Modern Americans: “forever children”

I just read some disturbing but appropriate comments about our current culture. Jason Barney, a Latin teacher (I thought they are extinct) from a charter K-12 school in Illinois accepting an award from Hillsdale College (, said we now live in “a culture of Peter Pans, flying free in Neverland with no past and no future.” We are, says he, “forever children who won’t grow up.”

We older observers have evidence of it daily in the “news.” Mr. Barney ties this social malfunction to the lack of historical knowledge of science, math, literature and art.

Some exaggerating, but astute commentator said that young Americans don’t seem to have any knowledge beyond what happened “fifteen minutes ago.” A few years back the Roman philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero, observed the results of this lack: “Not to know what happened before you were born, that is…to be forever a child” (translated from Latin by Mr. Barney, not I).

Barney points out that gaining “knowledge, eloquence and wisdom” is hard work—and, I would add, requiring patience and perseverance; virtues untaught and undeveloped by many in our culture of immaturity—“skirted by teacher and student alike,” as he puts it.

Mr. Barney discovered that by discussing the virtues and vices of historical figures, students profoundly “desire to mature in their own lives, discerning their own weaknesses and taking steps to improve.” Not so today.

Rather than maturity that comes from an understanding the important lessons of history, children are smothered with false flattery of specialness, indulgence, collectivism and dependency. Worse, in my opinion, they are being taught to fear life rather than learning about opportunities, adventures and personal achievements possible.

Not understanding the distinction between personal virtue and vice, nor taught the great wisdoms of Western civilization, generations have been allowed to drift away from well-grounded traditions that sustain our culture—floating away into a childish Neverland.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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