In the last 50 years, our nation has taken a moral nosedive.
Since 1960, the rate of violent crimes has more than tripled. Every day there are news reports of heinous crimes unheard of in America a generation ago. Children murder their playmates, their teachers and their parents. Teenage mothers abandon their newborn babies in trashcans, and every year students commit carnage on their classmates. Our culture has sunk so low that children are no longer safe with their teachers in school or at church – scores of men and women are arrested every year for preying on the children under their care.
The sexual revolution that started in the ’60s continues with many casualties. Promiscuity has become so rampant that 1 of every 4 teenage girls now has a sexually transmitted infection. In the last five decades, practices have become so deviant that the number of distinct STDs had risen from five to more than 50 – a sudden increase of a thousand percent. Obsession with sexual violence has brought a 318 percent increase in sexual assault.
Our nation is in severe moral decline, and the descent is not slowing.
The root cause of decline in America is not that difficult to deduce. When a society becomes out of control, it is because its members elevate self-indulgence and lack self-control. It really is that simple.
In the last 50 years, human nature has not changed. Selfishness, lust, covetousness and all other passions are in the human heart at birth. It is only a trained proclivity to say NO to our natural drives that keeps our passions in check – self-control is what stops us from stealing, murdering and committing adultery. It is parents who must instill this important quality in each generation. History and common sense teach us that the society in which children are not taught to keep control of their passions is destined to moral disintegration.
In America the reason that baby boomers and their children have grown up with less mastery over their passions than previous generations is because in the late ’40s a new voice of authority on parenting rose to prominence, and parents of the ’50s and ’60s began to raise children differently than before.
In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock first published his infamous book “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” which was unlike any that came before it. Instead of stressing the importance of teaching self-denial and respect for authority, Spock discouraged directive training and emphasized accommodating children’s feelings and catering to their preferences. No longer did children learn they could endure Brussels sprouts and suffer through daily chores. Using Spock’s approach, parents began to feed self-indulgence instead of instilling self-control – homes were becoming child-centered. As parents elevated children’s “freedom of expression” and natural cravings, children became more outspoken, defiant and demanding of gratification. In fact, they came to view gratification as a right.
Spock wrote his book in response to a cold, authoritarian philosophy of parenting that had been dominant in America. For years, parents had been told to withhold affection from their children – not to touch them too often – not to respond to their tears. Understanding of children had not been encouraged, and fathers had held a minor role in their nurture and care. These things distressed Spock, and they would have upset me had I been born back then. Children need our tender affection, understanding and respect. However, Spock’s solutions reflected total ignorance of the hedonistic bent of human nature and fostered an over-exalted sense of self-importance in children. Homes became hotbeds for narcissism, entitlement and victim thinking.
In the early ’60s, under Spock’s influence, parents were watching their children become sassy and contentious, and increasing numbers were seeing them become juvenile delinquents and criminals. As the crime rate started to crawl up, SAT scores began to drop. Teenagers began to exercise less moral restraint and revealed an increasing contempt for authority. The free-love hippy movement and student protests were inevitable for children who had been raised to think too highly of themselves. Is it any surprise that Spock himself participated in protests and was arrested in 1968 because of his contempt for governmental authority?
In 1972, Spock’s imbalanced view of child rearing became greatly apparent when he entered the presidential race as the candidate for the socialistic People’s Party. Anyone who embraces socialism is clueless to a key element of proper parenting – personal responsibility.
What Spock’s actions reveal about the weaknesses of his philosophies is obvious, but some doubt that Spock’s influence was that pervasive. However, in the first year, his book sold 750,000 copies, and within six years it sold more than 4 million. It has since sold over 50 million and has been translated into more than 40 languages. According to Dr. Spock’s website, it is second in sales only to the Bible. Life magazine certified the depth of his influence, naming Spock among the 100 most important people of the 20th century.
Even Dr. Spock was aware of his negative influence upon parents. In a 1968 interview with the New York Times, Spock admitted that his first edition of “Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” contributed to an increase of permissive parenting in America. “Parents began to be afraid to impose on the child in any way,” he said. In his 1957 edition, he tried to remedy that by emphasizing the need for setting standards and asking for respect. Unfortunately, Spock failed to see the deeper problems of his philosophy, so subsequent editions continued to cultivate narcissism.
As Spock’s radical parenting ideas grew in popularity, other “experts” jumped on the bandwagon and promoted their own versions of indulgent child rearing. Since 1946, parenting approaches that foster narcissism and contempt for authority have become the accepted norm in higher education and subsequently, in society. It is a simple matter to trace the dominant hedonism of our culture back to Spock’s influence.
And since the parenting we receive in childhood develops the worldview we hold as adults, Spock influenced not only how American’s conduct themselves in society, but how they approach government as well. Interestingly enough, in the 1968 New York Times interview, Spock admitted that he would “be proud if the idealism and militancy of youth today were caused by my book.” Raising children to adulthood with a defiant attitude toward authority was apparently one of his goals.
Spock died in 1998, and my intent is not to malign a man in the grave – it is to rescue America before we expire from moral disintegration. We must, therefore, identify and abandon the polluted well from which we have been drinking.
Those interested in repairing the damage done by Spock, both in the family and in society at large, will want to read “Born Liberal Raised Right: How to Rescue America from Moral Decline – One Family at a Time.” It lays out a clear analysis of the problem and a simple plan for recovery.