What prompted the culture shift of the 60s? This event is one of the most significant in our history, having led to our precipitous national decline in virtually every area that we are experiencing all around us today. What caused the United States to abandon its Christian roots, move into a post-Christian era, and adopt our current destructive cultural orientation?
This transition was largely carried out by college students. Others were motivating, leading, and supporting them, but it was the capacity of these leaders to amass hundreds of thousands of college students to their cause (estimated 400,000 at Woodstock) that gave the movement impetus.
But what made these college students so vulnerable to this message of drugs, sexual immorality, and other characteristics of profligate living?
The Absence of Character Training
I have written before about the 50s in America. I believe I could make a compelling case that this was the best time and place in all of history to have lived.
That said, however, 50s America manifested a major blind spot. No one was doing character training. An assumption seemed to exist that public schools were performing all necessary training of children, including character training. Sure, parents spanked kids when they misbehave, but hardly any ongoing input regarding character was provided. They didn’t sit down with their kids once a week to talk about their need to develop and maintain responsibility, decency, self-control, courage, wisdom, and other character qualities. In most homes in the 50s these were never mentioned. It seems that parents thought this was occurring in schools.
It was not. Schools were covering reading, writing, arithmetic, and other academic areas, but as with parenting, the only character training that took place came in response to bad behavior: being disruptive in class, disrespect for teachers, etc. But discussion about the importance of being a person of character and what that entailed was just not part of the program.
Perhaps everyone assumed that the church was the venue for character training. But for the most part it wasn’t happening in the churches either. They probably provided more instruction in the area of character than most, but in most churches that was precious little. Of course, they taught the Ten Commandments and no doubt provided some other instruction related to morality, but for the most part this was passed out as general information. Kids were not exhorted regarding the application of these morals and the importance of being a person of integrity and character.
It almost seems that everyone assumed that the culture had that covered, that just being an American imparted the understanding that you should be honest, honorable, responsible, and upstanding in every area of moral behavior.
To a great extent that was true. The culture did impart that implication. However, that was far from sufficient. In the absence of any eyeball to eyeball ongoing emphasis on the importance of being a person of integrity and what that entails, when confronted with temptation young people had not developed the means of resistance needed to respond with character.
I can’t say when this absence of character training started. It might have been decades or even a century or so before the 60s. However, character can be developed in two ways.
One is through the challenges of life. Earlier American generations were exposed to various hardships that helped to mold self-discipline. Up through the 1900s America was largely agrarian, and life on the farm taught self-discipline and responsibility. World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II likewise had the effect of imparting strength of character if just for survival. The 50s was one of the few times in American history when life was quite comfortable, and therefore character was not created by the environment.
This situation demanded the other means of building character, which is through personal instruction and encouragement regarding the importance and content of character. That did not take place, leaving young people vulnerable to those in the 60s who would lead them into a lifestyle of immorality and irresponsibility.
How about Today?
Contemporary America offers an even more desperate situation related to character development since the surrounding culture is designed to destroy character. If lack of character training in the 50s when the culture supported decency and morality led to the moral corruption of the 60s, how much stronger must character development be today to reverse our culture of depravity?
But as with the 50s, it is not taking place anywhere. Perhaps homeschoolers are the most likely to receive some form of character development. Maybe some Christian schools do some good work in this area. However, for the most part character development represents an area of neglect. It is even more ludicrous today than in the 50s to assume that someone else is covering this issue.
Imagine the difference it would make if parents, churches, and Christian educators all adopted structured programs that would discuss character issues with young people, stressing the vital importance of becoming persons of integrity in every area of life.
I think we have it wrong about performance in sports. All these programs, coaches, structure, practice sessions, facilities, and equipment are unnecessary. Just let them play the game. Well, we wouldn’t do that. If they played teams that were coached and practiced they would lose. How are we doing at playing the game of life without coaches and programs? Strange that what is most important is also most neglected.