That's the view of Steven Carr Reuben, the rabbi of Kehillath Israel in Pacific Palisades, who specializes in teaching parents how to raise ethical children and who travels the country, giving parenting workshops.
Cynical and shockproof, they've seen horrific behavior every day of their lives, he says. By immersing themselves in an imaginary world, they have become desensitized.
"By the time kids are 18 years old, they have vicariously experienced everything -- death, destruction, exploitation, all the things that make television shows interesting," he says. "This has to have an impact on their emotions. If psychology has taught us anything, it's that emotions and our physical body can't distinguish between what is real and what is vividly imagined."
Personal responsibility, respect and civility all have declined in American society, he says. The Class of 1997 is graduating into a world where an attack ad has replaced belief in principle as the preferred strategy for winning a political campaign.
"Someone wrote a book several years ago, asking what ever happened to shame. I don't know the answer. No one blushes anymore. Isn't there anything to blush about?" Carr Reuben says.
At a recent workshop in Boston, several parents told Carr Reuben that they're exhausted from frustration at seeing how cynical their children have become.
The problem isn't what the entertainment industry has done to their children, says the rabbi. He believes the cause lies in the home, with Mom and Dad, who have become too passive.
"They have ultimate responsibility for their children," he says. "So they need to exercise their control. They can turn the television off."
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