The Grouchy Old Man is Right

“Get off my lawn!”

“Kids these days…”

“Nobody makes them like they used to…”

Sometimes, and probably more often than we think, the grouchy old man is right.  Stephen Zelnick examines one of the problems facing young men these days:

As a boy, I revered George Washington and was not baffled by the fact of his slave-owning or his land dealings along the Potomac, as if that was all to be known about him. I hoped I would tell the truth about despoiled cherry trees; I hoped, like Benjamin Franklin walking down Philadelphia’s Market Street as a young man on his own, that I would see the world before me as an open field of possibilities; I believed I would, like Lincoln, chase after the poor woman who forgot her three pennies because it was the right thing to do. How does a boy become a man without these inspirations?

The social and cultural atmosphere has been so polluted one wonders how young people can form life-projects that demand decency and tenacious effort. Everything seems to be for sale, and no one is ashamed by it. The fix is in on the Left and the Right in Washington. Turpitude in the coal and oil industry, with their locust hosts of lobbyists to protect them from those who would protect the environment, is an old story. The new stories are about agri-business and healthcare and education, and now even the green NGOs that take big bucks to moderate their advocacy.

As bloggers oft proclaim: Read. The. Whole. Thing.

One place I might take issue with him is when he says:

Unlike their female counterparts, young men tend not to complain about unpleasant grades and do not chase every stray GPA point in petty obsession to excel.

This has not been my experience at all. But I am not teaching English, and I have been at this for far, far, far shorter a time than Dr. Zelnick, so I’m inclined to either defer to his greater experience or chalk it up to the difference either in discipline or in region.

H/T  to Jane Shaw at Phi Beta Cons.


  1. One of these days, I need to read a good biography of George Washington.

    He was smart enough to know he had virtually no chance of winning the Revolutionary War which meant that after it was over, he’d be dead.

    What motivated him and what was the source of his extraordinary charisma? Perhaps a good biography would answer those questions.

  2. SuperSub says:

    Unfortunately what is being observed by Stephen is the corruption that always occurs when a society becomes successful. Think of the mindset of a child in the 1800’s, mid 1900’s, and now. During the 1800’s just finding food and everything else needed to live was a challenge, one that influenced the priorities of a child as they grew up. During the mid 1900’s the war was fresh in the cultural consciousness and the threat of a new war with the USSR was looming.
    Children nowadays don’t have to face the harsh reality of death as their forebears did. They grow up worrying about the newest video game or the scandals of various celebrities. Quite simply, their priorities are less about survival and improving their station in life, and instead focused on enjoying the privileges that come with being the dominant nation in the world.
    Our society is becoming indulgent and narcissistic just as the Romans before us. And, like the Romans, we shall fall beneath the weight of our own corruption.

  3. Boys aren’t grade grubbers? Ha. Good one. (I do teach English.)