I’ve been remembering an incident from my school-teaching days: not a nice incident.
In P_____ High School they had closed-circuit TV in every classroom, and in the morning those TVs were all tuned to the same public school channel. The programming came with ads, and one of these stood out. We’re talking maybe 20 years ago, so I don’t remember what product the ad was meant to sell. But it was certainly meant to be viewed by captive audiences in high school home rooms.
The protagonist of this charming commercial was a teenage boy with his baseball cap on backwards and hair over his eyes. During the commercial he was shown slamming a door in an old lady’s face, kicking over garbage cans, and pushing people around.
This was the public education channel actively teaching young people that it was desirable, praiseworthy, and cool to be an antisocial misfit. And I’m here to tell you that a lot of the kids in that high school took those lessons to heart.
Since I last saw that ad, our society has generated an innumerable host of video games, movies, TV shows, music videos, and social media messages celebrating and glorifying behavior that once would have been strongly condemned and usually punished. The consumption of those messages as “entertainment” is a passive, ongoing, and powerful form of self-education.
And our culture is showing its effects.
Kill the culture, and it will kill you back.