[FoRK] 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 15:49:32 PDT 2004
Corrected title.... How did that happen??
Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> >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* |
> *ABOUT THIS BOOK*
> 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
> 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.
> *AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY*
> 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, D.C.
> */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
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
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