[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: 
> http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/archive/030512/20030512040259_brief.php
> To a book this year: 
> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1400053064/102-7790499-1429724?v=glance
> 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.
> sdw
> *
> http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=1400053064
> Hard America, Soft America*
> Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation's Future
> *Written by* Michael Barone 
> <http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/results.pperl?authorid=1480>
> Current Affairs | Crown Forum | Hardcover | May 2004 | *$32.00* | 
> 1-4000-5306-4
> 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, 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 
> <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/partners/marketing/booklist.html/102-7790499-1429724>/*
> 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
> http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/001591.html
> Look at the cool map halfway down:
> /
> 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

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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