The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lowering the bar until it trips us up

Ever wonder if standards are important? I suspect they are. The problem is in how we view them. We set them easily enough and we can mostly agree on what they should be. We just seem to have a hard time maintaining them. Or living up to them. Especially living up to them.

When I was a young lad wending my way through the early years of school, we had standards of achievement. I sometimes failed to meet them. Not that I couldn't, I just didn't want to. Those standards were rules of behavior. The scholastic standards I had no trouble with. I often exceeded those. Not always, though. I was probably the only kid in kindergarten to have homework assigned. It was about penmanship. I was pretty sloppy with my letters. I even recall my mother having to talk to the teacher about this.

That hasn't changed. I am just a sloppy guy who has trouble staying within the lines and, on unlined paper, just maintaining a straight line. But typewriters and now computers and printers have saved me me from all that. For years, though, I just block printed (mostly in upper case letters) any notes I needed someone else to read. My handwriting was atrocious. It's even worse now that I am out of practice but there isn't a word for it that's worse than "atrocious."

As a society, we also set standards. I grew up being taught that we should always try to live up to them, to accept them, to respect them. Until the 60's, that is. Somewhere along the line, around that time, we started lowering them. We were afraid we might be setting them too high. Or that we had double ones. They were unfair and kept some people from getting an opportunity. We suddenly discovered that if we lowered the standards, it was more fair. Or appeared to be because more women, more minorities, more of everybody could get the jobs that seemed reserved for the really strong or the really smart or the really white.

It was necessary. There were people being excluded because of those standards and that wasn't fair. Women could be police and fire fighters. Those jobs weren't all brawn, brains were important too. It all seemed so logical. So we lowered some requirements and we expanded the talent pool. And, for the most part, it has worked out well.

The unintended consequence of this was that standards got a bad reputation. They became suspect and were disrespected. The standards of behavior were deemed too judgmental. Different strokes for different folks, you know? This had its logic too. People had self esteem issues if they couldn't measure up to the standards. Self esteem became more important than standards.

Now that I am older and not as smart as I was back then, I wonder if we didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Standards for a society don't actually have to be met. In fact, it is unlikely they could be met by all members all the time. They are goals more than anything else. But I have come to believe they are essential. Because once they become objects of derision, of disrespect, there is nothing to strive for. And society starts to fall apart.

Or maybe society just does that anyway, standards or not.


The Chubby Chatterbox said...

I believe much, if not all, of what you say is true. An indication of this that I find interesting is the demise of philosophy these days. Philosophy tends to reflect the truths that a society holds sacred. "We hold these truths to be self evident..." doesn't mean that they ARE true, just that as a people we "hold" them true--for practicality sake. Psychology has now replaced philosophy; we no longer search for universal truths. We are far more interested in the study of the "individual" mind. Both fields of study have their merits and drawbacks, but our focus on the psychology of the individual makes life more complex than it has been in the past, I believe.

Sightings said...

I don't know if our standards are "lower" -- or are they just different? We judge people by the "content of their character," the sharpness of their intellect, the level of their commitment, rather than the color of their skin, or their gender, national origin or sexual orientation.  I think some people these days don't want to judge people at all, or try to pretend that we don't judge people. But of course we do. Every time someone is admitted to a college, or offered a job, or given a raise or promotion, or elected to office, or even accepted by friends, there are judgments involved. It's all a little messy and would probably take a book to figure out ... but as always, another thought-provoking post.

Douglas4517 said...

Do we really judge people by those things? I mean, I certainly try to and, of course, I think I do a pretty good job of it but I sometimes find myself wondering if I really do.  And I see so many who do not really try.