August 1957 before my final year at OU I was a Staff Sgt. In the 45th Division in summer camp at Ft. Hood, Texas. Firing expert on both carbine and M-1 I was sent to the firing range to try out for the division rifle team. The Range Master was Major Weber. I fired at the 100 yd and 200 yd ranges, easily scoring all bulls eyes, and was advanced to the third range with targets five football fields away.

1957 Target

August 1957 before my final year at OU I was a Staff Sgt. In the 45th Division in summer camp at Ft. Hood, Texas. Firing expert on both carbine and M-1 I was sent to the firing range to try out for the division rifle team. The Range Master was Major Weber. I fired at the 100 yd and 200 yd ranges, easily scoring all bulls eyes, and was advanced to the third range with targets five football fields away.

I did fine until I shot a bulls eye in the target of the guy on my left inflating his score and ruining mine. I briefly argued the point with Major Weber to no avail and didn’t make the team. [He later became Lt. Gen La Vern Weber, head of the National Guard Bureau in Washington.]

2018 Target

“Behavior considered deviant today may be socially acceptable after another generation or two, and normal within another generation after that. This has certainly been true over the course of the twentieth century, and may be no less true in the twenty-first.

At the turn of the twentieth century, premarital sex was considered deviant. However, that deviance carried a double standard. Single men were not really stigmatized if they had sex, especially if it was with “loose” women, though it may not have been something to mention in polite company. But if an unmarried woman had sex with a man , that brought shame. Even more shameful was having a child out of wedlock. In turn, men were expected not to have sex with “decent” women, or, if they did, to make it right by marrying them.

Today, it is common for men and women alike to have several sexual partners before finding someone they want to marry, and for this to be openly acknowledged. Remaining a virgin until marriage, or much beyond adolescence, has become the exception, not the rule. While there is still some stigma attached to having “too many” sexual partners, especially for women, it is also true that people may feel they have to make excuses if, past their mid to late teens, they are virgins or have little experience. Many single women have children and keep them, with no shame attached.”[1]

It is important to note some variations from a typical pattern of behavior or social norm-such as left-handedness--are merely differences, not deviancy. My point here is that there has occurred a fundamental shift in western society in how we arrive at moral norms in which we accept the unacceptable because of frequency and commonality rather than some more absolute standard such as the Ten Commandments. In 2010, 54% of women and 64% of men agreed with the statement, It is all right for unmarried 18 year olds to have sexual intercourse if they have strong affection for each other.” [2] The very basis of belief in what is acceptable is shifting from what we should do to what we do! This is closely related to an increasing acceptance of moral relativism as expressed in the bumper sticker common in Ann Arbor in the sixties e.g., “If it feels good, do it!”

I think this is happening because our youth are increasingly less socialized by less by parents, church, and school and more by secular sources such as iPhones and the entertainment media. “Around 2012, I noticed an abrupt shift in teen behaviors—changes not just in degree, but in kind. Why 2012? It was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50%. This ‘iGen generation is shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. Now more than seventy-five per cent of teens own a smartphone and the average teen spends two and one-half hours a day on electronic devices.” [3]

Redefining Deviancy

The practice of relaxing the injunctive norms to match the statistical [typical] norm significantly deviating from it we now call “social norming”. In 1993 Tulsa native, four-term U.S. Senator and cabinet member under two Democrat and two Republican Presidents, Daniel Moynihan called it “defining deviance down.” [4] One of his illustrations was the deinstitution-alization of mental patients who were released from mental hospitals to wander helplessly wander the streets. [I worked three years at Central State Hospital in Norman as a student and decades later as a professor at Wayne State University in downtown Detroit witnessed the abuse these released mental patients suffered.] The social norming process also includes “defining deviance up” as illustrated by the process now underway of condemning the ‘casting couch’ in Hollywood by which high-social directors sexually harassed aspiring actresses etc.

Home Plate

In his frequent talks to the American Baseball Coaches Association, John Scolinos wore a baseball home plate around his neck. He began by asking a series of questions of his audience of 4,000 coaches concerning the width of home plate in from little league up through the majors. Always the answer was 17 inches in width. Asked how many coaches widened the plate if their pitchers weren’t able to throw strikes. None did. They all taught their players to improve their behavior to reach the standard rather than relaxing the standard to make their behavior workable throughout their lives.

[1] ActforLibraries.org

[2]National Health Statistics Report No.92, March 17, 2016.

[23Twenge, Jean M., “Has the smartphone destroyed a generation?, The Atlantic, Sept. 2017,.

[4] Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Defining Deviancy Down”, The American Scholar, Winter, 1993.