The Impact of Postmodernism on our Youth

American Teens lying, stealing and cheating more than ever

American teenagers are lying, stealing and cheating more at alarming rates 1.
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.
In its 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, the Los Angeles-based organization said the teenagers’ responses to questions about lying, stealing and cheating “reveals entrenched habits of dishonesty for the workforce of the future.”
What’s worse is that these teenagers almost view themselves as paragons of virtue:
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.”
A comment from Jonathan Schmock, who played the Chez Quis Maitre D’ in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off seems appropriate here:
“I weep for the future”
Since most instruction and discussion of ethics these days are steeped in ethical relativism and focus on self-esteem, it is no wonder that these are the responses to this survey.
In such a diverse society as ours, it is often very tempting in the midst of competing world views to ease the tension by means of relativizing the competing claims, especially in a climate where political correctness is the only dogma allowed.
Somehow we’ve turned the political truth that “everyone has a right to believe what they want” into the philosophically anemic and morally reckless position that “what everyone wants to believe is right”.
Figuring out where such thinking leads does not take a rocket scientist. Even a Maitre D’ can figure it out. That position reflects a postmodern attitude toward ethics.
Postmodernism is a reaction to Modernity, or perhaps as postmodernists would say, to the failure of Modernity. It is also undergirded by two important pillars: the hermeneutic of suspicion and the hermeneutic of finitude. These two lead to the “incredulity of metanarratives”, the hallmark of postmodernity. It is an incredulity towards claims to transcendent or universal truth.
Writer, Os Guinness, captures the essence of postmodernism in the following passage of his book, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds“There is no truth, only truths. There are no principles, only preferences. There is no grand reason, only reasons. There is no privileged civilization (or culture, beliefs, norms and styles), only a multiplicity of cultures, beliefs, periods, and styles. There is no universal justice, only interests and the competition of interest groups. There is no grand narrative of human progress, only countless stories of where people and their cultures are now. There is no simple reality or any grand objectivity of universal, detached knowledge, only a ceaseless representation of everything in terms of everything else.”
If one’s attitude toward ethics falls in line with the description above and if our schools do just as much damage to the acceptability of absolute truth, it is no wonder that the behavior of our youth is the way it is. Granted, not all such behavior has at its root or as its cause such thinking, but such thinking would hardly lead to any other kind of behavior – especially among the young. It is in fact this kind of thinking that permeates the material taught to our youth in most public schools when matters of morality, ethics and culture are the subject matter.
One might hardly expect otherwise in an education system with curriculum that is centrally planned in a society that is pluralistic and holds tolerance as one of its paramount virtues. Combine this with a very wide spread rejection of epistemological foundationalism and it could hardly be otherwise. Critics of foundationalism typically argue that the foundationalist epistemology is self-referentially flawed; that is to say, by its own criteria, the statements that define the theory must be rejected as unwarranted.
One standard criticism of postmodernism proceeds as follows: when the contextualist theory about the nature of truth and rationality is applied to itself, it too has self-referential problems. When the postmodernist/contextualist makes the claim all knowledge is a human construction, that claim must apply to his knowledge that all knowledge is a human construction. But if that person’s knowledge in this regard is itself a construction, it is only one way of looking at the question, and he has eliminated any possible basis for asserting it to be true of all knowledge possessed by other persons. So, if those who opt for contextualism intend the statement of their theory to be objectively compelling, the theory is false. If it is intended only to be contextually compelling, they contradict themselves.
This is not just a philosophical issue or one for which the consequences of the position one takes is merely academic in nature. Thoughts lead to actions; actions lead to habits, and habits produce a certain kind of character – or lack thereof.


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