I believe many of the problems we are facing today are because we have lowered expectations for practically every endeavor since the 70s. You only need to look at what we expected of our children and, to a certain extent, what was expected of us. I know that every good parent wants their children to have a better life than they had, and wants their kids to have more than they had. Unfortunately, our generation also lowered expectations to make our kids happy, too.
Consider this: the average GPA at Ivy League schools was an average of 2.27 in the 60s and 70s and is now 3.55 (http://www.gradeinflation.com). We (yes, “we”) allowed academic standards to be lowered so that bad grades wouldn’t hurt feelings. At home, we don’t require our kids to do the kinds of chores we did as kids. Maybe because we got softer, or maybe technology replaced many of the tasks that were character builders in the past. Regardless, our kids have it easier and – as Rob pointed out in his post on Friday – tend to panic at the inanest things. Not all kids mind you – but technology has certainly changed the way things are done and the effort needed to accomplish them.
What do we do? Hopefully the next generation will reverse the trend – raise the standards – or maybe it’s not too late for us to help them. I believe the problem also lies with the fact that we have stopped challenging ourselves as a nation. Our parents had the Cold War – and more importantly, the race to the moon. Our presidents challenged us to big things – impossible things. When was the last time a president challenged the nation with a big, almost impossible goal? The race to the moon brought out the best of us and produced a generation who thought there was nothing impossible. Now, as Louis CK says, people panic when the internet is down, in an airplane, at 25K feet.
If we are to improve – to up our game – we need to dream big. Today big dreams seem to come from industry: Elon Musk wants to go to Mars; Jeff Bezos wants to mine asteroids; Bill Gates wants to eliminate HIV. Those are big dreams, and we should embrace those as well as other big dreams. We need to inspire…and eliminate the tyranny of low expectations.