Denise, I agree and disagree with you.
This, of course, is based on my secondary education about the 60's-70's timeframe. (my mom was a little too young to be thinking about me way back then. )
I have to stop and wonder is 'the gradual decrease over time of moral absolutes in society in general' is (at least in theory) such a bad thing.
For example, my mom is a single mom, and I lived with her as a child, visiting my father on weekends. Had I been born maybe twenty years before I was, this would have been much less acceptable. Social pressure might have pushed my mom into marrying my father (and that would have been a recipe for disaster, believe me), or, considering that my father wasn't interested in getting married, she might have felt compelled to have an abortion, so that she wouldn't be socially outcast, or even fired from he job.
The 'the gradual decrease over time of moral absolutes in society in general' allowed room for my mother to raise me on her own as she saw fit, which in many cases deviated from the standards her parents set (marriage, Catholic upbringing, more of a 'tough love' stance...)
I consider this a decidedly positive thing.
Now, of course, you have people like that Yates woman who drowned her five children and blamed it on post-partum depression. Anyway you cut it, whether or not she was really suffering that severely from the depression, it deviates from the norm of a criminal did-you-or-didn't-you trial.
I, personally, think the PC movement has a lot to do with the broadening of definitions for 'insanity' pleas. I have a problem with this, because I think it encompasses normal human behaviors that humans don't want to take responsibility for... but the point isn't whether I agree, it's that a marginalized group has a say in something that's going to happen to them.
On the whole, I think this is a good thing.
While I agree that things like simple manners and courtesy have become afterthoughts to the wanton credit-card consumption we Americans engage in, I have to comment on:
'We wouldn't want to teach our children to be mannerly and respect their elders,'
I have a problem with giving a certain group preferential treatment for a reason like that. When I listen to my father go on a rant against arabic peoples/Muslims because he thinks they're all terrorists and we shouldn't let any in this country, I find it hard to respect him for his age when he holds a comparably less mature worldview than I do. (Based on my perceptions, I know...)
It's like me, as a white person, being nice to a black person simply because back in the day, my European ancestors exploited their African ancestors. Now, I'll be nice to black people, and old people, and whoever else, based simply on the fact that they are people- but any respect beyond the basic human respect that everyone deserves is gained or lost based on how somebody acts, not on how I perceive them socially. That, in my opinion, is the morally fair option.
'because of the, "hey, nobody else matters, only I and what I want matter" upbringing that they received.'
I thnk this often has more to do with commercialism ("Have you had your break today?") and culture than family upbringing. We are constantly plied with credit card junk mail, everyone has a cell phone, marketing is everywhere- now I'm all for capitalism, but America takes it to a terribly self-indulgent extreme based far more on image and profit than actual product quality. You can't avoid it, the best you can do is to remove yourself from it as much as possible.
I also think it;s a maturity thing- as kids get older, they realize that mom and dad can't buy them 80$ jeans at the mall every 2 months- so they get their own job. And they spend all their money. But eventually, as college or adulthood come nearer, I think we tend to learn more about the value of a dollar, about what's important- there comes a maturity in investments. Unfortunately, some people never reach this.
Now here's where things get interesting in your post:
'and I can't afford to move because the house I purchased 11 years ago has accrued a 50% negative equity due to the Section 8 housing program that has taken over my once working class neighborhood over the past 6 years...but that's another rant for another time.)
We have spawned a generation, to a large extent, that has no concept of common courtesy and manners, let alone self-sacrifice.'
Where is your sense of self-sacrifice in the Section 8 housing development case? I'm not saying that to be mean, but rather to point out that self-interest is crucial to our nature. Of course you're pissed that your house has gone down in value- I would be too! But the spirit of self-sacrifice is to give up comfort for yourself to give it to others.
We all strive to meet standards we set for ourselves, and this, in itself, is self-interest, whether it be economic, moral, or otherwise. It's useless to criticize a culture for its selfishness, because that's an inherent part of the human makeup- rather, we should criticize whether the selfish activities really contribute to one's self-interest, and how people can serve themselves while serving others, instead of the constant implication that it has to be just one or the other.