“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

So they say, but what does it mean? You could google it, of course, but no need. I’ll explain with some illustrations, including “google it.”

Google, as you know, is the proprietary name of a search engine. It was a noun, but I used it above — as many do — as a verb. In fact we do that with several things on the internet. They begin as nouns and become verbs. Email and text are (along with google) the most common.

Turning a noun into a verb is sometimes called “verbing,” but the technical term for it is denominalization. A number of word-geeks decry the practice. They think, and I sometimes agree, there are plenty of good verbs already available.

Lest you think, however, that turning a noun into a verb is new, it is not. The word boycott, for instance, was the name of the man who was first “boycotted,” and that happened in 1880.

Long before that, one of the great writers of all time (Shakespeare) occasionally found it useful to indulge in the practice. We think things have changed but they haven’t. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I protest!

Benjamin Franklin disliked and protested the practice of turning nouns into verbs.

There are several ways in which his protest was not like the protests of students at Columbia. One way is that he clearly understood what he was protesting and had thought about it. Not so for many student protesters.

This short paragraph from the book Your Mind Matters says it well:

Young people tend to be activists, dedicated supporters of a cause, though without always inquiring too closely either whether their cause is a good end to pursue or whether their action is the best means by which to pursue it.

Does that describe the recent protests? It does indeed, but it was written in 1972, more than fifty years ago.

What was there to protest in 1972? The protestors today wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you told them. Sadly, many of those protesting the Vietnam war back then didn’t understand it either.

It is another example of something seeming to be new when in fact it has been the case for a long time.

A dangerous change

The cynic — one who believes all people are motivated purely by self-interest — would say the reason things stay the same is because people don’t change. And when you look at the world you can see their point. There is a lot of self-interest out there.

Once upon a time in America we segregated schools in the name of separation. Now we segregate schools in the name of inclusion. Is one kind of segregation superior to the other? Of course — the one we like.

In reality, segregation in America was terrible, immoral, and far too often supported (if not mandated) by government at all levels, if not in all states. It still exists, and it always will, because you cannot legislate morality.

To “fix” it we created a new kind of segregation and gave it an acronym in order to hide its purpose. DEI is, however, simply a form of segregation. The more things change….

But there is one thing that has been changing steadily over the past fifty years, and the rate of change seems to be accelerating. It is having a marked effect on the culture of America and is, from my perspective, at the root of many of our cultural divisions.

The dangerous change is this: we are now treating children like adults, and adults like children.

Flipping the script…

Kids will be kids, another saying tells us. That includes curiosity, it includes a little rebellion and a lot of growing, including moral development. Today’s culture, however — at least in many public schools — is to treat children as if they are fully developed morally.

“Do you want to choose your sex? Have at it. Oh, and by the way, we don’t need to tell your parents.”

Any adult who teaches a child to lie to his or her parents has already violated one of the longest standing moral codes in history. One that is found worldwide, not just in America, and one that has a great influence on continuing moral development.

Though horrific, this example is just one way children are treated as adults. Of course they are not adults, and we do them a terrible disservice to treat them as such.

Another is TV shows where the father is unwise, uncaring, and just plain out of touch. Meanwhile the children are savvy and smart and ahead of the curve.

We’ve gone from Father Knows Best to Father Knows Nada.

At some point most children think of themselves as knowing more than their parents. They eventually figure out they were wrong.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Meanwhile…

Our culture treats adults, on the other hand, as if they are children. You shouldn’t even coddle a child, especially if you want them to grow up. Yet with immature adults who fail to take responsibility for their lives, we indulge them to the max.

“You’ve had it tough. Go ahead and rob that store, and if you take less than X we’ll look the other way. It’s probably our fault you’re a criminal anyway.”

There is no need for more illustrations of the truth I’m sure you recognize. We will continue to decline as a society as long as we continue to treat adults like children and children like adults.

For those of you who do that, whether you are a politician or a parent or a scriptwriter, shame on you. Flip the script back. Our society needs real adults and real children who will become real adults.

Do good. It’s in you.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jim Ferguson

    Lewis very insightful. I’m praying you keep it going and the thoughts flow easily into your writing.

  2. Cheryl Martin

    Amen to that Lewis!!

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