A New Chapter in Empowering Girls
This story is a bit dated but still relevant. Back in November Louisville Catholic high school Mercy Academy launched a new advertising campaign aimed at injecting a bit of reality into the culture of young girls. Pictures of two of the ads are below:
The ad campaign was cheered by many and saw national attention in the media. It’s pretty hard to find fault with it as the message is uniformly positive. On first glance it seems the ads were targeted to the young girls about to choose their high school (this is the season when local private schools compete fiercely for next year’s freshman class) but I see the ads a bit differently. What the ads really challenge is the sense of entitlement among today’s youth and this is largely the fault of parents.
The gnashing of teeth over our entitled youth seems to assume this is a new phenomenon. In truth it has been observed for over a century. In the 1920s, for example, there was a great sense of worry over the youth of that decade. This happened again most noticeably during the 1960s but has also resurfaced in nearly every generation on a smaller scale. In the past the problem was accurately attributed to a bottom-up phenomenon which was that prosperity creates an atmosphere where kids rebel against societal norms. This was true however what we see today is more of a top-down problem in the sense that adults bear much more of the responsibility.
In the past much of the social upheaval among youths came from the middle class. Today it comes from all directions. We know the middle class is shrinking. We know today’s economy is more fragile and job security is less certain. It would seem that parents would dial back parenting excess and fall back a bit on a message of austerity and restraint in parenting. Unfortunately we see much the opposite. For perhaps the first time we see a generation where a parents’ wealth is not an accurate predictor of what kinds of luxuries a child will enjoy.
I am certainly not immune to this phenomenon. My kids have had the best we could offer even when that sometimes meant sacrificing more than we should have on our end. Expensive summer camps and fantastic vacations. Seemingly every electronic gadget ever invented. We are certainly in an age of excess and I have played right along. And we have seen firsthand how this affects our children. My daughters, unaccustomed to wanting for anything, have struggled with finding a path for themselves. It seems that a lack of hardship makes the future a bit harder to imagine.
Growing up in a family where we would be the first generation where everyone went to college and having parents who always wanted more for us, we could dream big. When your parents already seemingly enjoy a plush lifestyle, even if this comes from a willingness to embrace debt to buy whatever you want, well that makes kids a bit less willing to reach beyond their current circumstances. I touched on this in a post almost two years ago about the ways that different classes parent and how this can result in separate outcomes for their children. Perhaps the message for today is that entitlement culture is blurring class lines.
Circling back to the ads I mentioned at the start of the post, there is hope that recognition of this phenomenon will change things, however the very kids targeted by the ads are the children of parents that can afford an expensive private school education. One wonders how far this message can go in overcoming that reality.
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.