Dumb and Dumber

dumb

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, Proverbs 3:13

The title of this post comes from an old movie by the same title. The movie depicts the adventures of two men on a cross-country trip who do incredibly stupid things.

The movie has a lot of great quotes, including the following:  Harry: “She wrote me a john-dear letter…something about me not listening enough. I don’t know… I wasn’t really paying attention.”

With the movie as a backdrop, there are several trends of the next generation that are quite worrisome.  They include the following:

  • Diminishing vocabulary – middle school vocabulary has dropped from 25,000 words to 10,000 in the last 10 years
  • Short attention spans – the millennials have an attention span shorter than that of a gold-fish
  • Lack of critical thinking – partly because of the previous attributes, the next generation shows an inability to do any critical thinking
  • Reliance on social media for their opinions and values
  • Lowered levels of interpersonal relationship
  • A school environment that caters to self-esteem resulting in grade inflation so that now 49% of students get A’s while the SAT scores are declining.
  • Lack of reading in general by the next generation
  • Extended childhood and adolescence

Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter was recently interviewed and commented on the impact of Twitter which is a popular type of social media that limits posts to 140 characters or letters.

Williams asserted that the recent election of Donald Trump was a result of “how social media platforms are helping to ‘dumb the entire world down’” and “undermine our sense of truth”.

He continued that it was not so much an issue of an election, but “it is the quality of the information we consume that is reinforcing dangerous beliefs and isolating people and limiting peoples’ open- mindedness and respect for truth.” Wow – and this from the founder of one of the culprits.

Note that two things suffer according to Williams:  truth and open-mindedness.  Absorbing only 140 character messages leads to a lack of tolerance because there is no depth of understanding of an issue. (See my post on Tolerance on August 29, 2017).

Add to the twitter founder’s comments that the next generation is being dumbed down, scores of the SAT, a standard college admission test, have now sunk to the lowest level in over ten years. At the same time, another trend is opposite:  the percentage of students getting  a grade of A (or the highest grade) has increased.

A recent study on “grade inflation” was conducted by Michael Hurwitz of The College Board, and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia. They found that in 1998, 38.9% of students in high school had an A average. By 2016, the percentage had crept up to 47%, again, all the while the SAT scores declined.

The authors of the study rejected the “idea that students were actually getting smarter over time.” I can only reflect at my own high school experience at a difficult prep school which put a premium on excellence and only about 10% of our class had the equivalent of an A average.

Jean Twenge was recently interviewed on prime time television. She is the author of a new book entitled “iGen“. In the interview, Twenge noted that the next generation spends an average of 6 to 8 hours a day in the digital world.

Their lack of social interaction and isolation makes them unprepared for life, where they are not graded on a curve, and real excellence is rewarded.

Their disdain and lack of trust for all institutions – including government – shows up in studies which show that millennials don’t vote.  Only about 20% of Americans aged 18 to 29 voted in the last election, making it the lowest turnout in 40 years.

As noted in The Atlantic, Fordham Foundation’s Robert  Pondiscio is quoted as saying “The more educated you are, the more likely you are to be civically engaged.”

A Pew Research study also showed that a high majority of young adults struggle with basic questions about politics – i.e., who would the next House speaker would be, or what is the annual inflation rate, for example.

Civic literacy has dropped dramatically, with about a fourth of high school seniors scoring “proficient” on the federal government’s civics exam. That does not bode well for the future. The lack of intellectual curiosity coupled with their lack of reading and critical thinking is a recipe for disaster.

Even though they may appear apathetic to government, the next generation is very concerned about transparency according to another article in The Atlantic. Their fixation on transparency makes them more motivated to volunteer than to vote.

They see volunteering as a better venue for exercising their civic duty. Volunteering doubled from its previous averages in 2103 by the younger age group between 16-24.

As a mentor, you should probe to see what your mentee understands about government. If needed, have your mentee do some reading about basic civics and government. Volunteering may be admirable, but it won’t help sway policy decisions of the government which will affect real change in the future.

The next generation’s focus on transparency and accountability also plays into the next generations’ desire to be connected to mentors who are transparent. As one young man, age 17, texted me: “I know I don’t have all the answers (other people don’t either), but people like you definitely have answers that I don’t.”

While low aptitude in civics also reflects failures in the educational system, it also reflects this next generations’ lack of interest in being involved in institutions that they don’t see as either accountable or transparent.

As mentors and parents, some of these trends have to be concerning. Unlike the movie Dumb and Dumber, there is nothing humorous about these trends.

If alarm bells aren’t going off in your head by now, they should be. We are raising a generation of not-ready-for-adulthood kids who, if they stay on these trends, won’t have the intellectual or emotional maturity to cope with life even when they become “adults” chronologically.

If you have a Generation Z around your house, one thing should be screaming at you:  limit their use of smartphones (or better still, don’t cave and give them one at 11 or 12 like I now see being done). Don’t allow them to veg in their rooms for hours on end. Encourage them to get into outside activities at school. Keep them engaged.

The challenges by all of this are numerous. We may not be able to fix everything, but we can, as individuals, take the effort and time to reach out to the next generation and offer to walk beside them.

One thing that may help your mentee: be sure that the digital world is being used in a positive way in his or her life. So many in the next generation are addicted to smartphones, and you should take care to be sure that the digital world of your mentee is not out of balance.

Note: On this post and future ones, I wll start adding a section entitled RESOURCES with books that may be helpful for both mentors and parents on the topic at hand.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation is looking for mentors – men and women who are willing to dive into their lives and walk along side.  If you are not mentoring, take a chance by asking someone in the next generation if they want to get together.  You should not be surprised if they say “Yes!”.

FURTHER STUDY:  Interview of Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/13/twitter-founder-trump-presidency-short-attention-spans-evan-williams

Lower SAT scores: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-scores-at-lowest-level-in-10-years-fueling-worries-about-high-schools/2015/09/02/6b73ec66-5190-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html?utm_term=.20aa96b50a60

An article on grade inflation: http://www.businessinsider.com/grade-inflation-us-high-schools-2017-7

Research on millennial political apathy: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2010/11/23/politically-apathetic-millennials/

The Atlantic on Millennial’s and Politics: http://www.theatlantic.com/sponsored/allstate/when-it-comes-to-politics-do-millennials-care-about-anything/255/

The Atlantic article on the millennial’s lack of civics knowledge: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/09/civic-education-citizenship-test/405889/

RESOURCES:  Jean M. Twenge’s book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us can be obtained on Amazon.

 

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. Here’s a blurb on it from Barna Research:  https://www.barna.com/techwise/

WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing Cornerstone where the lyrics go “Christ alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong in the Saviors’s blood.”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

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Addictions

addictions

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,and David sent someone to find out about her….. Then David sent messengers to get her. 2 Samuel 11: 2-4

Sooner or later, a mentor may come in contact to someone with an addiction or a habit that is self-destructive.  It might be a substance like alcohol or opioids, or it could be something like porn or an illicit sexual relationship. It could be an addiction to work, money or even the need to find approval from others.

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes, but they have something in common:  they are powerful and they often are illogical.   For most, it is a habit they can’t break. The fight might go on for years, and many battle their addiction with little hope of a good outcome. That’s true for relationship addictions, but substance addictions are similar.

For some, in the substance arena, it might be meth, although the drug of choice is alcohol. More recently, opioids have become highlighted by the media due to frequent overdoses. In some cases, the addictions are due to lax prescribing by doctors who often ignore that the prescriptions they provide for pain can be addictive.

Recently,  I had a bike accident, causing me to end up in the ER to be checked out for injuries. After being X-Rayed, they determined that I didn’t have anything serious. As I was checking out, I was given 10 Oxycodone pills “for pain.” There was no instruction or even a caution that the pills might be addictive.

The drug companies and some doctors are complicit in the opioid epidemic. Recently, a California newspaper in Sacramento found that there were counties in California where prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids equal or exceeds the actual population of the county.

Add to the prescription opioid epidemic is the increased use of heroin, or even worse, fentanyl which is cheaper and 25 to 50 times stronger. It is the strongest opiate on the market. People addicted to opiates have turned to heroin as a cheaper alternative when prescription drugs got too expensive or difficult to procure.

As for relationship issues – affairs or addictions to sex or porn, we all face temptations. Nothing new about that. Even David gave in to temptation upon seeing Bathsheba sunbathe. But there’s a difference between being tempted and acting on it, like David did. King David may be fortunate since that there was no internet.

When it comes to dealing with temptations, I am reminded of Bill Henderson, a former marine who fought at the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.  As Bill aged into his early 90’s, his health declined to the point was unable to drive a car. His grandson often drove him around as needed.

On one occasion, his grandson asked Bill: “When does  sexual temptation end for men?”.  Bill’s response was classic: “Son, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask someone much older than me.”

Temptation is everywhere, but even more so with the advent of the internet.  There are over 24.5 million dedicated pornographic sites already on the internet.  Add to that the “hook-up” sites where women or men troll for sexual encounters, and you have ingredients for a mess.

I recently went to a retreat with about 40 young men aged between 25 and 35. Most were married.  When the topic of porn came up, I asked them if it was a problem. All of them said yes, and that they had to work hard at keeping it at bay, sometimes by just keeping their cellphones out of the bedroom.

The millennials are the first generation that have experienced internet porn which arrived with the advent of high-speed internet. As I have noted previously, it is not just a “guy” thing: 25% of porn viewing is done by women, and women represent more than half of all porn viewed on smartphones.

Porn is prevalent and reachable. Over 30,000 people are watching porn at any given second. Approximately 40 million people in the U.S. alone are sexually involved with the internet. Even as some try to avoid exposure, 20% of adults and over 80% of children get exposed to porn unintentionally.

Sadly, some medical professionals don not treat a compulsion or to view or use pornographic material as an addiction, “the signs and symptoms are often similar to those that signal an addiction to drugs or alcohol” according to an article in Keylogger Review entitled “Pornography Addiction Statistics”.

For porn and sexual purity, the statistics are telling. 41 percent of marriages include either physical or emotional infidelity by one or both spouses. 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.

There are other addictions. Some may be addicted to the approval of others. Social media have stoked this fire and websites like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat are todays “cool” sites. Other sites may replace them tomorrow because the cool ones change quickly.

It is way beyond the scope of this post to come up with solutions to all addictions. The real point of the above is that anyone these days can become addicted to something. The root cause of most addictions is pain.  Someone has inflicted pain on us – either emotional or physical, or even relational and economic pain. The root cause of most pain is sin. We are all capable of that.

In tackling an addiction, we need to look past the symptoms to examine the source of the pain. Unless one is willing to look beyond the drug and determine what is causing the problem, there is little hope of a cure. It’s the old story for the alcoholic:  until one admits there is a problem, there is no cure.  That probably goes with most addictions.

That’s the backdrop for the next generation.  They live in a culture that has addictions all around them, and they, like you and me, are vulnerable.  The person that is most vulnerable is the one who thinks they are beyond the potential for an addiction or a moral failure.

Studies of how addictions affect the brain indicates that porn affects the brain in ways that are similar to other addictions like alcohol and drugs. (www.yourbrainonporn.com)  Studies also show that between 10 to 15% of those exposed to drugs or alcohol become addicted. Sadly, the rate of addiction to porn is much higher and 33% of men between 18-30 are worried that they are addicted.

Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken for help. A recent book by the father of a friend of mine entitled A Craving Brain by Dr. W. Anderson Spickard shows how the study of brain science is helping improve treatment outcomes of all addictions. The co-author of the book is a recovering alcoholic.

For alcoholism, there is AA or Alcoholics Anonymous which developed the 12-step program (www.aa.org ). My wife, in support of a friend who was an alcoholic, has abstained from any alcohol for over a decade.  She is not an alcoholic, but she has felt strongly that she needed to support for one of her closest friends.  I admire her steadfast resolve to abstain for the benefit of another.

For other addictions – like porn, one of the best thing that one can do is get into an accountable relationship with a trusted friend or mentor.  Asking godly friends to support you is biblical. You can also install accountability software and filters on your computer and smartphone.

Another program, Celebrate Recovery (CR), is also an excellent tool for all kinds of addictions, including depression. It was started by Rick Warren decades ago.  A friend of mine invited me to attend a session with him. It is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous but has a more Christian focus.

You can go to their website (www.celebraterecovery.com) and locate a sponsor near you. Their site says that it is a “biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome hurts, hang-ups and habits”. At Warren’s church in Orange County, it has helped more than 17,000 people, some 70% of them being from outside the church.

At the Celebrate Recovery meeting, we encountered people with drug and substance abuse, depression and even a woman who was dealing with the aftermath of having been raped years ago. They had a small group for those suffering from sexual addictions – both porn and addictions to sex.

The challenge here is that our world is populated by people who have problems including addictions. We encounter them every day. It is useful to be able to detect what the issues are, and come alongside them to get them the help they need. As mentors, we need to be cognizant that the next generation is vulnerable to addictions.

In some cases, the solution is tough love, such as an intervention like those provided by Al-Anon (www.alanon.org) . In other cases, our role may take the form of getting the mentee resources and programs that can help them overcome their addiction.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As mentors, as we develop relationships with our mentees, we need to be probe into the mentees needs and weaknesses to see if there are addictions that need to be addressed.  Walking beside them may be the thing that helps them the most.

 FURTHER STUDY: For an article on How to Stay Sexually Pure in Marriage: How to Stay Sexually Pure in Marriage – Pastors.com

Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, by Michael John Cusick is a book I recommend. It is available at http://www.amazon.com

For an article on the results of porn on kids: Now We Know What Porn Does to Kids – Church & Culture Blog …

For statistics on Pornography Addiction: Pornography Addiction Statistics – Keylogger | Mobile Phone Spy

For information on Opioid over-prescriptions in California: California opioid use shows regional differences | The Sacramento Bee

To get studies on the effects o pornography on the brain, go to www.yourbrainonporn.com where there is a 2015 featured video that is excellent.

A Craving Brain  by Dr. Spickard and can be purchased at Amazon:

 

WORSHIP:  Listen to Hillsong remind us that Christ is enough to overcome anything: CHRIST IS ENOUGH – HILLSONG LIVE LYRIC VIDEO | GLORIOUS 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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More Millennial Trends

doorbell-143467_1920

All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly. Proverbs 13:16

I passed on writing a post this past week – mark it up to Labor Day plus a house full of family, but more so because I was writing one on a servant leadership value – the value of creating a grace environment.  I will work on that post for the future, because I have several young men that I am mentoring that are getting increasing opportunities for leadership and they want to learn about leadership values.

My current post is more about current events – things I observe just from reading the Wall Street Journal, which often has some excellent pieces on our culture. Two of those are worth noting – I’ll let you be the judge which one is more humorous.

The first is a continuation of the phenomena that I have written about before:  the impact of the smartphone on the next generation.  Christopher Mims wrote a piece entitled “Ask Not for Whom the Doorbell Tolls. They Won’t Answer it.”  By the time I was through the article, I could envision every doorbell manufacturer going out of business the same way the buggy whip companies did with the introduction of the automobile in the 20th century.

In a recent post entitled Tolerance, I observed that the next generation – both Generation Y and Z –  both hold personal safety as a high value. Usually it is more about mental safety than physical.  So, the custom has arisen that if you are going to someone’s house, you text them.  You don’t need the doorbell.

One college sophomore at Berkley said: “he can’t remember the last time he used a doorbell or even knocked on a door.” He continues that he doesn’t feel “comfortable” and that he, like his friends, are accustomed to texting.  They don’t like the jarring sound of a doorbell.

In fact, one person said that “Doorbells are just so sudden. They are terrifying.”  OK, you can start smiling now, if you are from my generation. But this is now being described as “doorbell phobia.”  And no, I didn’t make this up.

The next generation is accustomed to communicating through devices, not actually having face to face interaction. This is called a “mediated communication” because it is through a digital device. It is a continuation of their isolation from one another, even as they sit 3 feet apart at lunch, texting one another without ever speaking to one another.

For the next generation (specifically those between the ages of 18 and 29), 92% own a smartphone according to the Pew Research Center.  That is the highest of any age group, with the lowest being those over 65 where only 42% own a smartphone.

As I have noted before, businesses are having to modify their practices. United Parcel Service now just rings the bell but doesn’t wait for a human to respond unless the delivery requires a signature. They also give customers the choice of receiving an email or text when a package is on its way.

The doorbell may not be going away any time soon, since most building codes require it, and having dealt with building codes in my law career as a commercial real estate lawyer, I can say that those codes change at a glacial pace.

The downside of this is obvious: It reinforces the already declining face-to-face interactions between the next generation.  That lack of interaction may have repercussions later as they emerge into adulthood.

As emerging adults enter the workplace, they are forced to have personal interactions, often with bad results because they don’t know how to act or speak. One businessman recently told me that his millennial employees don’t know what is appropriate communication. He cited instances where a millennial in the workplace said something that is totally inappropriate, yet was unaware that it was wrong.

I’ll leave this theme for a moment to another, which was in this mornings’ Journal. The title? “College Activists March on the Cafeteria: What Do We Want? Hydroponic Cilantro!” No, I didn’t make that up either.  While the college campus is a place to wrestle with big questions, the college age group are wrestling with whether water contains gluten.

Colleges and Universities are having to accommodate these picky eaters who want personalized menu. They also must debunk urban myths about the content of the foods they serve on campus. At the core of this trend is a generation that not only wants to make a difference, but they also believe that “a meaningful academic experience begins with what you eat.”

This trend has gotten such traction that colleges now compete to have a strong dining program to attract the best students. A University of Massachusetts survey in 2016 revealed that 70% of students at University of Massachussetts – Amherst believed that having a strong dining program is an important criterion in either “selecting a school or deciding to attend” was the quality of its food program.

One school, Virginia Tech, has gone so far as having a student dining committee to provide input on dining choices and preferences. The result is not uniform and some schools have dropped efforts to provide gardens when the student who initiated it left school and the garden withered away.

Here are two trends that are winding its way through our culture – the abandonment of the doorbell and the embracing of holistic eating on college campuses.  The doorbell isn’t going away any time soon, but I find that its obsolescence with the new generation somewhat troubling because it only furthers the isolation of this younger generation from each other.

As for the food trend on campuses, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, college administrators have caved in to student demands in other areas resulting in the limitation of free speech on campuses. Activists come and go, and the topic de jour will change with time, but when it comes to the exchange of ideas and free speech, I draw the line and say that the muffling of opposite views goes too far.

But unlike other concessions, I don’t see eating well as a trend that troubles me.  It’s a consumer driven trend where students have newer tastes and preferences, and it seems appropriate that colleges listen to those when designing a dining program.

The challenge here is to see that these generational changes of behavior and preferences is leading to institutional changes and adaptations.  Some of the changes are good; some are troubling. As mentors, we need to encourage our mentees to not be so tethered to their smartphones to the exclusion of learning  how to have interpersonal interaction.  Just the process of mentoring – meeting face to face – is a positive antidote to the digital obsession.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As mentors, one of the best things we can do is create an environment that encourages personal interaction on a face-to-face basis. Much of the digital world isolates our mentees, and they need the experience of personal interaction.

 FURTHER STUDY: The Wall Street Journal Articles:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/college-activists-march-on-the-cafeteria-what-do-we-want-hydroponic-cilantro-1504712705

https://www.wsj.com/articles/ask-not-for-whom-the-doorbell-tolls-they-wont-answer-it-1503864316

The Pew Research on Smartphone Use:  http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing All My FountainsChris Tomlin & Passion Band – All My Fountains – YouTube

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tolerance

tolerance 

And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts 10:28

We have been watching an unprecedented stress on culture, both in America and abroad. I’ve thought a lot about this topic, but hesitated to write about it because of its complexity.  The word “tolerance” is front and center in our culture today.

Jesus taught the ultimate tolerance by giving up his life for others. He commanded that we love one another and to love our enemies, not just tolerate one another.  Tolerance is fine – to a point.  Note that the opposite of love is hate, and the opposite of tolerance is intolerance. Using a syllogism, you may see how intolerance is close to hate as it is played out today.

A balanced reading of scriptures shows that Jesus was intolerant at times, particularly when it came to teaching about unity in the body.  In Romans 16:17, he instructs believers to avoid those who cause divisions and create obstacles.

In 2 John 10-11, he cautions believers not to greet unbelievers in their homes who do not “bring this teaching” which could lead to becoming part of their “wickedness.” Jesus was also intolerant with contemporary Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, whom he called out for being hypocritical.

And finally, in Matthew 7:6,  we are told not to throw your “pearls before pigs.”  Even in the Christian world, there is a level of intolerance, but it does not rise to hatred. Instead, it leads to avoidance.

Tolerance as a value is more important to Generation Z than prior generations. As Jean Twenge asserts in her book “iGen”, the latest generation differs from their immediate predecessors on many fronts. She describes it this way: tolerance is their religion.”  They live in a post-Christian world, and churchgoing and faith is in a “free-fall”.

According to Twenge, Generation Z’s attitudes toward LGBTQ are the most liberal of any previous generation, as are their views of sex. While they are having less of it themselves (mostly due to more limited personal interaction caused by smartphones), they are not judgmental about other’s sexual habits.

Put another way, they resist labeling anything as “wrong.” There is no biblical world view or moral truths to guide them, so they become relativist in these values. Unless, Twenge notes, that something is deemed to be an offense against tolerance itself. This is where things get hairy.

They support restricting speech, and are completely intolerant of just one slight misstep. Over 28% of them favor firing a teacher who makes one statement that might be deemed racially insensitive. Some 16% went farther and thought any student committing the same offense should be expelled.

To these who are totally intolerant, there is no measured response to something that would be a “foot fault” in tennis, or a minor offense in the eyes of the law, which separates crimes into misdemeanors and felonies.  Everything becomes a felony in the intolerant world.

This is not entirely new. The “politically correct” (or PC) movement in the past 20 years has gone off the reservation. The idea behind being politically correct is that your speech and actions should avoid insulting anyone or groups of people who are seen as being discriminated against or disadvantaged, particularly in the areas of sex or race.

Jean Twenge calls this the “dark side of tolerance”. What began with a good intention of being inclusive by not offending anyone leads (“at best”) to an unwillingness to explore deep issues. “At worst”, it results in having careers destroyed by a comment found offensive and the silencing of alternative viewpoints.

I cannot resist but noting that I believe another trend is at play here. The average vocabulary of children in middle school (grades 5-8) has dropped from 25,000 words ten years ago to only 10,000 words today.

Gen Z doesn’t read (much like Gen Y), and their comprehension of deeper issues is now limited by vocabulary.  Bottom line: they aren’t developing the ability to think critically so their comprehension of deeper issues is often limited to slogans and labels.

The result is that labels become their way of expression, but they are labels without thought of consequences.  Calling someone a “racist” or using “hate speech”, for example, without examining all the facts, has become all too prevalent.

The only thing more important to Gen Z than tolerance is their desire for safety, which is less something of a physical thing than it is psychological.   The current fad on college campuses of providing “safe-spaces” is an example.

Safe-spaces permits one to retreat into one’s childhood with coloring books and videos of puppies frolicking.  Critics label them as “snowflakes”, but to Generation Z, it is not a fringe idea.

This latest generation also embraces “trigger warnings” and other protections alerting the audience at the start of a lecture, video, etc. that it may contain potentially distressing material.  I’ve never quite gotten that, but it is their moral equivalent to movie ratings, so that one knows an PG-13, R or X rated film has content not appropriate for children.

Sadly, trigger warnings and safe spaces being provided on college campuses is viewed as a danger for religious dialogue, including mainstream Christian viewpoints.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, a professor of religious studies says this: “…the spirit of tolerance and respect that inspires these policies (i.e. trigger warnings and safe- spaces) can also stifle dialogue about controversial topics, particularly race, gender, and, in my experience, religious beliefs.”

An editorial opinion by Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal this week highlights the dangers of intolerance.  The writer singled out J.P. Morgan, a large bank, and Apple for making large gifts to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has taken on a crusade to root out hate groups in America. Apple gave $1 million and J.P. Morgan donated $500,000.

Sounds good on its face, but the SPLC’s idea of hate is twisted. It includes mainstream Christian groups which have long opposed the gay marriage on religious grounds. Opposing the institution of gay marriage is very different from hating those who are gay or LGBT, a distinction that is often overlooked.

An organization that I have long supported, the Family Research Council, which has been an advocate of Christian family values, now finds itself on the SPLC “hate” list. So, too, is Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) which litigates on behalf of religious liberty, and some 17 other non-profits that espouse Christian values.

Last week, SPLC was sued for defamation by D. James Kennedy Ministries for putting their organization on their “hate” list.  The suit, among other things, alleges that such act is tantamount to religious discrimination.

Anyone not espousing tolerance is not just deemed intolerant, but a hate group whose speech is labeled “hate speech.”. This is a very slippery slope because “hate” speech is not clearly defined legally. Right now, it is a subjective test of what the listener thinks is hateful or offensive.

Recent trends in our country to remove historic statutes is an example of this intolerance. Unfortunately, this country was built at a time when slavery was accepted, so very few of our original founders are exempt. Almost half of the 55 signers of the Constitution were slave owners.

Like all nations, not all our history is pretty. Monuments of our founding fathers is part of our history, and, like it or not, it should be a reminder of where we have come from.  Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman to be Secretary of State, echoed this view in arguing that we should not sanitize our history and that we should “keep [.]our history before you.”

Stella Morabito, in The Federalist, commented on the aftermath of Charlottesville which resulted in the death of a 32 year old woman in a crowd: “The coordinated mob violence we see playing out essentially over the existence of historical monuments and free speech goes well beyond indoctrination and brainwashing. It is a cult mindset deliberately cultivated by elites in education, pop culture, and academia.”

As a footnote, I have found this to be a challenging post to write. It has forced me to really think through the issues raised and sift through many viewpoints to come to my own conclusions.

Our challenges are multiple.  As believers, we need to recognize these trends as being a threat to our freedoms – both in speech and our right to express our religious faith.   The concept of tolerance seems benign and innocuous on its face, but it is a springboard to the muzzling of speech. Just as challenging is communicating to the next generation that freedoms do matter, and that the elimination of hate speech means the potential elimination of all discourse.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  One of the best thing a mentor can do is help his mentee think critically.  Encourage them to read and widen their depth of knowledge.

FURTHER STUDY:  Jean Twenge’s book, iGen is available at Amazon.

A commentary about the aftermath of Charlottesville written by  Stella Morabito in The Federalist, argues that Americans are being emotionally manipulated in an attempt to repeal the First Amendment:

http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/25/americas-post-charlottesville-nervous-breakdown-deliberately-induced/?utm_source=The+Federalist+List&utm_campaign=8f2d5930d9-RSS_The_Federalist_Daily_Updates_w_Transom&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_cfcb868ceb-8f2d5930d9-83860633Biographies of the signers of our Constitution can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/constitution/bio.htm

An article from the National Review on the Double Standard of attempting to remove Confederate Statues.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450749/confederate-statues-removed-while-racist-progressive-statues-remain

 Biblical studies on tolerance:  https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-tolerance-21-scripture-quotes/

Trigger warnings and safe spaces article by Alan Levinovitz: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/silencing-religious-students-on-campus/497951/

Wall Street Journal article on J.P. Morgan’s donation to SPLC: Read full article →(Click on the link to gain access).

For information about the SPLC and its labeling of “hate groups” and the defamation suit filed by D. James Kennedy Ministries: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/august/d-james-kennedy-southern-poverty-law-center-splc-hate-map.html

WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Let it Rise” where the lyrics say: “Let the glory of the Lord, rise among us,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdXycxb_hL8

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

Leadership

leader

 Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. “John 21:17

My posts have generally involved topics of the next generation, usually with some insight into trends and attributes. I’ve thought about this a while, and I feel a small pivot may be useful.  We are looking to the next generation to ultimately take charge, yet we often overlook discussing leadership, particularly servant leadership.

Jesus had a lot to say about leadership, but much of it is not taught. For example, in the above passage that Jesus didn’t say “Lead my sheep,” to Simon.  He told him to “Feed” my sheep. Feeding sheep is servant leadership.

This is an important topic.  In contemporary Christianity, it is almost ignored completely. No seminary, either protestant or Catholic, offers courses on leadership.  As a result, graduates are left on their own to figure out what leadership is, what it looks like, and how they do it. They often get it wrong, particularly if they assimilate from the culture around them.

At MentorLink, we have found that the cultural model of leadership doesn’t vary much from country to country.  Let’s just call it “universal” because it is so pervasive.  Each country or region calls it something different, but at its core, the leadership model consists of similar attributes.

In Africa, the model is called a chief (of a tribe).  In South America or Eastern Europe, it is called a tyrant or dictator. In the middle east, it is a sheik, and in Asia, it is the strong man. In the western world, it is the CEO model from the business world.

While there are some differences between each of these models, they are consistent around the world as to how secular leadership plays out. It is essentially a top-down power model.

Sadly, the secular model is unbiblical, yet leaders and pastors world-wide have assimilated the power based model indigenous to their culture, often to the detriment of Christianity.  Jesus modeled servant leadership – something that is totally the opposite of the secular power model.

Why is this important today?  Well, as noted by Tim Elmore, “[t]oday almost one half of the world’s population is 21 years old or younger, and they’re poised to lead our world into the future.” Or are they?

A recent survey  conducted in the summer of 2016 by Universum studied attitudes by future employees of their needs, views and competencies relating to workplace leadership. The study involved some 18,300 respondents of Generation X (those born between 1965 to 1985), Generation Y (those born between 1984 and 2006) and Generation Z (those born between 1997 to 2007).

Not entirely surprising, each generation has different views toward leadership in the workplace and in ministry. Generation X was the least interested in leadership, possibly because they have attained an age where they can exert influence without a position.

Generation Y, on the other hand, “cited motivation to lead was mentoring others, high responsibility and challenging work”. Gen Y professionals’ most cited motivation to lead was mentoring others and high future earnings.”

High school students were the most excited and the idea of being a “people leader”. It was about relationships and service. Both Gen Y and Z see leadership as important to their future. They fear failure, but want to make an impact on their communities or organizations.

Certain countries (Japan and Nordic countries) had the least interest in leadership, partly because of the stress associated with it.  This same stress is a fear of Gen Y and Z who have a fear of failure and of making mistakes. One conclusion is that our young people have been raised with too much stress and fear of failure. This was universal regardless of country of the respondents.

Tim Elmore gives a summary of the survey this way: “The good news is, more people want to be a servant-leaders among the two youngest generations than among the older generations. Generations Y and Z clearly perceive leadership as a legitimate place to make a difference and to improve the community in which they lead. Let’s go get them ready.”

Biblical servant leadership lags behind the more widely observed secular models, and most leadership training uses a power based model.  I may explore some of the principles of servant leadership in future posts.

Our challenge is to address the leadership needs and wants of the next generation.  They desire mentors, and, in many cases, they want and desire leadership, but don’t know how to attain it or to exercise it. If left on their own, they will adopt the cultural norm which is a default model.

A mentor can come beside the next generation and guide them through the process of becoming a leader. As I have said many times, it is a lot less painful to learn from the mistakes of others, particularly when it comes to leadership. We have the rare opportunity to influence the next generation’s in a significant way.

MENTOR TAKEWAY: The next generation will be the leaders of tomorrow. As a mentor, you can shape their concept of leadership to incorporate a servant leadership model.

FURTHER STUDY:  For the Universum study can be found by clicking on the word “survey ”.   You must give them your name and email, and they will permit you to download the survey for free.

By the way, Universum has some interesting articles based on its research on Gen Y and Gen Z in the workplace. Their principal goal is to help companies brand their products, but their studies cover workplace attitudes and issues of the next generation.

WORSHIP: Something different with an African beat. Listen to “Unlimited God” by Nathaniel Bassey:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwrCydj3lec

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smartphones

smartphone

 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

 In researching my last post, I came across an intriguing article by a psychologist writing in Atlantic Magazine entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”.  The article by Jean Twenge, a PhD in Psychology, covers several topics I have already written about including the impact of the digital world on the next generation. See my posts entitled Digital Darkside (March 6, 2017) and Loneliness (July 4, 2017).

This article, however, takes it even further, and suggests that the current Generation Z is headed down a one-way street when it comes to smartphone usage.  The article interviews several from Generation Z (those who are just now getting out of high school, and who have always known a world with Smartphones).

The iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007, just 10 years ago.  It is so pervasive now, that it is hard to imagine life before this technology. As a footnote, even Steven Jobs limited his children’s use of his own invention.

I find it interesting that these issues are now getting national attention. I saw a news story on television recently, and am glad this is getting more broad coverage than niche magazines like Psychology Today.

The subtitle of the Article is riveting: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But, they’re on the verge of a mental health crises.

Trips to the Mall, once a staple of adolescents, is being replaced with spending time together with friends on the internet, using platforms like Snapchat, unchaperoned. They keep up with “Snapstreaks” which keeps track of how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with others.

One girl aged 11 put it this way: “That’s just the way her generation is, she said. ‘We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people’.”

The author has studied generational trends for 25 years, and notes that most trends are slow in developing. Until now.

“Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.”

Twenge was trying to identify the reason for the sudden shift. She believes it occurred in 2012, in the middle of a poor economy from the last recession. 2012 was the year that the number of smartphones owned by Americans exceeded 50 percent. In 2017, three out of four American teens owned a smartphone. She calls these adolescents who have only known smartphones “iGen” which is like “Gen iY” coined by Tim Elmore.

The advent of the smartphone goes far beyond concerns of reduced attention spans. She notes that the impact of these devises “has not been fully appreciated.” “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

These changes are pervasive – in every corner of the nation. It is not limited by boundaries of standing – it affects poor and rich alike in small towns, suburbs and cities.  “Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To generations who grew up in the analog world, it is difficult to wrap our brains around this trend. In prior generations, one key pursuit was independence. That was usually associated with getting a driver’s license so one could get out of the house and away from parents. The allure of independence does not have the same “sway” over teens today.  They are less likely to leave their house without their parents.

The results are predictable.  Dating has become less frequent, and it doesn’t start with “friending” of Generation X. It starts with “talking”.  Odd choice of words for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. The incidence of dating has dropped from 85% to 56% in the past several decades.

One positive trend:  teens are having less sex than prior generations – the statistics show teenage pregnancy is down 67 percent in 2016 from its high in 1991.

Even getting a license to drive has been affected, often a result of the “nagging” of their parents. In prior generations, it was more important. Being independent takes money, but teen employment hasn’t rebounded from the poor economy even as availability of jobs has.

Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.”

While other things in high school haven’t change – participation in activities, for example, iGen are spending less time studying than prior generations, which means they actually have more leisure time.  What are they doing?  Well, “they’re on their phones, in their rooms, alone and often distressed.”

I recently observed this first hand. My daughter and her husband kept his niece who lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year. She was a sophomore in high school, and initially spent most of her time in her room at their home with the door closed on her iPhone. She had rare interaction with the family. She spent most of her phone time on Facetime with her friends in Germany, and in the U.S.

Some behavioral issues changed that, and she was limited to time on her phone and was forced to try out for soccer which occupied some of her free time. The result was remarkable. She quickly joined in family events and played games with the younger children. She became involved in their family life.

After she returned to Germany, she wrote a thank you letter for all that she had learned in her exchange student environment.  She was grateful for her experience, although there were some awkward moments. What I observed was a young woman who quickly learned to enjoy those around her. I give a kudo to my daughter and her husband for drawing the line on overuse of a smartphone.

One might assume that by spending so much time at home, there would be increased interaction with parents.  That is not the case. “Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.”

Depression is a common ailment tied to smartphone usage.  “Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”

Even worse, teens who spend at least 3 hours a day on their smartphones have a 35% greater risk factor of suicide, or even formulating a suicide plan. That’s astonishing and terribly sad. Sleep deprivation is another by-product, and a high percentage of this generation sleeps with their phone within arms -reach, or even in their bed.

The increase in sleep-deprivation increased with the release of the smartphone in 2007. Sleep deprivation leads to several issues, among them, “compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure.”

As mentors and parents, we have choices when interacting with this generation.  One of them involves teaching them reasonable smartphone habits.  Our parents had to deal with over-watching television, which, by comparison is mild when it comes to mental health outcomes compared to the smartphone.

While this article has a focus on the American scene, I have found that in many parts of the world (Africa and Asia), the use of cell phones and smartphones parallels what we are seeing in the west. I suspect the issues are similar.

Twenge has one recommendation to iGEns: “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.”  Good advice!  Another suggestion, defer giving your young children smartphones at an early age. It may be hard to do this given we have a generation of kids accustomed to a 24/7 digital world.

Our challenge is to recognize the potential damage that excessive smartphones can do the lives of the next generation. It’s the old story:  unless you see something as a problem, there isn’t likely to be any change.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You are in a good position to speak into the lives of your mentees about being wired all the time.  Moderation is a reasonable goal to establish.

 FURTHER STUDY:  The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” in the Atlantic Monthly can be found at:   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. Here’s a blurb on it from Barna Research:

https://www.barna.com/techwise/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker give encourage us with his song “I Have a Hope”:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entitlement

cool

 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”  Phillipians 2:3

 A recent psychological study shows that large numbers of millennials have developed an entitlement complex.  “The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.”  Wow.

Examples of how this plays out ranges from disregarding rules, freeloading or being the cause of inconvenience.  It is also tied to a likelihood to assume the role of leader while working with others. It is described as a “toxic narcissistic trait.”  It can lead to frustration, unhappiness and disappointment with life.

It’s really where the rubber meets the road.  A person with a worldview of self-superiority will have an inevitable collision with the real world. A millennial with this trait is almost doomed to failure because their self-centered desires doesn’t mesh with the fact that the world doesn’t work that way.

Many millennials approach their first job with an expectation that they will start at the top rung, rather than at the bottom and work their way up.  From my own experience mentoring young lawyers, I can safely say that this is almost a reckless view.

I always told young associates working under me that it would take at least 3 years of daily involvement with my legal specialty to be proficient. There is no substitute for actual hands-on experience, or what I referred to as “OJT” [On the Job Training].

Julie Exline, who was involved in the study, says this: “The entire mindset [of entitlement] pits someone against other people.  When people think they should have everything they want, often for nothing – it comes at the cost of relationships of others and, ultimately their own happiness.”

Interestingly, the study goes on to suggest a very biblical value to break out from this mentality: humility. If a person is more grateful and accepts their own limitations, they are less likely to be trapped by this trend.

Other practical solutions for the millennials dealing with this outlook include an introspective bent: Reflection on incidents from someone else’s perspective, promotion of others, and ceasing to rationalize things when you have been wrong.

I would submit that there is yet another practical solution:  having a mentor. A mentor can guide a millennial through this minefield.  An older person who has experience with relationships and expectations, combined with a strong hand of reality of how things really work, is invaluable.

Alicia Boyes, PhD. in Psychology Today,  has written a good primer entitled “9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them.” It’s a good read and helpful.

One of the reasons for this trend is that current parenting styles set into motion in our children’s minds that they are special.  One simple illustration: instead of a birthday party, we have an over-the-top extravaganza.  What message does this leave with the child?  They know they can expect to get anything they want.

We have catered to the “Me, Me, Me” mentality by satisfying our children’s every need or want.  Gratitude goes out the window. We have, in many cases, over-indulged our children to their detriment because they haven’t developed a sense of balance as to what is or is not appropriate to expect. They lose their sense of gratitude and replace it with an attitude of entitlement.

When my three kids were growing up (they are all Generation X), I was concerned about over indulging them financially.  I could have easily done that. But I adopted my father’s philosophy which was that I would pay for their education as far as they wanted to go, and after that it was up to them.

As a reward for completion of college, I gave each of them a car. It was not an entitlement;  it was a reward for a job well done, and I didn’t want them to start their careers with a car payment.

Granted, not every millennial has an entitlement mentality, but it is pervasive enough to be a problem for the next generation. When the entitled millennial goes into the business world, their view of self-importance collides with the reality that they aren’t “special” and they don’t have the training or skills to handle what they think they should be doing.

One anecdote of this last point.  A young entrepreneur, a millennial herself, was interviewing to hire some additional staff. She went through 20 interviews with millennials.

None of them were willing to start as an assistant – their sense of entitlement made them feel they were above starting at the ground floor. She finally hired one, but had to fire her after some behavior issues after only 2 days.

The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids’ endless demands,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. “Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.

As Simon Sinek in his video Millennials in the Workplace (link is below and it’s worth watching) – many millennials are the product of poor parenting styles, so they’ve been dealt a “bad hand.”  Business is having to adopt and adjust to them, not the other way around.

For parents, it’s time to rethink the results of our parenting which leads to behavioral issues later in life. This phenomenon is not new:  Tony Compolo, a Christian sociologist,  wrote about this in the early 1990’s in a book entitled “Who Changed the Price Tags.”

Our challenge is to reach out to the floundering millennial who might have unreasonable expectations of entitlement. Sadly, someone who is narcissistic is a tough case to handle, so this is no easy fix. As mentors, we are in a good position to be the sounding board of reality and speak into their lives.  They need outside help to develop a sense of gratitude and humility.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your relationship with the next generation can be instrumental in correcting any “vision” issues they have as to what they are or are not entitled to. In many cases, they cannot “see” that their attitude is a problem.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Alicia Boyes article in Psychology Today is found at:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201303/9-types-entitlement-tendencies-and-how-overcome-them

The article on the Entitlement trend is found at: https://www.indy100.com/article/young-people-entitlement-disappointed-narcissism-psychology-research-7867961

Another helpful article:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201511/9-signs-child-has-entitlement-issues

An article on entitlement leading to chronic disappointment: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160913134442.htm

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplacehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

WORSHIP: Listen to Christ Tomlin sing “We Fall Down” which reminds us we all have shortcomings that are forgiven at the foot of the Cross:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.