I recently debated an individual half my age. Our topic was “American Culture Then and Now—Better or Worse?” I was at a bit of a disadvantage in the debate. If I took a strong stand that American culture has declined over the years—which I believe it has in several important ways—there was the risk of my being viewed as nothing more than a bitter old man longing for the good old days. Consequently, rather than play my rhetorical cards face up I decided to simply paint a picture of how things were in my youth and let the audience draw their own conclusions.
Socio-cultural changes occur so gradually that many fail to realize they are even happening. This is the phenomenon known as boiling-the-frog. It is only by making then-versus-now comparisons that we can come to appreciate just how much American culture has changed over the years. For example, when I was a child divorce was practically unheard of. When my parents divorced in 1959, I became an outcast among my friends whose parents no longer allowed their children play with me. It was as if I had contracted a contagious disease. Today, divorce is so common—as are parents who live together without the benefit of marriage—that it would be hard for kids to find more than a handful of friends whose parents are married.