An older generation complaining that an emerging one will be the death of civilization as we know it is a cliche and constant as the North Star. However, based on some rather troubling data regarding today’s millennials, it could turn out to be true this time.
In his first inaugural address as governor of California 47 years ago, Ronald Reagan warned us that “freedom is a fragile thing, and is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He also reminded us that freedom “is not ours by inheritance but must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people.” Finally, Reagan ominously noted that “those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”
Unfortunately, the next generation is woefully ill-equipped to inherit the legacy of American exceptionalism, let alone repair it after the damage done before them by the baby boom generation’s fiscal irresponsibility and moral relativism. Millennials appear to be detached from every foundation necessary for self government: personal responsibility, morality and strong families.
For example, according to author and columnist Janice Shaw Crouse, a whopping 70 percent of American males between the ages of 20-34 are single and living in a state of “perpetual adolescence.” These are obviously prime reproductive years and most young men appear to be sitting them out, or at the very least they’re inseminating and then splitting as evidenced by an out-of-wedlock birth rate that has soared to 41 percent of all childbirths, according to the CDC. Furthermore, U.S. census data points out that almost one-third of millennials are still living at home with either mom and/or dad.
So for the first time in American history, married heterosexual couples with children comprise the minority of households. Needless to say, that is not a sustainable trend for any culture seeking to pass on its virtues and values to the next generation.
And while much is made about how tech-savvy the millennials are, it seems being able to operate a smart phone without need of a tutorial has no bearing on where one stands in today’s competitive global job market. Of the 22 industrialized countries that took part in a job-skills survey overseen by a branch of Princeton University, American millennials ranked in the bottom third overall. Still worse, in the category of “problem solving in technology-rich environments,” our young adults ranked dead last. Even our college-educated millennials didn’t fare well, scoring better than just Poland and Slovakia.
The study soberly concluded “if our future rests in part” on the skills our millennials demonstrated as potential workers, parents, educators, and civic leaders then “that future looks bleak.”
Yet as if this profile wasn’t already pessimistic enough, we haven’t even come to the most troubling part. Our millennials are so spiritually and morally lost that even if they wanted to correct their shortcomings, their generation lacks the wherewithal to do so. According to a leading religious trend researcher named George Barna, only two in 10 Millennials believes going to church is important and almost 60 percent of millennials who grew up going to church have dropped out. More than half of millennials haven’t been to church at all for any reason in at least six months.
Mr. Barna also found strident disagreement on morality and biblical teaching among Millennials who consider themselves Christians and those who do not. Gone are the generally agreed upon moral principles of past generations like the Ten Commandments, and they have been replaced by two entirely different and largely irreconcilable worldviews. It’s gotten so bad out there that even the notoriously leftist New York Times just published an op-ed bemoaning “our kids don’t believe in moral facts.”
In recent years we’ve lamented numerous economic bubbles that finally popped, but none of those threatened us existentially like the coming Millennial bubble does. Millennials generationally have the fewest well-adjusted adults, families and qualified breadwinners than ever before. It’s a perfect storm that is the cultural equivalent of an extinction-level event. And when that F5 tornado hits ground it won’t care what your party registration or your racial/ethnic identity is.
The coming systemic cultural meltdown did not occur in a vacuum. To put it bluntly, our millennials are simply products of the toxic environment previous generations reared them in. This is learned behavior.
Here’s the good news, though — that means it can be unlearned as well.
But that will require real men willing to be real fathers and role models to their children, even if those children are now adults. It will require churches that speak to the real needs and longings of the people, with leaders who are transparent about their own trials and tribulations instead of celebrity clergy hypocritically living a jet-set lifestyle in between publicity tours. And it will require an education system that prioritizes the production of skilled and productive citizens over politically correct indoctrination.
Or we can make Reagan not just a great president, but also a weeping prophet.
(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk-show host and the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)
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