It’s the Morning After the cultural revolution, argues Kay Hymowitz in City Journal. The Millenial generation, scarred by divorce, is turning toward more conservative values, she writes.
Yessiree, family values are hot! Capitalism is cool! Seven-grain bread is so yesterday, and red meat is back!
Wave away the colored smoke of the Jackson family circus, Paris Hilton, and the antics of San Francisco, and you can see how Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with “alternative values.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly during the 1990s, the culture began a lumbering, Titanic turn away from the iceberg, a movement reinforced by the 1990s economic boom and the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the last ten years, most of the miserable trends in crime, divorce, illegitimacy, drug use, and the like that we saw in the decades after 1965 either turned around or stalled. Today Americans are consciously, deliberately embracing ideas about sex, marriage, children, and the American dream that are coalescing into a viable —though admittedly much altered — sort of bourgeois normality. What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.
Juvenile crime and drug and alcohol abuse are down. The teen pregnancy rate is down dramatically; more high school students are waiting to have sex. In polls, teen-agers praise their parents and say they share their values.
In fact, when it comes to families, this generation is as mushy as a Hallmark card. A Harris Interactive survey of college seniors found that 81 percent planned to marry (12 percent already had) at a mean age of 28. Ninety-one percent hope to have children —and get this: on average, they’d like to have three. The 2001 Monitoring the Future survey found 88 percent of male high school seniors and 93 percent of females believing that it is extremely or quite important to have a good marriage and family life. In a survey of college women conducted by the Institute for American Values, 83 percent said, “Being married is a very important goal for me.” Over half of the women surveyed said they would like to meet their husbands in college.
. . . Generational backlash counts for a lot: what we’re seeing now is a rewrite of the boomer years. The truth is, Gen Xers and Millennials have some real gripes about the world their boomer parents constructed. When a 1999 Peter D. Hart Research Associates poll asked Americans between the ages of 18 to 30 what experience had shaped their generation, the most common answer was “divorce and single-parent families.” Growing up in the aftermath of America’s great marriage meltdown, no wonder that young people put so much stock in marriage and family, their bedrock in the mobile twenty-first century.
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