Some post-modern thoughts

I was responding to a post on Titusonenine. Just a thought: Anyone who teaches can probably say that too many of us are not very willing to put in the time and hard effort to really learn something. We would rather simply be told, and then end it (and perhaps forget it). I wonder how much this plays into our current troubles.
When I was finishing my master’s degree in college student development, we were studying human development theories. One of the theories was Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. One stage was basically defined as “dualistic thinking” – black/white, right/wrong, a way of thinking that categorized everything easily and simply. People in this stage knew, definitely and unquestioningly, what was good and right and what was not. Studies can show that too many people remain in this stage without moving on. Kohlberg might say that they have not truly developed an honest and mature morality.
Now, someone could work their way through the remaining stages and come to the end point holding a moral position (conclusion) that is the same as when they were in the dualistic stage, but they did the hard work necessary to come to the conclusion honestly.
I wonder if too many of us find it easier to stop at the dualistic stage (liberal and conservative). We find an answer that we like, and stop. Then, we are determined to defend it against opposition or contrary information. We sometimes fear the outcome of questioning. Then, we are determined to demand that all others abide by our and our group’s “orthodox” definitions. Before becoming an Anglican, when I was a good American-Evangelical, if found too many of us as Christians in this position. It’s just easier.
I think, perhaps, that within post-modern ways of thinking that there is a resistance to being stuck in a stage, if you will. There is a willingness to look at things from all different perspectives before drawing conclusions and a resistance to those who say, “this is how it is and there is no need to rethink or question it. You, therefore, must accept it.” That makes me feel better about myself and my beliefs.
It takes time to work through stages. It takes time to learn. In the process we at times think wrongly and act wrongly, but we cannot bring up short the process of learning. As a teacher, this is clear, but it seems when we look at religion or faith we are less likely to give the process it’s due. We would rather the immediacy of imposition than allow people the time necessary to question, to be wrong, to wonder, to be in the midst of quandary, to wrestle, and to conclude – to do the honest work.
Just some thoughts.
NY Times Op-ed piece by David Brooks: The Odyssey Years

Op-Ed Columnist
The Odyssey Years
Published: October 9, 2007
There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Now, there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. Of the new ones, the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.
During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.
Their parents grow increasingly anxious. These parents understand that there’s bound to be a transition phase between student life and adult life. But when they look at their own grown children, they see the transition stretching five years, seven and beyond. The parents don’t even detect a clear sense of direction in their children’s lives. They look at them and see the things that are being delayed.
They see that people in this age bracket are delaying marriage. They’re delaying having children. They’re delaying permanent employment. People who were born before 1964 tend to define adulthood by certain accomplishments — moving away from home, becoming financially independent, getting married and starting a family.
In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things. By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.
Yet with a little imagination it’s possible even for baby boomers to understand what it’s like to be in the middle of the odyssey years. It’s possible to see that this period of improvisation is a sensible response to modern conditions.
Two of the country’s best social scientists have been trying to understand this new life phase. William Galston of the Brookings Institution has recently completed a research project for the Hewlett Foundation. Robert Wuthnow of Princeton has just published a tremendously valuable book, “After the Baby Boomers” that looks at young adulthood through the prism of religious practice.
Through their work, you can see the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.
Dating gives way to Facebook and hooking up. Marriage gives way to cohabitation. Church attendance gives way to spiritual longing. Newspaper reading gives way to blogging. (In 1970, 49 percent of adults in their 20s read a daily paper; now it’s at 21 percent.)
The job market is fluid. Graduating seniors don’t find corporations offering them jobs that will guide them all the way to retirement. Instead they find a vast menu of information economy options, few of which they have heard of or prepared for.
Social life is fluid. There’s been a shift in the balance of power between the genders. Thirty-six percent of female workers in their 20s now have a college degree, compared with 23 percent of male workers. Male wages have stagnated over the past decades, while female wages have risen.
This has fundamentally scrambled the courtship rituals and decreased the pressure to get married. Educated women can get many of the things they want (income, status, identity) without marriage, while they find it harder (or, if they’re working-class, next to impossible) to find a suitably accomplished mate.
The odyssey years are not about slacking off. There are intense competitive pressures as a result of the vast numbers of people chasing relatively few opportunities. Moreover, surveys show that people living through these years have highly traditional aspirations (they rate parenthood more highly than their own parents did) even as they lead improvising lives.
Rather, what we’re seeing is the creation of a new life phase, just as adolescence came into being a century ago. It’s a phase in which some social institutions flourish — knitting circles, Teach for America — while others — churches, political parties — have trouble establishing ties.
But there is every reason to think this phase will grow more pronounced in the coming years. European nations are traveling this route ahead of us, Galston notes. Europeans delay marriage even longer than we do and spend even more years shifting between the job market and higher education.
And as the new generational structure solidifies, social and economic entrepreneurs will create new rites and institutions. Someday people will look back and wonder at the vast social changes wrought by the emerging social group that saw their situations first captured by “Friends” and later by “Knocked Up.”