Lord of the Flies Redux

  "It was dangerous to be around.... The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hate bouncing around the place." What was this--a reporter covering the conflict in Kosovo? No, it was MTV correspondent Kurt Loder describing the final hours of Woodstock '99 a few weeks ago in Rome, New York. An event billed as "three days of peace, love and music" became an orgy of arson, looting, and rape. What happened at Woodstock was horrifying--and yet it should not be surprising. In a culture where children grow up with so little adult supervision, savagery is exactly what we ought to expect. Baby Boomers are decrying the "desecration" of the Woodstock myth--a potent icon of the Boomer generation. But they ought to be pointing the finger right at themselves, not their kids. After all, it's the flower children of the sixties who are the parents of today's Generation X--and in may cases they have done precious little to give their kids the love and discipline all children need. We got a shocking glimpse of just how little supervision some Boomers give their kids after the Littleton shootings. Americans were amazed to learn that the killers had built, in plain view in their bedrooms, bombs. Yet their parents knew nothing about it. And our schools aren't any better. Writing in the "New York Times," Bard College president Leon Botstein decried the artificial intensity of the American high school culture, where "the tyranny of peer groups based on ludicrous values meets little resistance" by adults. So if parents and teachers are not supervising teens, then who is? In many cases, the answer is "no one." The classic novel "The Lord of the Flies" warns us of what happens when children go without adult guidance: They quickly descend into barbarism. Today schools are turning into Lord of the Flies-style islands. The only difference is, instead of wearing loincloths, as the boys did in Golding's classic novel, today's kids are preying on each other while wearing the latest fashions from Abercrombie and Fitch--or black trenchcoats. But instead of attacking the root of the problem, which I believe is the lack of adult supervision, Americans are counting on gun laws and metal detectors to protect our kids. I guess it's easy to see why, because discipline requires saying "no!" and drawing distinctions between right and wrong--things hard to come by for a generation that grew up rejecting morality and believing that discipline "represses" children. What's more, many of these Boomers, whose own teen years were so rebellious, are afraid their children will call them "hypocrites." But Woodstock shows us what happens when we fail to perform a basic task of the family, namely, to civilize our children. Ultimately, the solution has to be for parents to take a hard look at their own accountability before God. The book of Proverbs speaks harshly of parents who don't take the time to guide and discipline their children. Schoolyard shootings are reminders of the price we pay for ignoring biblical wisdom. Christian parents ought to be models of involvement in our own children's lives, and help other parents understand why constant vigilance is necessary. As MTV's Kurt Loder learned the hard way, some things are a lot scarier than saying "no" to your kids.  


Chuck Colson


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