6.12.2008

nation of wimps

About two years ago, I ran across a few articles written by Hara Marano Estroff about the wave of self-entitlement displayed in kids and in parents. I talked about it a few months later when my then-Roommate gave me some anecdotal evidence of the phenomenon. From that moment on, I was eagerly anticipating Estroff's book, Nation of Wimps.

Nation of Wimps isn't for everyone. I have a hard time imagining handing this book out to the moms and dads in my youth ministry. It would either create a force of retaliation or hit so close to home that the guilty masses would erupt in tears. Part of me wonders to whom the book is directed because Estroff lashes at parents so vividly throughout the early chapters that I can't imagine them wading much past the opening paragraphs. Unless, of course, they are sadists. And yet, she concludes with a happy here's-what-parents-should-do chapter. I guess she's hoping for an audience of sadists.

Nevertheless, I loved reading Estroff's whipping and lashing of the state of American childhood. The anecdotes were straight out of a Hitchcock thriller. Chills regularly crept (RAN!) up my spine. The statistical information was intriguing. Who knew so many college students were in such emotional despair? Her explanation of self-harm and self-mutilation is one of the best I've ever read. Even at the lowest moments, Estroff manages the right amount of humor and irony to keep me from becoming wholly depressed.

The wide variety of topics are held together firmly with one main idea: kids today need more out of childhood than soccer lessons, violin practice, and a cell phone to be accessible to mom and dad at every whim. And they are more than future ivy league candidates. Estroff hits every reader in the gut with her timely call for a revisioning of American childhood.

As I read, voices I heard before kept revisiting me:
"I've never felt more peer pressure than I have as a parent of a junior high student," a mom told me after church.

"We try to keep our son's extra activities to one a school quarter, but there is so much pressure to involve him in everything," I overhear a mom saying to another in a public restroom.

"I just want to be free of basketball and band so that I spend more time singing and playing guitar, " an eighth grader moans in my office.
Those are my anecdotal pieces of the puzzle. Estroff takes my pieces, your pieces, her pieces and combines them in statistical evidence that parenting and education at all levels are in need of a serious overhaul. Nation of Wimps is worth a read to anyone who can stomach the criticism.

Tomorrow, I will dig in a little deeper into the idea of "information age education" as a reflection on what she shares and my own personal experiences.

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