People are louder, too. They complain at length and in detail about their divorces or gallbladders a foot away from you in restaurants. A dreaded Amtrak type is the passenger who commences prattling on her cellphone the instant she sits down and doesn’t hang up until she gets to her stop, unable to bear an undistracted instant in her own company. People practice rap lyrics on the bus or the subway, barking doggerel along with their iPods as though they were alone in the shower. Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies.
In the 100 years since we really got serious about education as a universally good idea, we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most carefree, inquisitive, and memorable and fill them with a motley collection of stress and a neurotic fear of failure. Education is a dress-up box of good intentions, swivel-eyed utopianism, cruel competition, guilt, snobbery, wish fulfillment, special pleading, government intervention, bureaucracy, and social engineering. And no one is smart enough now to understand how we can stop it. Parents have no rational defense against the byzantine demands of the education-industrial complex.