[FoRK] Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering. 14 used & new from $13.99 Available for in-store pickup now from: $19.80 Price may vary based on availability Enter your ZIP Code Have one to sell? Don't have one? We'll set one up for you. Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun May 16 15:47:54 PDT 2004

 From an article last year: 
To a book this year: 

The interesting question is whether it is good or bad to have public 
school be soft.  I think that most of us have seen the soft vs. hard 
divide.  I don't necessarily agree that it is the fault of the school 
system.  I'm not even sure that it is a problem to begin with.  There 
was a study long ago comparing US schools to Japanese and other public 
school systems.  The analysis was that Japanese (and other) school 
systems brought more students to a more complete and advanced level of 
education, but in the process stunted, eliminated, or otherwise 
inhibited those that had the ability and interest to excel and be very 
creative.  By contrast, American schools (and universities overall) were 
less performant on average, but produced the outstanding stars.

I think that it is odd that the author and others associate so closely 
the Left with the soft phase or group and the Right with the hard.  
Anyone who has raised enough teenagers is likely to understand that 
outside influences and lazy or otherwise inappropriate choices happen 
even with strong education of the merits of 'hard' success.  Everyone 
has to decide whether to be soft, and live with a likelihood of less 
money and opportunities, or hard, and live with competition but higher 
likelihood of "success".  I have heard the generalization that some 
young men tend to be Republican/Right/intolerant and as they age and 
gain experience tend to become more tolerant and liberal.  I have 
observed this in at least some aspects.

Everyone should understand these tradeoffs and choices and understand 
when they are making them.  I get the impression that career counseling 
in US High School is generally minimal and useless.  One of my children 
who was fairly career minded but completely undecided as to field had 
received almost no indication of important factors like number employed 
in fields, median and top salary, burnout rate, etc.  It very well may 
be that by allowing more self-selection of the time and place of the 
hard vs. soft decisions, the US benefits overall.  I can think of a 
couple dynamics that would enforce this: people develop at different 
rates, sometimes drastically.  Anyone who is a late bloomer would be at 
a severe disadvantage in a highly competitive one-shot educational 
system.  Conversely, early bloomers would risk boredom and would be 
stifled from natural growth.

Hard America, Soft America*
Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future
*Written by* Michael Barone 

Current Affairs | Crown Forum | Hardcover | May 2004 | *$32.00* | 


A peculiar feature of our country today, says Michael Barone, is that we 
seem to produce incompetent eighteen-year-olds but remarkably competent 
thirty-year-olds. Indeed, American students lag behind their peers in 
other nations, but America remains on the leading edge economically, 
scienti?cally, technologically, and militarily.

The reason for this paradox, explains Barone in this brilliant essay, is 
that "from ages six to eighteen Americans live mostly in what I call 
Soft America--the parts of our country where there is little competition 
and accountability. But from ages eighteen to thirty Americans live 
mostly in Hard America--the parts of American life subject to 
competition and accountability." While Soft America coddles, Hard 
America plays for keeps.

Educators, for example, protect children from the rigors of testing, ban 
dodgeball, and promote just about any student who shows up. But most 
adults quickly ?gure out that how they do depends on what they produce.

Barone sweeps readers along, showing how we came to the current 
divide--for things weren't always this way. In fact, no part of our 
society is all Hard or all Soft, and the boundary between Hard America 
and Soft America often moves back and forth. Barone also shows where 
America is headed--or should be headed. We don't want to subject 
kindergartners to the rigors of the Marine Corps or leave old people 
uncared for. But Soft America lives off the productivity, creativity, 
and competence of Hard America, and we have the luxury of keeping part 
of our society Soft only if we keep most of it Hard.

Hard America, Soft America reveals:
. How the American situation is unique: In Europe, schooling is 
competitive and demanding, but adult life is Soft, with generous welfare 
bene?ts, short work hours, long vacations, and state pensions
. How the American military has reclaimed the Hard goals and programs it 
abandoned in the Vietnam era
. How Hardness drives America's economy--an economy that businesses and 
economists nearly destroyed in the 1970s by spurning competition
. How America's schools have failed because they are bastions of 
Softness--but how they are ?nally showing signs of Hardening
. The benefits of Softness: How government programs like Social Security 
were necessary in what was a harsh and unforgiving America
. Hard America, Soft America is a stunningly original and provocative 
work of social commentary from one of this country's most respected 
political analysts.


MICHAEL BARONE is a senior writer with U.S. News & World Report and a 
contributor to Fox News Channel. He is the principal coauthor of the 
biannual Almanac of American Politics and the author of two acclaimed 
works of political history, *Our Country *and *The New Americans*. A 
graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, he lives in Washington, 
*/From Publishers Weekly/*
In his latest book, Barone, a writer for /U.S. News and World Report/ 
and a well-known political commentator, describes America as comprising 
two diametrically opposed characteristics: hard and soft. "Hard America" 
is characterized by competition and accountability, while "Soft America" 
attempts to protect its citizens through government regulation and other 
social safety nets. While Barone's book is not without its political 
overtones-he identifies Hard America with the political right and Soft 
America with the left-his book should not be seen as the latest 
installment in the conservative-liberal cultural wars. Rather, Barone 
provides a deeper look at the way in which ordinary people live and work 
and the meaning behind the decisions they make. His concrete historical 
examples highlight the advantages and disadvantages of Hard and Soft 
America, creating a compelling picture of two very different ways of 
looking at the world, without degenerating into mudslinging or 
name-calling,. Although Barone, a conservative, clearly favors Hard 
America, he appreciates the necessary difficulty that comes with 
balancing the two Americas. He concedes that a society without some 
softness would be a cruel one, but warns that "we have the luxury of 
keeping parts of our society Soft only if we keep enough of it Hard." 
Despite his conservatism, Barone (/The New Americans/) writes with 
moderation and insight. Even those who do not agree with his normative 
conclusions can enjoy his thought-provoking and perceptive analysis.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. 
All rights reserved.
  */From /**/Booklist 
Barone, senior writer with /U.S. News and World Report/, claims there 
are two Americas: one hard-edged and extremely competitive, the other 
soft and overprotective. Essentially, American youths age 6 to 18 are 
dominated by a "soft" culture, most notably in public schools, which 
emphasizes self-esteem and protects them from the harsh realities of 
adult life. Come adulthood, Americans are confronted with a "hard" 
culture that is characterized by cutthroat marketplace realities. 
Generally, the dichotomy exists between school and work and between the 
public and private sectors, but the boundaries between the cultures are 
not fixed. Barone traces the trend in American culture that has produced 
the dichotomy--the increased leisure and ease of a wealthier economy, 
government regulation, and social trends toward providing greater safety 
nets. Barone is never overtly critical of soft America, recognizing the 
need for protecting some people in society, but he clearly argues for a 
deeper awareness of the dichotomy, its implications for the future, and 
the need to maintain a balance between hard and soft America. /Vanessa Bush/
/Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Look at the cool map halfway down:

swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lair.xent.com/pipermail/fork/attachments/20040516/77ba4f55/attachment.htm

More information about the FoRK mailing list