most accounts, of Europe).

As for the Minnesota girls: I live in Minneapolis and saw the story in the local paper. They're expecting suspended sentences. In other words, no punishment at all. For sexual abusing elderly people with dementia. What kind of scumbag thinks it's amusing to poke an old person in the genitals? Personally, I think in addition to jail time, they should all be registered as sex offenders.

2:07 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

1charlie wrote a lot of things I agree with. Also written was: " But, I know any number of teens that would sneer and laugh at you. As well as some parents who'd come to the "aid" of their pre-teens instantly were you to so much as question their behvaior."

I know them too, but they leave my general area after I say something, and that is enough for me.

I guess I am just balking on the terrorized term. I agree with so much of what you wrote, and want to thank you for your service in the military, but I believe that you and Cham have untapped resources, and once you spend some time, you will be able to wrap your head around it and find a solution.


2:12 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Cham wrote: "Your kid isn't my problem. Your kid is your problem."

First, my child has never been your problem. It is a big country, and unless you are spending a lot of time around West Nashville, you have never met my children.

Not that they are little angels by any means. But rest assured, if my 3 year old beaned you on the head I would appologize and fuss at my kid in front of you.

But when a child hits me on the head, well that becomes my problem. You seem to have a strange balance of blame, anger and shirking from your own self preservation.

I respect your feelings about ill mannered children, I share it. But your aim seems way off, and that will set you up for more bad interactions than you deserve.


2:15 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger wolfboy69 said...

Part of the problem is that you can't physically discipline your children in today's society. You risk your children being taken and placed in foster care, and you being arrested for abuse.

ak said it well - I think this stems from the halfwit baby-boomer belief that you should be friends with your child. It's more important to be seen as a "cool" parent rather than one who imparts any actual wisdom or guidance. It's part of the dumbing down and infantilization of America (and, from most accounts, of Europe).

All from some mistaken belief that we can't hurt their precious feelings. Everyone is a winner/everyone gets a trophy. We don't teach kids how to fail, and then pick themselves up and try again. If you fail, well then, it's someone else's fault because you are a winner.

Your kid screaming/whining at the top of his/her lungs in a store, restaurant etc. isn't cute. It's annoying as hell.

And like TMink....I'll call them on it. Usually they either quiet down or go away. And that works fine for me. If the parents get belligerent about it, public embarassment is a wonderful tool for stopping them cold in their tracks.

2:55 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Alex said...

BTW, you won't find this being discussed on any left-wing blog. Apparently our nation's youth lack of any ethics or morals is not a sufficient crisis.

3:30 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger lovemelikeareptile said...

I , unfortunately, agree with much of what JOE and br549 said--"unethical " behavior is the norm, if the stakes are perceived as being high enough, and that scale is all-too-often set very low. All my work in Ethics in college and beyond is essentially moot in the real world-- no one pays any attention to ethics, typically. Alas, its an abstraction that people seem to acknowledge whenever it might benefit them ( You "should" do this for me), but readily ignore when it might require some sacrifice on their part-- like the ideal behavior modelled by religions.

Benevolent concern and altruism are quite rare-- unless you find a very special person.

People seem to lie all the time about everything-- and avoid involvement if it has any personal cost in terms of time or effort or money. Perahps this has increased as society has become more industrialized and urban-- and people feel-- and are-- distant and isolated from others.

Voltaire's " Let us tend our garden" is the rule-- in a very narrow sense. The opposing model represented in The Gospels is essentially extinct, if it ever existed.

It would be fun to work with machines-- as there is no human lies and rationalizations for abandonment involved.Anyone working in the legal areana knows lying is practically institutionalized-- and lawyers are essentially trained to lie in the guise of "advocacy". I know-- I witnessed it... Anyone working in psychotherapy/psychiatry is familiar with client's/patient's horrific stories of abuse from others... and lies and rationalizations for abandonment.

As far as the 'self-esteem" movement, I am not really familiar with that-- but "self-esteem " seems to have a large biological component-- the same , generally, with "happiness". Obviously there is an environemental contribution, but these two seem to be stable traits of people.

4:41 PM, December 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read blogs on both sides of the spectrum and this is the only one thus far where this discussion has shown up. I note this because it seems that those right of center need always somehow badmouth those left of center, no matter what the issue.

4:57 PM, December 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fred, you mean kids are democrats? Well, that explains it!

5:27 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

Then some of them turn conservative when they have kids of their own.

8:56 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

fred --

You seem to contradict yourself. If the left blogs are not talking about this, then it would seem they don't see the kid's behavior as a problem. Pointing out that the left side is this way isn't badmouthing as you just did that yourself.

On the child rearing side. I didn't spank my daughter or nephew. I had what was called a knuckle bump. Extended middle knuckle and a sharp rap the center of the head. No harm and a lasting point of pain.

One Christmas, all the kids were in another room getting loud and physical and we were getting prepared to go in and tell them to quiet it down when Sean (my nephew) was heard to say "Guys, quiet down or Uncle **** will come in here and knuckle bump us!" We laughed, they quieted on their own.

11:02 PM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger gs said...

ak: If the offenders were male, I wonder if they'd get by with suspended sentences.
Are Asian-American kids usually better behaved than other children of comparable education and social status, or is that a false stereotype?

1:19 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer Stites said...

How about single parents and kids' behavior? Do you see mom/dad differences? Do trends in family make-up affect trends in behavior?

6:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

I've seen some atrocious behavior out of kids from 2 parent homes. But I did notice that the bad behaving kids had 2 parents that would back up whatever the kid said, and furiously defend their child, no matter what any adult said to the contrary.

7:41 AM, December 04, 2008  
Blogger JohnnyRidden said...

Actually, I believe you have picked the wrong person to villify as an anti-hero. Dexter. Though a little more troubling (since the temptation is all around) an equivalent would be a pedophile trying to get over his addiction by working with children until the saturation 'breaks' it, or a recovering alcoholic working at a bar. Refuge in audacity if you will, hiding in plain sight. He knows there's a Jekyll and Hyde battle going on within him, but by being close to the one person he still cares for, his sister Debra, he is able to control it. (she is actually a worse role model than he, rebounding from failed relationship to failed relationship, and becoming mistrusting of others as a result. Also she swears enough to make up for the rest of the department!)

To date, the only person he killed that wasn't a killer was a pedophile and molester attempting to abduct his daughter. He realises it was an overreaction, but also realises it is a part of his expanding humanity. (Season 1 Dexter would have ignored him until Rita had to kill him, as he was so lacking in empathy he wouldn't have noticed the potential threat, taking the man at face value. His killing was, for the first time, wholly out of anger.)

Contrast this to the average action movie hero who is simply downright apathetic to the collateral damage they cause. 70, 80, 90, 100 are the average body counts for a mere hour and a half (covering the span of four days at the most). Anyone not a hostage is an enemy and must be taken out, from the maid cleaning the compound, to the hooker gals just there doing their jobs, to the cliche-standard sleeping guard (when they could have just as easily been knocked out and tied up). For no apparent reason, the maid and the hookers/strippers will also suffer a 'sexy death close-up' when being torn to shreds by machinegun fire, much as if the movie were a Women In Prison sexploitation flick.

For a season one example, a pair of coyotes, a husband and wife team, take immigrants who can't pay their fee out on the water and drown the head of the family, indirectly also killing the family through the remaining members having to do less than ethical things simply to stay alive. One of their victims, Rita's maid, was a single mother so they made an example from her instead. Dexter was going to let the wife go until he figured out she was the boss of the immigrant smuggling ring and not the husband, and had ordered their deaths. Also, he freed all the illegals locked in the warehouse.

Harry Callahan's answer would have been to shoot the both of them and as a result, never find out about the warehouse, never free the immigrants, and never find out whether or not she was actually guilty or just a trophy wife in the wrong place. (lets not even mention how many teens idolize the leads of Scarface and Godfather, shall we?)
For a previous moral comparison, Paul Kersey from Death Wish seems to have a similar outlook on life, but his vigilante response was more akin to The Punisher. (though the civilian deaths are accidental and not 'collateral damage' from a distinct lack of fire control.) Dexter's response is more akin to The Shadow minus the psychic powers. (In fact a child who witnesses him take down a bad guy makes the comparison to a similarly-themed in-universe comic book hero. He even considered dressing the part until he found out how hard it was to move.)

So yeah, he's a much better model than 65% of summer blockbuster heroes, late-night B-movie action fests, and serious crime dramas, at the least.

In addition, Dexter's lack of empathy allows others to control him without him knowing, leading to him violating the code unintentionally, or intentionally due to greater external consequences. (Lila, Miguel)

For a series with a truly reprehensible hero, try The Shield.
Everyone in this show is far beyond the moral event horizon.

And lets not forget HBO's most popular series. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sopranos
(he would view nearly every character in both of these shows as not just deserving but long overdue!)

Sorry for the length of this, it's just that it's a deeply layered psychological thriller and I hate to see it dismissed so easily, especially when the title character is only about 30% of the show. Dexter is really just an extreme version of kid from a broken home with a lethal nervous tic. In spite of that he's trying his damnedest to make his life work while whetting the tic with upper-class vigilantism. (at least he makes sure his targets are guilty, and are planning to kill again! Core part of his code that, almost like a Templar code.)

That doesn't even delve into his marital or parental relations, or the other characters, mind you.

7:52 PM, December 06, 2008  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

Somehow, I expected that Dexter would be Dr. Smith's linked example.

Captain Katz, those "70, 80, 90, 100... average body counts for a mere hour and a half" in a violent Hollywood movie are typically the deaths of men being served up as a sort of garnish to decorate the central plot-element: a woman in danger. Unlike those dozens of men, that woman (usually played by Jodie Foster or look-alike) typically remains alive at the end. In the relatively few flicks in which the threatened female dies, that's done in order to increase the shock value to a level higher than any mere man's death could reach.

I agree with those commenters who despair at the New Age fashion of parents putting being their child's friend above being their child's parent. Who was it who first admonished such parents with "Kids can always get other friends but they may never get other parents"? That's a wise remark.

Sometimes, saying something understanding to the mom in the checkout line (ever notice how those are devised by retailers to be slow-moving cattle chutes with walls lined with kid-temptations and impulse purchases?) to signal her that you understand she's not a Bad Mother if she disciplines her brood in public can give her the OK to head off an escalation of her tot's (or teen's) poor behavior. "Mind your mom" said in a stern, low voice by another adult often startles the younger set into obeying a mortified-in-public Mom and improves her self-confidence to discipline her kids in a public place.

Brett Rogers, I like your system. Your rules are simple enough for even tiny people to understand and your advice to tie back the consequences of misbehavior to the rule that was broken encourages the young person to exercise (and thereby strengthen) their own moral faculties and rational thinking. Plus, it's a very "Dad" kind of method. I like it!

1:17 AM, December 08, 2008  
Blogger MamaT said...

Not trying to offend, but kids need to be socialized like puppies, and it should be done by the entire pack (parents/teachers/coaches/neighbors/other family members/courts, etc.) When misbehavior occurs, punishment should be swift. That punishment should also be reinforced by the parent, if the parent is not the one giving it. Both my son and his teachers know that if I get a call from the school there's going to be ____ to pay when I get him home. He will then write a note of apology. When he threw himself down in a store throwing a tantrum because he couldn't have something, it only took one time of spanking him all the way to the car in front of everyone for it not to happen again (yes, I'm lucky to live in a State where I can do that without being arrested). When he was about 2 and bit the ___ out of me and I bit him back, he figured out real quick that wasn't a good idea (even though HE often got bitten at daycare!) If he is with a friend or family member, he knows that they are in charge and can discipline him if necessary--same when other's kids are with me. Once the immediate correction was over (spanking when it was necessary), we would sit down and discuss why the behavior was unacceptable/disrespectful and how badly he probably made someone else feel (like a teacher) by doing it. "It Takes a Village" does work. It's just sad that those villages seem to be very few these days.

11:27 AM, December 22, 2008  
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