Tweens and Values

I always say that the moment you experience the need to dump on the younger generation, you need to know: this is the day when you have become hopelessly, irredeemably old. If you feel like harping on the horrible values of today’s kids and keep comparing them to how much better your values were when you were their age, congratulations! You are now completely ready to be carted of to the dungheap of existence. It doesn’t matter how old you really are. A visceral dislike of younger people makes you old even if you are 25.

Here is a post I just found that perfectly exemplifies the attitude I’m talking about:

One study analyzed the values expressed on the most popular television shows among so-called tweens (children ages 9-11) every decade from 1967 to 2007. . .

The results revealed little change in values presented on the shows between 1967 and 1997, during which time, the five most expressed values were Community Feeling, Benevolence, Image, Tradition, and Popularity (three out of the five would generally be considered healthy). The five least expressed values were Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism, Spiritualism, and Financial Success (three out of five would generally be considered unhealthy).

Only during the most recent decade did a dramatic shift in values occur. The new top-five values were Fame, Achievement, Popularity, Image, and Financial Success (with Self-Centered and Power close behind). Related values that also became more prominent included Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, and Materialism. The latest bottom-five values were Spiritualism, Tradition, Security, Conformity, and Benevolence (with Community Feeling to follow). I don’t think the so-called values voters of today (or anyone else, for that matter) would have a hard time judging which would be considered healthy values and which wouldn’t be.

Sorry for the long quote but this piece of old-age insanity has to be experienced in full.

First of all, let me point out that each of us has our own perception of and reaction to any given TV show, book, or film. If it weren’t so, my entire profession would not exist. This is why trying to interpret which “values” a collection of TV shows (especially one selected by a person with an obvious political agenda) transmits to everybody is stupid. Meaning that the study quoted here is a piece of pseudo-scientific junk.

Let’s leave that aside for a while, though, and pretend that this analysis of values implicit in TV shows does have some meaning. What are the values that the author of this piece classifies as good and which ones does he see as negative? The “good” values are  Community Feeling, Benevolence, Image, Tradition,  Spiritualism, Security, Conformity, and Popularity (these capital letters make me think of the precious writing style of XIXth century damsels locked up in boarding schools who capitalized words like Love, Friendship, and Betrayal in letters to their imaginary lovers. Bleh.) The “bad” or “unhealthy” values are Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism,  Financial Success, and Materialism.

Now, a question for everybody. What is the main difference between these two groups of values? To me, the answer is obvious. The good values are the ones that are likely to be experienced by people who live to serve their group. People who privilege such values are usually most comfortable in heavily patriarchal societies where an individual’s interests don’t matter a whole lot because the individual belongs to his or her group (family, clan, community.)

The bad values, however, are the ones that characterize modernized societies where an individual pursues his or her own interests and does not abdicate them in order to belong. Where the first group of values insists on conformity, the second one praises comparison to others, uniqueness, personal ambition. When you stop being a slave to tradition, you can concentrate on looking for your own ways to enjoy life (hedonism), take care of your body, and be successful.

If there had, indeed, been a shift in values that is described in the post I quoted and this shift occurred along the lines of moving away from communitarian, patriarchal values to more individualistic and personal ones, then that is great news, indeed. And if you disagree with me that such shift is a positive phenomenon, ask yourself how ready you are to have your parents decide what profession you choose, whom you marry, when and if you have children, etc.

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34 thoughts on “Tweens and Values”

  1. Well, I find most people and the values they embrace to be extremely alarming, via the route of being extremely incomprehensible to me. Mike’s values very closely approximate my own. We were both brought up with very conservative, rural values and found out the falseness of these, indeed their deep level of being unsatisfactory, through hard, personal experience.

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  2. Blaming teens/tweens/twentysomethings for promoting “values” espoused by television shows/media which are directed by, produced by, and distributed by people who are at least in their forties and up to their seventies appears to be a popular sport with each generation.

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  3. The author of the blog you quoted assumes that you can discern the values of tweens based on the values expressed in TV shows. That is pretty stupid. This person probably also believes that people who play video games are going to turn into violent psychopaths.

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    1. Oh yes, I especially love the mantra about how all people who play video games are useless, immature and unsuccessful, especially since I can observe a person who proves that this mantra is stupid in my own house every day.

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  4. My values and those of my students are much more reasonable to me than the people of my parents’ generation that I knew as a child and later. I feel more in tune with today’s students than I did those of the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

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  5. bloggerclarissa :
    I get the first two but stoicism? Why should I put up with discomfort when I can avoid discomfort instead?

    You can achieve a great deal of satisfactory experiences with stoicism — like sleeping under the stars, or passing a martial arts grading.

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    1. I grew up in a place where every day was a battle against unhospitable aspects of existence. No heat in winter, no running water in summer, doctors who are all vile sadists, people who all hate each other and erupt in violence for no reason. So now I’m all into warm beds, clean sheets, long baths, etc. Privations did not make me a better person, so why try it again, you know?

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  6. I don’t understand the author’s point over here. These are a set of TV programs produced by adults for consumption by tweens; how do they reflect values of the tweens? If anything, they reflect a decline in the values of the adults, and the author himself or herself is one.

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  7. bloggerclarissa :
    I grew up in a place where every day was a battle against unhospitable aspects of existence. No heat in winter, no running water in summer, doctors who are all vile sadists, people who all hate each other and erupt in violence for no reason. So now I’m all into warm beds, clean sheets, long baths, etc. Privations did not make me a better person, so why try it again, you know?

    My attachment to stoicism isn’t for the sake of morality, but is a trade-off for the ability to have wide-ranging experiences. I crave these kinds of experiences as my body craves roughage. I can’t really do without them, as I start to lose my mental and emotional grounding. Harsh experiences are very useful to me — so long as they also provide substantial intellectual, emotional and cognitive rewards.

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    1. “My attachment to stoicism isn’t for the sake of morality, but is a trade-off for the ability to have wide-ranging experiences. I crave these kinds of experiences as my body craves roughage. ”

      – Ah, interesting. This means that you are still in the process of your Bildung, the journey of self-fashioning and growth. (The words “wide-ranging experiences” give it away.) This is really cool. I have to confess that I’m a lot more rigid and have mostly stopped growing in such a rapid and dramatic fashion. Good for you that you haven’t. I raise my hat to you. (Is there such an expression in English?)

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  8. bloggerclarissa :

    – Ah, interesting. This means that you are still in the process of your Bildung, the journey of self-fashioning and growth. (The words “wide-ranging experiences” give it away.) This is really cool. I have to confess that I’m a lot more rigid and have mostly stopped growing in such a rapid and dramatic fashion. Good for you that you haven’t. I raise my hat to you. (Is there such an expression in English?)

    Actually, it’s more the case that I’ve finished a lot of my self-fashioning and am very satisfied with the results. However, I have an ongoing problem with insensitivity and it is as if I’m constantly growing a shell of mental indifference — a kind of exo-skeleton. If I don’t shed that every so often, I literally start to go mad. I become numb inside. So I choose experiences that are tough enough to make me feel something afresh, so that I stop from going mad.

    I’m really a mal-adapt in terms of bourgeois society. I find it oh-so-creepy. That said, I’m extremely glad for what is good about it — the fine doctors, the generally tolerable neighbours and the fact that I could pursue my intellectual interests very far indeed.

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  9. Ah, then your values must be diametrically opposed to mine.

    Except that I think that values like Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism, Financial Success, and Materialism are more likely to be signs of conformity and being “other-directed” rather than “inner-directed”.

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    1. What’s wrong with being healthy and wanting to provide for oneself financially? Why is wanting to have a career a bad thing? Why shouldn’t one want to be famous, look good, enjoy life, make money, and have a comfortable existence? Are there really people who don’t want these things?

      To me, it seems way better than pursuing conformity and worshipping traditions set up by others.

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  10. Steve :
    Ah, then your values must be diametrically opposed to mine.
    Except that I think that values like Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism, Financial Success, and Materialism are more likely to be signs of conformity and being “other-directed” rather than “inner-directed”.

    That’s true. Our natural default seems to be towards getting along with others in a reciprocating way. It takes a lot of energy to do more — which could have all sorts of different meanings. In a culture where advertising reigns supreme, doing too much of these other sorts of things can mean being “other directed”.

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  11. Here the interesting part of our culture(north american). Most of our emphasis is on consumption, how do we expect anyone to think about others(nice value’s) when they are hell bent on getting more stuff. The tweens are just mirroring the overall mindframe of the people teaching them. What is that line about “looking in the mirror” 😉

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  12. I seriously doubt that Hedonism was “least expressed between 1967 and 1997.” Which makes me wonder if it’s not old people complaining now, since one assumes they would have been there for the national coke orgy that spanned the ’70s and ’80s. Or “Ambition”? “Financial Success”? “Materialism”?? What the fuck, have these people never heard of junk bonds?

    Either way, I’m clutching my pearls and cinching down my the chastity belt. Time to get back to a better era that never existed except in Jerry Falwell’s head!

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