Bill’s Weekly Reflection: What’s on Americans’ minds? Increasingly, ‘Me’
I typically don’t read USA Today unless I am travelling. Well, I was travelling this past week and when I picked up USA Today on my doorstep, an interesting story jumped out at me. The piece was titled; What’s on Americans’ minds? Increasingly, ‘Me.’
The story reviewed an interesting study, conducted by researchers at San Diego State University, examining how often certain phrases and words appear in digitized print from year-to-year. The study found that we are increasingly using words that describe individualistic approaches, as opposed to communal approaches. The words on studied on the “individualistic” side included; identity, oneself, self, unique and single. While the words on studied on the “communal” side included; collective, community, team and united. In all, twenty words were studied for each approach between 1960 and 2008. Within the 5 million books they scanned, researchers found an increase in use of words that describe individuals. The lead researcher said of the findings, “These trends reflect a sea change in American culture toward more individualism.” While it is hard to be sure that this finding is entirely true based on such a study, it is certainly interesting to ponder.
DSST has always believed in the individual and the potential of every individual. But, we have also believed in the significance and importance of community. So much, in fact, that our founding class of seniors at Stapleton high school (in 2008) decided to replace the word “community” with “bubbles” because they were so tired of hearing the faculty talk about community. We have always thought of the DSST community as counter-cultural. We are a group of people who understand that the collective interests of the community can - and do - trump the individual interests of our members from time-to-time; and that we ought to be concerned about doing what is right for others, sometimes at the expense of ourselves. This study makes me think that maybe we are more counter-cultural than we thought?