Studies Confirm It:
A study by San Diego State University confirmed what employers toil with on a daily basis and what many of us have suspected for a longtime. The work ethic of this nation is getting weaker with each younger generation. San Diego State University conducted a study among 355,000 U.S. high school students from 1976 to 2007. Two interesting findings reveal that the more materialistic youth become, the weaker their work ethic is.
For instance, only 62 percent of the youth surveyed from 2005-2007 put a high priority in having a lot of money, whereas only 48 percent from 1976-1978 had the same priority. Yet, when asked about wanting to work hard, those surveyed from 2005-2007, a whopping 39 percent admitted that working hard was not a high priority for them, whereas from 1976-1978 it was only 25 percent.
Several managers from different corporations tell me it is becoming increasingly difficult to find young employees with a strong work ethic. What shows itself in the work force among the younger generations is an entitlement mentality which has severed the relationship between hard work and its reward. In fact, this same study carried out by San Diego State University found that more young people surveyed between 2005-2007 want a big house than from the sample surveyed between 1976-1978. The desire “not” to work hard and the desire to acquire wealth increased proportionately over the last 30 years by about 14 percent.
Once on the Same Page:
Interestingly enough, these findings seems to correspond with the testimony of high school teachers who claim that parents will defend their son or daughter “tooth and nail” no matter how much of an underachiever he or she is. If the student receives a low mark, well, according to many parents, it must be the teachers fault. This is a departure from just a few decades ago. As late as the 1970s, parents, teachers, and school administrators were pretty much on the same page.
A child, if he was disciplined at school for bad behavior, could expect to have his parents discipline him just the same when he got home. But no such uniformity of action among authority figures exists today. The result is that children in our culture are seldom forced to examine themselves for the purposes of amending their faults. However, if they are not made to put forth a maximum effort to achieve high grades, they will hardly rise to the occasion when a high work standard is required of them in the work force.
The relationship between parents and schools (especially public schools) that once existed for the benefit of children, has broken down in recent years. This is largely due to the absence of Christian principles. The preaching of the Gospel fosters a spirit of sacrifice and service. When our Lord knelt down to wash the Apostles feet at the Last Supper, the night before he made the ultimate sacrifice for souls, he demonstrated what every one of his followers should aspire to. His redemptive sacrifice may have begun with the Last Supper and ended with Calvary, but the effects of that sacrifice translated into a strong worth ethic among Christian peoples.
Restoring the Work Ethic:
What is often associated with Christianity is its corporeal works of mercy to relieve hunger among the poor. But in the early centuries, the Catholic Church restored the value of hard work. Sloth, mind you, is one of the seven deadly sins. Nothing could have been more anathema to the Christian spirit than having an entitlement mentality. In fact, St. Paul said, “We instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) Idleness was a sin while working hard took on spiritual importance. Indeed, Christ taught, through his example and teachings, that work was holy.
Few know that ancient pagan civilization had grown to despise manual labor when Christianity came on the scene. Henri Daniel-Rops, author of the book, The Churchof the Apostles and Martyrs, said, “The Christian attitude towards work placed the subject in a nentirely new light by insisting that labor sanctified the individual who performed it. This completely broke with the idleness and sloth of which the classical world was dying…” By the time the Roman Empire fell, many fields had gone untilled because the hard work that agriculture required was not highly esteemed by the Romans. This weak work ethic, so common among the Romans, was one contributing factor to the decline of that once great empire.
In the centuries that followed, a work ethic unknown to humanity was advanced by Catholic monks and missionaries. From the ruins of a fallen empire, a new Christian civilization flourished. It was only because the principles of the Gospel were diffused far and wide.
What worked for ancient Rome, can work for post-Christian America. However, it is only Christianity that can restore a balanced work ethic among younger American employees. The incentives that the Gospel offers for hard work is to, above all, please God and merit a blessing from him. Yet, this is not the only thing. The Church offers the means of grace to give a hundred percent – a total dedication – to the daily duties that the Lord has given us. Christians have an eye for long-term gains. In fact, we are taught by Christ to see through short-term sacrifices in order to achieve long-term gains. Resurrection is the goal, but it must be seen through the Cross.
The declining work ethic among the younger generations is a sign of the times. It is a painful reminder that when the soul is not saved, nothing is saved. Not even our work. This is one of many reasons why we must insist that our public institutions be the beneficiary of the Gospel once again!
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.