Even two decades ago, religious commitment, patriotism, and having and raising children were values shared by large swaths of Americans. A recent poll, however, shows that significantly fewer American believe these things important. Moreover, the decline is primarily due to young people’s valuing them far less than do their elders. Christine Rosen comments:
Even if one is persuaded that younger generations are justified in rejecting values such as patriotism and child-rearing, nature abhors a vacuum. What new values have arisen to replace the old?
That is not clear. Secular alternatives to traditional civic, religious, and social institutions, such as the media and entertainment industries and Silicon Valley technology companies and their wares, have not proved to be reliable alternatives for those seeking value and meaning. In fact, in many ways these new secular alternatives have contributed to increased polarization and exacerbated culture-war tensions by encouraging people to embrace anger (and retweets) rather than abstract ideals such as love of God and country. . . . [Moreover, the fashionable] elevation of identity and personal experience has helped undermine people’s trust in institutions (and in one another).
The demotion of patriotism and faith and child-rearing as core American values will no doubt come as good news to many progressives and radicals who have long considered such notions retrograde. But theirs is a pyrrhic victory. If these trends continue, and “self-fulfillment” continues to outpoll patriotism while having children becomes increasingly less appealing to more and more Americans, who will be left to celebrate this supposed ideological maturation of the American people?