What's Wrong With the YOUNGER GENERATION?
Here's an article written for the first
issue of The Plain Truth,
LONGTIME readers of The Plain Truth will remember that in 1965, among old files, Mrs. Armstrong ran across the manuscript of an article written for the very first issue of The Plain Truth.
But it did not appear in that first issue. It was published for the first time in 1965. But our readership has grown so immensely that only a few will remember this article published 17 years ago.
How It Began
Almost immediately after my conversion in the spring of 1927, the vision came to mind of a new kind of magazine I hoped would attain a very large circulation. For 16 years I had been in the advertising and magazine field. I was experienced in the writing of magazine articles - but in the field of business and merchandising - not in the religious category.
The name that came to mind for the magazine was The Plain Truth. I had printers make up a 32-page "dummy" with glossy heavy cover - almost exactly the kind and size of paper you are holding in your hands right now. Only, of course, all the. pages were blank white paper. Next, I employed a professional letter artist to design and letter in a front cover, in two colors.
The cover of that first "dummy" Plain Truth contained the captions of five or six feature articles I hoped to write for the first issue. Three of those articles were then written.
One contained the headline you see above. Another was captioned: "Putting the Evolutionary Concept into Your Child's Mind." We did finally publish that one in July, 1964. A third one, never published in the form then written, was titled "The Foundation for Sunday Sacredness CRUMBLES!" The material in that original manuscript, rewritten, is available here The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday.
But those were the days of financial reverses, trial, test and actual hunger. The way did not open, then, to fulfill the dream of publishing a big-circulation magazine called The Plain Truth. What I then had in mind was a magazine to sell on the newsstands.
It was a long and trying seven years before the way opened actually to produce The Plain Truth. And when it did at last come, it had to be the smallest, least-costly homemade type of magazine conceivable - mimeographed on a borrowed mimeograph - headlines cut by hand without a stylus or scope - type cut on stencils with a borrowed typewriter.
By that time I had made a considerable advancement in biblical knowledge. I realized, then, that The Plain Truth could never be sold. The newsstand idea was gone. Besides, who ever saw a mimeographed "magazine" sold on newsstands? Don't laugh. It wasn't funny - then! Also, by February, 1934, the situation demanded other subjects than the article on flaming youth. Probably this article already had become misplaced in that old file - I do not remember.
Anyway, after being "out of sight - out of mind" for 38 long years, this article turned up in an old, almost yellowed manuscript. When it was discovered, I was intrigued. I began to read it. I had completely forgotten it. I found it interesting. Perhaps that was only because I had written it myself - and the facts involved in its sudden resurrection after a 38-year burial. You may not find it a bit interesting - but I simply can't resist putting it before you to find out.
THINK OF IT! The "Sheik-Flapper" generation about which I then wrote is the 65-75-year-old generation TODAY!
You 65 and 70-year-old people! Were YOU those hell-bent sheiks and flappers of 1927? IMPOSSIBLE! Yet, it's TRUE! I can hardly believe it - and I doubt if you can!
The thought, however, intrigues me! You middle-age readers, now at least approaching old age, are going to read, below, what I wrote about YOU, when you were the hell-bent teenagers shocking the older generation sitting then in such stern judgment of YOU!
And you teenagers among our readers! I wonder if you won't get a kick out of reading how "wild" and "sinful" were your parents - yes, and even perhaps your GRANDparents - when they were your age.
You teenagers, with your modern teenage slang. Are you going to get a bang out of the kid slang your parents and grandparents were using? And I wonder if any of you 65- to 75-year-olds will even remember how some teenagers talked then. Perhaps you actually didn't - but many others did!
But you of the older generation who were the teenagers when I wrote this article - do you remember that the oldsters were out-of-date old fogies then? I remember reading a discourse Abraham Lincoln wrote. I think it was from a speech he made, on the subject of "Old Fogy." The very first old fogies, he said, were probably Adam and Eve. And the older generations have been old fogy to the youngsters ever since!
In 1927, when this article was written, this new psychology on child rearing was just emerging. Today it has fastened itself like a leech or a barnacle onto a deceived and misled society - and the greatly multiplied rate of juvenile delinquency testifies to its efficacy. Here, then, is the article written in 1927, now published for our many new readers in the kind of magazine of which I then dreamed - and with a few comments I have written in the form of footnotes:
What's WRONG with the YOUNGER GENERATION?
Is THE younger generation of this modern day hell-bent or is it not?
An older generation dares to sit in stern and solemn judgment. The jazz-crazed, pleasure-mad youngsters hurl back the defiant retort that their old-fashioned, back-number elders simply do not understand. The sheik-flapper generation emphatically assert their ability to take care of themselves. And they simply step the harder on the gas.
The Terhune-Wright Debate
Two literary luminaries - Harold Bell Wright and Albert Payson Terhune - attempt to settle this moot question in the June American Magazine by engaging in debate. Mr. Terhune says the sheik-flapper generation is hellbent. Mr. Wright says it is not.
Mr. Terhune believes much of the trouble lies in the newer psychology in child rearing. Instead of having been whipped and raw-hided into parental obedience, the present generation of youngsters, he says, is the victim of a treat-with-kindness, do-as-you-please psychology. Lack of parental obedience, he believes, is the heart of the difficulty.
Mr. Wright denies that our young people are hell-bent, because, he says, they are merely aping their elders. According to Mr. Wright, the parents are to blame - not in lack of discipline, so much as through example. The real trouble, says Mr. Wright, is that Dad attempts to correct young Willie something like this:
"Willie, I want you to keep out of my cigarettes!" Or, "Willie, if you ever sneak any of my hip-flask liquor out to a party again, I'll cut down your allowance!"
Or that Dad will reprimand his flapper-daughter thus:
"Bubbles, you little painted hussy, you let Mother's lipstick and rouge alone!"
Mr. Wright sees in our snappy, peppy younger generation a real improvement over those immediately previous. Their life, their pep, their zip, their energy, he says, is going to do wonders when they are a little older and take the helm.
Mr. Terhune says human nature has not changed. Our youngsters of today, hell-bent as he pictures them, are doing merely the things the older generation would have done with the lid of restraint thrown off. They haven't been held down, while the older generation was.
There is, beyond a doubt, much truth in both their views.
The Real Cause
And now I intend to let fly a few observations of my own upon this hotly debated question. I have mixed considerably with the younger generation. I believe I know them and understand them - at least in part. I am, in age, just midway between this sheik-flapper generation and the older one that is so ready to condemn. I have mixed with the younger set in their high school and college activities. I know them, I know their parents, and I know their college professors.
It would be simple folly to attribute all the wild and, to the oldsters, shocking characteristics of the young folk to any single cause. Many things, of course, combine to produce the composite sheik-flapper generation.
They are, in the first place, merely the victims of unhealthy influences - and this INCLUDES their parents! They are exactly what training, environment, example and outside influences have made them.
I shall not attempt to rate these influences in order of their importance. That is merely opinion, anyway.
But I want to mention, first, the result of lax parental training. It is true that the parents of the preceding generation refused to "spare the rod and spoil the child." The youngsters of that generation were reared in such strict discipline that, when they themselves became parents, they simply could not bear to be so strict with their children- as their parents had been with them.
Their childhood and youth had been, generally speaking, one of self-sacrifice, strict obedience to parental law and long and frequent "whalings." The memory of this Unremitting parental discipline was so indelibly burned into their memory that it produced a definite reaction. So the present crop of younger people were reared in a brand of discipline that swung almost to the opposite extreme. They were not made to suffer the pangs of self-sacrifice, the stern authority, the frequent and extreme whippings to which their parents had fallen heir. The chief difficulty, though, was not so much a matter of substituting psychology for thrashings. Most youngsters were not taught SELF-DISCIPLINE. They were not trained in SELF-CONTROL.
The greatest handicap to the younger people today is their utter disregard for self-control. They have been permitted to grow up following DESIRE, instead of DUTY - given reign to impulse and inclination, instead of using judgment. They have formed the disastrous habit of being led and controlled by their whims, their passions, their fancies. Consequences are seldom weighed or considered, and, still less seldom heeded. The question isn't "SHOULD I?" but "Do I WANT to?" There's no control of self.
When power is uncontrolled, then the greater the power, the greater the potential DANGER! If this younger generation is imbued with an excess of pep, energy and power, the greater is the danger, unless that power is controlled - held in check by the force of self-discipline. When such excess energy is permitted to run riot wherever blind impulse leads, there's likely to be a WRECK!
Mr. Wright views this tremendous burst of speed, which we observe being demonstrated by the youngsters, as a wonderful asset for the future, when this generation takes the helm. But will all this pep and speed and energy be wisely and beneficially directed? Will it even be available then? Vitality, like many other things, needs to be conserved. When it's wasted and dissipated, the supply is soon exhausted.
And by what process of reasoning do we know that this sheik-flapper age has greater power of personal vigor than the generations which went before? When the lid's off the teakettle, letting out so much more steam, is there more steam inside than when the lid was on? Our youngsters have thrown off the lid! They are simply letting off, and not conserving, the steam!
Parental Example No Whitewash
I sharply disagree with Mr. Wright in any notion that the sins of the parents can be applied as a whitewash for those of their children. Suppose we grant that Willie cops onto his dad's cigarettes and snitches his bootleg liquor? Suppose Bubbles does learn from her mother to use rouge and lipstick and to pluck her eyebrows? It happens, I grant, altogether too often. But that does not make it right.
I know parents who are far more interested in the social popularity of son and daughter than in their soul's salvation - who encourage their youngsters in all the searches after a thrill that keep up the feverishly excited pace. And who do not dream of what goes on beyond the focus of their vision - and would not believe it if they were told!
But does the fact that parents are setting the example - even encouraging the tendencies of youth - erase existing sins? If youth is hellbent, does parental example and sanction alter the path toward hell? Or does it, rather, signify merely that the parents are sliding down on the same toboggan?
Youth is subjected, primarily, to four major influences - the home - the school - the church - and outside friends, activities and amusements. So much for the effect of the modern-day home life. We have not had much to say about the religious influence of the home life - but then, there is so little of that in the average home, it simply requires no mention!
The School Influence
Now for the second influence - the school. Even in the grades and high schools today, the evolutionary concept is planted, ready-manufactured, into the absorbent minds of youth. Not necessarily EVOLUTION - not by that name. But the evolutionary concept dominates every branch of study in the school curriculum today. That concept is the basic point of view that denies the miracles of the Bible - denies the Creation account of Genesis, denies the authority of revelation.
It is the point of view that teaches, instead, that for millions of years man has been slowly, steadily climbing upward. Civilized man once was what the savage is today. Between that prehistoric day of dim antiquity and the present, man has passed through the Old Stone Age, the New Stone Age and the others through which evolutionary science imagines life has traveled.
The chief god, or gospel, of this concept is PROGRESS. Everything is, by natural law, getting constantly better and better. Progress is the gospel of the age! The basis of this concept is NATURALISM and the reign of natural law, as opposed to supernaturalism and possible interference by a divine Creator with the work of his own Creation.
In high school, I say, the young folks are given this CONCEPT. It forms the basis of any study that it might involve. This point of view is merely taken for granted. Not presented, as such, supported by arguments, and propagated into acceptance. Just simply assumed as a matter of course and taught as a universally known, commonly accepted FACT.
In college, the student gets evolution straight - without any deception or nicknames. A year or two of college, and he is a rare student indeed who is not a thorough convert to the doctrine of evolution.
If he ever held to fundamental religious beliefs, they are shattered to bits by now! His eyes are suddenly "opened." He now views his old religion in the light of an ignorant superstition - a foolish bit of folklore, not unlike the Santa Claus myth. He may be shaken, bewildered, upset. But his disillusionment is complete. His hope of an eternity in "Heaven" is blasted as a foolish, childish dream. Some few go out and commit suicide.
But most of them, perhaps having exercised a certain self-restraint, due to religious convictions, until now, simply throw restraint to the winds! If they have not done so sooner, they now hop on the bandwagon and join the frenzied gang.
What's Wrong with Churches
Now what about the churches? What is their contribution to the modern tendencies of youth? In former generations, the churches held more or less of a balancing, restraining influence upon adolescents. The church, especially in the smaller communities, was a sort of social center. The young folk, most of them, attended Sunday school. In church they often heard inspiring, interesting, fiery sermons.
But that's all changed today. The average church is now about two-thirds empty, the other third being populated with gray heads. The average sermon today is lifeless, boring, lacking in fire and power. The church no longer serves a social need. The automobile, good roads, modern movies, dances and entertainments, have usurped the churches' social ministration. The teenagers are no longer interested.
Some churches have attempted to compete with the lure of modern amusements by bringing movies, amateur plays, dances and other entertainments into the church. But, in the amusement game, our churches have proved themselves pitiful novices. The crowd still prefers its entertainment where it is presented with professional and worldly skill. Other churches have attempted to meet the second great competitor - the fast-spreading "intellectual" skepticism - by turning modernist, and throwing to the four winds all that is vital in fundamental Christian doctrine.
The churches, today, have proved themselves incapable of meeting the modern problems of youth.
Two outstanding lures have robbed the churches of the young people - modern amusements and modern "rationalistic" skepticism, the outgrowth of evolution. The churches have failed to meet these momentous new snares because they have been wanting in sound doctrine. They have turned the Bible upside down.
Sound Bible truth would have met - at every turn of the road - this so-called newer knowledge, which has sprung from evolutionary teachings.
Sound Bible teaching would have kept the ministers, the church leaders, full of spiritual POWER. It would have fired them with vigor, with interest, with heart-warming,' soul-satisfying church services. Our young people are simply heart-hungry - that's all that's wrong. They're empty - and they want to be filled up and warmed in the inner man. The churches have failed them. They don't understand - how can we expect that they should? - and they are merely seeking the spiritual food they really need, in movies, in dances, in wild entertainment, in "necking," sex and debauchery, and all too often finding the "inspiration" in bootleg liquor! They're getting - and buying at a dear price - cheap Woolworth jewelry, when what they really crave is the pearls of a heart-warming, Spirit-firing Christian experience!
The Sinful "Don'ts"
Religion has come to be considered, by these youngsters the oldsters condemn, as a dark, gloomy, profitless, penance-paying life. The average adolescent's conception of Christianity is a whole flock of "Don'ts," beginning with capital Ds. The churches shout "Don't dance," "Don't play cards," "Don't go to movies," "Don't bob your hair," "Don't smoke." The church offers no alternative. Christianity is viewed as a sort of living painful penance.
Instead of something that makes one happy - instead of something that would feed those cold, empty, hungry hearts - religion is pictured as something gloomy, foreboding, painful and cold and as silly and superstitious.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised that the Comforter would come. And he promised that "ye shall receive POWER after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." The apostles were FULL of power, and fire, and vigor and interest, after the day of Pentecost. What's become of that POWER? What have men done with the heart-warming, soul-satisfying Comforter that Christ sent down from heaven? That's what our young people are really seeking. But they don't know it, and it seems there's no one to tell them, or lead the way!
What Parents Don't Know
Now what about the outside influences? The automobile. The movie. The cabaret, the night club and the speak-easy? The dance hall. The social affairs of high school and college? These have degenerated into artificial, devil-inspired outlets that are doing in a false way what the churches and the homes have failed to do in a right and healthy way - ministering to the passion of modern youth for an internal warming-up.
I know something of the modern conditions from first-hand investigation. And while I realize full well that the average parent of middle age or past will never believe what is actual fact and truth - it is my conviction that Judge Ben B. Lindsey," while offering a dangerous solution, presents at the same time a really true and accurate picture of the moral status of the young folk of today. The real shocking results take place, of course, under cover. Most older people refuse to believe the real truth. Judge Lindsey is in position to know. Listen to a few brief excerpts from his book The Revolt of Modern Youth.
On the testimony of thousands of high school students - average students, including all classes - more than 90 percent of all the youth who go to parties, attend dances and ride together in automobiles, indulge in hugging and kissing. "Some girls," says Judge Lindsey, "insist on this kind of thing from boys they go with, and are as aggressive, in a subtle way, in their search for such thrills as are the boys themselves."
A certain very beautiful and spirited girl told the judge frankly that she refused to go out with a certain boy because he lacked pep, and didn't know how, as she put it, to "love me up." "Do all the boys do such things nowadays?" asked the judge. "Of course they do," she retorted. "If they don't, there is something wrong with them."
But there is another type in the flapper world - quite numerous and common - not at all oversexed, but who nevertheless permits promiscuous liberties. He quotes the conversation of such a typical girl - extraordinarily keen and intelligent - of well-to-do and apparently good parents. She is unusually attractive to boys. She is a typical flapper - glib, slangy, sarcastic, cynical. She permits occasional kissing, because it's expected.
1927 Teenage Slang
"But don't you resent the way they dance?" asked the judge.
"Oh, you mean the button-shining?" she asked casually. "Not at all. Close dancing affects some girls - but it never has any effect on me."
"There is a common impression to the contrary," observed the judge.
"I know there is," she came back crisply. "All the old killjoys and weeping-willows in the country think the dirt that is in their own minds. That's the way they'd feel; and how they do envy us the thoughts we don't think!"
"But --- " the judge began.
"I'm telling you the truth," she went on. "Most of us girls don't get any special thrill out of close dancing. We do get a thrill out of dancing itself; and we go to parties with these young crumpet munchers and snuggle pups because we like to dance, and for no other reason."
"And the - er - crumpet munchers?" the judge asked, trying to snap the words out the way she did.
"They dance for the kick they get out of it," she said promptly.
"In the dancing?"
"Yes, in the dancing - holding the girl close, you know. And afterward, in petting, heavy necking and other things, if she'll stand for it. I don't."
I have quoted this conversation in detail, because it is a fair sample of the kind of language employed by high school pupils of today, especially in the cities, and it is absolutely typical of the prevailing situation.
Are the youngsters hell-bent? Listen to some of the judge's statistics and estimates, based upon, beyond doubt, the best information available in the United States.
Says Judge Lindsey: "At least 50 percent of those who begin with hugging and kissing (and that is 90 percent of all high school pupils) do not restrict themselves to that, but go further, and indulge in other sex liberties, which, by all the conventions, are outrageously improper - halfway sex intimacies that wreck the health and morals alike." And the judge continues that "15 percent to 25 percent of those who begin with the hugging and kissing eventually lose their virtue completely." Not necessarily from promiscuity, or frequency, he explains, but it happens.
Most people will not believe these facts. But they are based upon investigation and upon actual records. The truth is that the real facts are far worse than most people WANT to believe. I know parents of high school and college children who simply scoff at any such statements of conditions as outlined above - and whose very own children are on the same road right now, in its earlier stages - and yet these parents would never believe it, and are doing nothing to prevent it.
They have never taught their children frankly and honestly about sex problems. They have not brought them up in sound religious teaching. They have not trained them in self-discipline and self-control and right direction. They have permitted them to grow up following blind impulse, desire, inclination and whim. Their children have been equipped with no safeguard - no protection. They're getting a good dose of evolution and atheistic teachings in school - and they're out on wild parties continually. Are they hell-bound?
The parents of today simply do not realize the DANGER. Never has the pathway of youth been paved with so many temptations and pitfalls - and strewn with so many moral casualties - as today. Never has the responsibility of child rearing and parental guidance and training been so grave.
You who are parents - if you love your children - do not underestimate the danger. The school influence - the outside influences - all must be counteracted. The responsibility falls squarely upon the shoulders of you parents.
The alert, watchful, thinking parent need not be alarmed. The danger lies in ignorance, in laxity and in blinding the eyes to existing facts and conditions. Don't underestimate the influences your children will be called upon to face.
Be a pal and a chum to your children. Get, and hold, their confidence. Take an interest in their interests. Try to understand their point of view. You may need, tactfully and wisely, to help them alter it. Get them to confide in you, and make them want to come to you with all their problems and troubles.
Don't be ashamed to teach them frankly, yourself, the sacred and holy mysteries of sex - teach them young - before they become informed in a wrong way from other children. Ignorance of these matters is their worst handicap - knowledge, if imparted in a right and sacred way, is their greatest protection. Virtually ALL wrongdoing, of every possible nature, is merely a result of LACK of understanding!
Above all, teach your child self-discipline. Teach him to resist inclination and impulse - to do what he OUGHT to do, instead of what he WANTS to do.
Bring your children up in sound Bible doctrine - it is the one best protection against all forms of temptation and evil in all the world. Teach the children to UNDERSTAND. Explain the WHY of Christian doctrine. It is reasonable, rational - don't let them regard it as something foolish or silly. Let them realize that a true Spirit-filled Christian life is a FULL life - a happy life - a joyful life - a peaceful life - a life of power, of strength, of service, of accomplishment.
Jesus was humble. He was meek. He was lowly. But Jesus was STRONG - POWERFUL. He is the most powerful man who ever walked on the face of this earth - the actual Maker and Creator of this very earth itself! And yet, with all this supreme power, he was humble and meek. That is the way we should be. Not self-exalting - not glorying in self - not vain - but realizing that all power and strength comes from God, through the Holy Spirit, and then seeking all of it we can get, and giving the praise where it belongs - to the Eternal!
We parents need to realize that times have changed. Our youngsters face influences and conditions far different from those we faced. Don't justify your own laxity by saying, "I don't believe conditions are as bad as they're painted."
An ostrich can't escape threatened danger by sticking his head in the ground and hiding his eyes from the danger. Young people today are thinking frankly, talking openly, about subjects and problems that never used to be discussed. They're asking questions. Don't think you can hush them up. Safety lies in open, frank, honest, straightforward, God-fearing explanation - in knowledge and understanding.
The adolescents of today have hungry minds and hungry hearts. Their fate lies in our hands.
Let's not make the fatal mistake of thinking we can steer them safely from the shoals of worldly temptations merely by saying: "Don't dance! Don't go to movies! Don't smoke! Don't drink!"
Their starved emotions, their pent-up energies, are going to find an outlet, one way or the other. If we don't want them to fall victim to this world's tawdry imitations, then we must show them the REAL THING. If you don't give your children something constructively BETTER, they will dance, they will drink, they will dissipate, in spite of you. Never have we needed the help and the power of God as we need it now!
By Herbert W. Armstrong