A recent study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education on “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values” through its Making Caring Common project shows a “rhetoric/reality gap.” Parents tell their children they value caring and fairness, but the youth receive a different message, that adults value achievement and happiness above all others.
Parents and other adults want the children to become more caring individuals but they present an incongruity through their behavior, wherein they still emphasize achievements over the value of caring. The youth pick up on this and the study shows they do not prioritize caring and fairness but instead personal success at the expense of being “cruel, disrespectful, and dishonest.”
A caring individual, whether an adult or youth, goes beyond self and looks into how others are affected by the actions that he or she takes. A caring individual is a well-rounded individual who ensures that the needs of the present do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. At present, we still do not focus on caring whether in the development of our youth, our community, our economy, or our environment.
The study shows that the seeming lack of care among the youth emerges from the “rhetoric/reality gap” where parents and other adults say that caring is a top priority when they are asked, but the youth aren’t “buying it” because the former are still more concerned about achievement and personal happiness.
It means that adults would espouse one thing but reward another. Parents are prouder when their children get good grades that when they become caring community members in class or in school. As a result, achievement overcomes caring and this is a dissonance that is felt by the youth in the Harvard study.
If we, as parents, business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, politicians and adults do not practice what we preach on the essence of caring, what will happen to our youth, our communities, and our future? This column focuses on “managing for society” and the Harvard study specifically shows that we, as adults, know what to say but do not “walk the talk.”
We want caring children but we do not care when they care about the community, their peers, and the environment. We have become too enamored with achievements that are short term at best and too focused on performance metrics without truly looking at the heart and soul of life’s simple pleasures.
As managers, not only of business, but also of homes, communities, and churches, we must continue to strive to be caring through our peers, children, colleagues, and countrymen. Caring should not just be a matter of saying that we, as a company, are socially responsible because we have donated such amount of time and money. We must be a company that truly cares for all the needs of our stakeholders and our community.
Caring within our family, community, and organizations would lead to a more sustainable lifestyle that makes the best use of both human and non-human resources. If we practice caring, we can create strong morals among the youth that that would ensure a better, more equitable society.
Brian Gozun is a faculty member of the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University Manila. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.