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dorothy_parker_kris_hedingWhen you use a Dorothy Parker quote from three generations ago to highlight a phenomenon you’re trying to suggest is something new inĀ this generation, maybe you need to consider whether the phenomenon you’re talking about is actually all that new. That’s the advice I’d give, gratis, to David Brooks, whose New York Times columns are often provocative and interesting but are occasionally a bit smug — especially when he’s talking about his new favorite topic, morality and character-building.

The Dorothy Parker quote in today’s column concerned child-rearing. Americans children aren’t raised, they’re incited,” Parker supposedly said. If it was true then, it’s even truer now, Brooks continued; “a thousand times” more true. Maybe he just had a bad day at the Google quote machine.

His point is one that many others have been making for a long time — and I hope they’re all wrong: that this latest generation of kids is being excessively praised and excessively “honed,” to the point that they feel that the only approval and love they get from their parents is contingent on their performance. Quite apart from the fact that this is an argument that is internally inconsistent — how can you object to parents praising their kids for just being themselves, but also object to them praising their kids only if they show their talent? — I think it’s just plain wrong. I like to read pieces like this in a different way now, with an eye toward imaging what life will be like for my incipient grandchild. I’m afraid that this time, Brooks offered me nothing interesting to think about.

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