The Spoiled-Brat Syndrome

The "spoiled brat syndrome" is my way of describing the current endpoint of decades of various forms of progressive thinking in the molding of current culture. Some of this behavior can be detected in the recent fiscal-cliff-stand-off theater.

In the 1920s and 1930s, John Dewey championed the concept that the formal educational system needed to provide children more than just rote learning. The traditional family-oriented life style of the rural farm was being replaced by the industrial workplace and family separation. The State was being relegated the role of universal educator and absent daytime parent. Dewey argued for making the child an interactive member in the educational process and recognizing the variety of individual emotional and intellectual talents amongst children. They were to be prompted to want to learn, and to learn in the interactive environment of other children. Children were to be educated to become functioning members of society and government, and not just robotlike factory workers. It all sounded quite reasonable.

So far so good, but eventually it was not good enough for progressivism. Over the ensuing decades, progressives further fine-tuned the original concept to focus more and more on the child as the center about which all educational efforts were to be expended. The child became the star of the show, rather than a participant, and the child was made aware of his star status. The original intent to make the educational process more enjoyable for the child so that he/she would eventually become a thinking participant in the democratic process of self-governance became blurred. The child-star was now to be protected and shielded from the "real world" out there, and from other competing child-stars.

The education behemoth chose to sacrifice acquisition of knowledge and reasoning skills as primary goals. Gradually, the notion of individual self-esteem and inner feelings of worth became the new ruling concern. It would be better not to expose the child to the realities of possible failures in life, only to perpetual successes, no matter the task or goal. Dewey's original concept of group learning and socialization was hyperinflated and became dominant. As long as the group could solve a problem, everyone won, no matter the individual contribution, or not. In the cloistered environs of kindergarten and grammar school (now fashionably known as K-12), this charade of real life could be drawn out, for a while.

This protective cocoon of the school, where just as in Garrison Keillor land "everyone is above average," has a definite shelf-life, as the arrow-of-time eventually produces a graduate. How shall this graduate view the outside world once pushed out of the nest of safety?

Such a view is filtered through an "I am special" and "I can do anything I set my heart to," (but not necessarily very well or as well as others can) emotional background. The young adult discovers that it is a scary world "out there." High school years provide some of the knocks and bruises, emotional and physical, that serve to bring a touch of reality to the former idyllic life. College years are even more scary, more so for some than others, as individual personalities become evident. Thus comes the advent of the helicopter parent, just an electronic touch pad away, if not in the next room. The natural parental instinct of concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of the child morphs into never being able to set the child free into its own destiny in life. Indeed, the child has been conditioned to expect this continual parenting, either from natural parents or from the ersatz parent-State.

Where is this somewhat caricatured view of the progressive education process leading? It leads to remembering the book by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D.: The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. Dr. Rossiter notes that:

Under the creed of modern liberalism, the individual citizen is not called to maturity but is instead invited to begin a second childhood. Like the child at play, he is given, or at least promised, ultimate economic, social and political security without having to assume responsibility for himself...

Further:

The modern state has taken on the role of an apparently benign, generous, omnipotent and god-like parent, who serves as custodian, manager, provider and caretaker, all to the detriment of the people. We have, in effect, parentified our governments in the belief that we will be better off if they take care of us than if we take care of ourselves...

Thank you, Dr. Rossiter, as you have provided the insight into why some individuals, products of a very modern liberal education, display certain behavioral traits, often noted in the media. They never learned how to grow up, or were never given the opportunity to do so. How often do we read about individuals being poor losers, having a temper tantrum over losing a game, exhibiting "my way or the highway" non-negotiating tactics?

Looking back up towards the edge of the recent fiscal-cliff, can you see such traits in the participants, and more so in one than in others? Never having to say "I was wrong.' Not overtly working to effect a compromise for the common good and not being willing to share some power with opponents. Becoming known as the leader unwilling to bargain, but only to threaten, and known for engaging multifaceted political cat-skinning to thwart the political opposition. All this recalls the "spoiled brat," or worse, "the school bully." The media keeps count of the number of times the self-referential "I" is used in any given speech, and new count records are set. The image becomes complete with a presidential podium festooned with a spray of narcissus blooms and Teleprompters.

The 1967 film King of Hearts depicts the plight of a lone Scottish soldier sent to a small French village to defuse a bomb set to destroy the town, courtesy of retreating German troops. In the confusion of war, the inmates of the local insane asylum had all escaped, were the only remaining village inhabitants, and were ostensibly running the town. It might be unkind to draw parallels with the current political environment in Washington, DC; however, Washington is not a kind place. The political battles there have left a haze of confusion over those ostensibly in charge, and the nominal leader is prone to uninhibited temper tantrums.

Where is that "Scottish soldier" equivalent of yore who will come into Washington, and defuse the nation's explosive political and governance instability? The insanity of current fiscal recklessness, self-destructive energy policies, and assorted cafeteria menu fights amongst the inmates await such a leader. The remaining sane citizens will need to do better job at the ballot box next time, lest the whole place finally does blow up or melt down.

The "spoiled brat syndrome" is my way of describing the current endpoint of decades of various forms of progressive thinking in the molding of current culture. Some of this behavior can be detected in the recent fiscal-cliff-stand-off theater.

In the 1920s and 1930s, John Dewey championed the concept that the formal educational system needed to provide children more than just rote learning. The traditional family-oriented life style of the rural farm was being replaced by the industrial workplace and family separation. The State was being relegated the role of universal educator and absent daytime parent. Dewey argued for making the child an interactive member in the educational process and recognizing the variety of individual emotional and intellectual talents amongst children. They were to be prompted to want to learn, and to learn in the interactive environment of other children. Children were to be educated to become functioning members of society and government, and not just robotlike factory workers. It all sounded quite reasonable.

So far so good, but eventually it was not good enough for progressivism. Over the ensuing decades, progressives further fine-tuned the original concept to focus more and more on the child as the center about which all educational efforts were to be expended. The child became the star of the show, rather than a participant, and the child was made aware of his star status. The original intent to make the educational process more enjoyable for the child so that he/she would eventually become a thinking participant in the democratic process of self-governance became blurred. The child-star was now to be protected and shielded from the "real world" out there, and from other competing child-stars.

The education behemoth chose to sacrifice acquisition of knowledge and reasoning skills as primary goals. Gradually, the notion of individual self-esteem and inner feelings of worth became the new ruling concern. It would be better not to expose the child to the realities of possible failures in life, only to perpetual successes, no matter the task or goal. Dewey's original concept of group learning and socialization was hyperinflated and became dominant. As long as the group could solve a problem, everyone won, no matter the individual contribution, or not. In the cloistered environs of kindergarten and grammar school (now fashionably known as K-12), this charade of real life could be drawn out, for a while.

This protective cocoon of the school, where just as in Garrison Keillor land "everyone is above average," has a definite shelf-life, as the arrow-of-time eventually produces a graduate. How shall this graduate view the outside world once pushed out of the nest of safety?

Such a view is filtered through an "I am special" and "I can do anything I set my heart to," (but not necessarily very well or as well as others can) emotional background. The young adult discovers that it is a scary world "out there." High school years provide some of the knocks and bruises, emotional and physical, that serve to bring a touch of reality to the former idyllic life. College years are even more scary, more so for some than others, as individual personalities become evident. Thus comes the advent of the helicopter parent, just an electronic touch pad away, if not in the next room. The natural parental instinct of concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of the child morphs into never being able to set the child free into its own destiny in life. Indeed, the child has been conditioned to expect this continual parenting, either from natural parents or from the ersatz parent-State.

Where is this somewhat caricatured view of the progressive education process leading? It leads to remembering the book by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D.: The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness. Dr. Rossiter notes that:

Under the creed of modern liberalism, the individual citizen is not called to maturity but is instead invited to begin a second childhood. Like the child at play, he is given, or at least promised, ultimate economic, social and political security without having to assume responsibility for himself...

Further:

The modern state has taken on the role of an apparently benign, generous, omnipotent and god-like parent, who serves as custodian, manager, provider and caretaker, all to the detriment of the people. We have, in effect, parentified our governments in the belief that we will be better off if they take care of us than if we take care of ourselves...

Thank you, Dr. Rossiter, as you have provided the insight into why some individuals, products of a very modern liberal education, display certain behavioral traits, often noted in the media. They never learned how to grow up, or were never given the opportunity to do so. How often do we read about individuals being poor losers, having a temper tantrum over losing a game, exhibiting "my way or the highway" non-negotiating tactics?

Looking back up towards the edge of the recent fiscal-cliff, can you see such traits in the participants, and more so in one than in others? Never having to say "I was wrong.' Not overtly working to effect a compromise for the common good and not being willing to share some power with opponents. Becoming known as the leader unwilling to bargain, but only to threaten, and known for engaging multifaceted political cat-skinning to thwart the political opposition. All this recalls the "spoiled brat," or worse, "the school bully." The media keeps count of the number of times the self-referential "I" is used in any given speech, and new count records are set. The image becomes complete with a presidential podium festooned with a spray of narcissus blooms and Teleprompters.

The 1967 film King of Hearts depicts the plight of a lone Scottish soldier sent to a small French village to defuse a bomb set to destroy the town, courtesy of retreating German troops. In the confusion of war, the inmates of the local insane asylum had all escaped, were the only remaining village inhabitants, and were ostensibly running the town. It might be unkind to draw parallels with the current political environment in Washington, DC; however, Washington is not a kind place. The political battles there have left a haze of confusion over those ostensibly in charge, and the nominal leader is prone to uninhibited temper tantrums.

Where is that "Scottish soldier" equivalent of yore who will come into Washington, and defuse the nation's explosive political and governance instability? The insanity of current fiscal recklessness, self-destructive energy policies, and assorted cafeteria menu fights amongst the inmates await such a leader. The remaining sane citizens will need to do better job at the ballot box next time, lest the whole place finally does blow up or melt down.

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