Urbin Report

Friday, August 01, 2003

Thomas Sowell on peer pressure

We usually think of peer pressure as something that kids succumb to. But not only is such pressure effective with people who have long since passed childhood, not all the peer pressure on children is spontaneous.

Schools across the country promote using peers as guides. There are even "trust-building" exercises designed to get students to rely on their classmates. At the same time, these same schools try to put distance between students and their parents.

"Many parents wonder why they lose their children to a whole new value system," a parent once said plaintively. It is not accidental. There are not only individual pied pipers in the schools but whole nationwide educational efforts to detach children from their parents, as a way of promoting "social change."

It is not just parents, but the whole moral structure of society that must be undermined through such misnamed programs as "values clarification" and its sequels -- if the fashionable brand of "change" is to be imposed.

That the pathetically under-educated people who staff our public schools should take upon themselves the task of shaping a whole society is staggering. What is even more staggering is that the rest of us let them get away with it -- for the most part, because so few even know that it is happening.

There is no way to quantify just how much we are all paying so that a relative handful of people can feel important as part of some elite peer group. But we are paying, not only economically, but in everything from social disintegration to violent crime. Whole societies have come apart when the things that hold them together have been dissolved.