A cultural re-norming? You can say that again.
In a recent story in the New York Times, we learned that Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is starting a new radio show that will “give him greater leeway to hold forth on politics.” In announcing his new venture on his Facebook page, Dobson wrote, “Our nation is facing a crisis that threatens its very existence. We are in a moral decline of shocking dimensions.”In fact, a great deal of empirical evidence argues that, if anything, we are in the midst of a social and cultural re-norming of some significance.
The term 're-norming' comes from the educational testing world, where it means 'dumbing down'. I was having lunch with a regional representative of a prominent national testing company several years back and we were discussing the difference between the older tests her company produced and their newer tests. The newer tests, she said, had been "re-normed."
"Now when you say 're-normed,'" I asked, "that really means that the test has been made easier, right?"
"That's right," she said, not even blinking.
One of the reasons people are not as alarmed about their schools as they ought to be is because the deterioration of academic expectations is so slow that they just haven't noticed the change.
Anyone who got into a time machine and went back, say 20 years--a very short period of time historically speaking, would enter a completely different cultural world. And if you told people then what would be commonly accepted today as cultural commonplaces, they would laugh and tell you that you were some sort of alarmist.
"Re-norming" indeed. Just as test standards are constantly deteriorating--so slowly and unnoticeably that we think the current test scores are comparable to the older scores, so moral standards are deteriorating. And we don't notice the change because we have forgotten what we once thought was the norm.
In fact, one of the measures of our moral decline is that people looking straight at it don't see it. If you don't believe it, just check out Paul Wehner's article.