It's to do with education, and why it seems to be in such a funk.
I certainly don't believe kids are any worse today than in earlier times. Hell, I was a complete devil compared to my offspring. Junior is about to turn 15. I celebrated my 15th birthday by being taken on a pub crawl by the Big T. We did most of the pubs in the Perth CBD. Junior has never been drunk, or tried to get drunk - something we used to do with alacrity. We used to sit around in the communal showers at school on a Saturday after sport, drinking beer and sharing a cigarette or two. By sit around, I mean we'd take school chairs into the showers (the old plywood models) and sit on them - our shower room was roughly square, with shower heads poking out of three walls. The shower heads were close enough that you'd bump elbows with the bloke next to you. We'd drink beer and smoke until the boiler ran out of hot water.
In case you are wondering, our boarding house had a beer fridge. We'd grab a year 8 kid and send him on regular trips from the showers down to the beer fridge to fetch us some cold ones. Can't see that happening in modern sanitised schools. The fagging system was alive and well in our boarding house - it was abolished the year after we left.
We used to celebrate being the best. We worshipped high achievers and lavished praise on them. They were granted special privileges not allowed to the plebs. The result was that most strived like hell in their chosen field of endeavour, whether it was academia, sport, chess, debating, the arts or whatever. Those that clearly tried like hell, but didn't quite make it to the top, were also glorified.
These days, achievement has been devalued. It's medals for everyone and no one can be treated as special (unless you are an ADHD pain in the arse). People value greatly the respect of others - their teachers, their peers, their family, older kids and younger kids. Kids are not given a chance to earn real respect these days because the currency of respect and achievement has been so debased.
I attended a school presentation day last year. Somehow, it was contrived that every kid got a certificate for something. Junior received one - none of us can remember what it was for. It was quite an unmemorable "achievement". He certainly wasn't proud of it - he called it something like a "spaccer award"; something handed out to the class spastics. He disowned it as rapidly as possible - he knew better than anyone how it wasn't valuable. If anything, it was poisonous. Kids like him hate getting rewards that they don't deserve.
In the good old days, rewards were limited. Because they were like rare jewels, they had great value. The academic rewards for each year would be something like this:
- Prize for dux of the year
- Prize for top student in each subject (of which there were only about a dozen)
We had about 150 kids in our year. That meant that at most, only 1 in 12 would get a prize. Except as it happened, the Dux would also top a few subjects, and the other top kids might cart off 2 or 3 subject prizes each. Four kids might scoop the lot, with 146 missing out.
I doubt the 146 ever resented the 4 that won prizes - they recognised the effort that they'd put in to get those results. They didn't want a blue ribbon for coming 18th in woodwork.