Monday, August 11, 2014

These lousy kids nowadays

You're tearing him apart!
Anybody else notice that the kids nowadays are different from when I was younger? They're lazier, and they expect things to just be handed to them. On top of all of that, they lack respect. You should hear the way they talk to adults sometimes! It's unbelievable! To think that they're the future of blah blah Blah BLah BLAh BLAH BLARGH BLAAGRRHH.

If you were nodding your head at the beginning of this post, then guess what? You are officially a cliche. If there's anything that's been consistent since humanity has kept written records, it's that the older generation complains about the younger one. I was reading some Peanuts comics from the 1950s, and in it Linus and Charlie Brown were discussing the way their parents viewed the current generation. (Hint: it wasn't anything positive.) I also watched the movie Twelve Angry Men recently for the first time (great film) and in it the characters were complaining about how the kids are "these days".

Ever hear of Socrates? He lived about 2,500 years ago. The following quote is attributed to him:
Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.
As a kid, I always was skeptical of this kind of rhetoric when I would hear it from people of my parents' generation and before. (I don't seem to recall hearing it from my parents all that much though.) Too bad I didn't have that Peanuts collection handy or have greater knowledge about how the greasers, beatniks, and hippies were bringing the world to hell in a handbasket. What's really brought it all into perspective is when I hear people my own age talk this way - especially when it's somebody I knew as a kid.

Such disrespect!
You'll hear them complain or see them post memes on Facebook about how the kids today don't understand "respect" the way we did. I seriously want to call them out. "Do you not remember what you were like when you were a teenager? 'Cause I do!" The worst of the memes though are the ones that say that this "problem" that's totally unique to the present generation of kids could be solved by spankings. I dunno - my almost-four-year old is pretty respectful, and his teachers have told me how he often says "please" and "thank you". Just imagine how more respectful he'd be if I'd smack him around a little!

As a high school teacher, I happen to know a lot of young people, and I find them to be as decent and respectful as I find people of every generation. Yeah, some of them are total A-holes. Many more of them are awesome though. Plus, and this is purely anecdotal, but I frequently have them holding doors open for me - even going out of their way to do so. And it's not like I'm struggling with a cane here. They're doing it purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

5th century B.C. kids are the worst!
Another anecdote, but one that seems to match the experience of many of my colleagues, is that if I've
noticed any change over my 13 years of teaching, it's that they're more accepting and respectful of those who are different from them. Sure, bullying is still a problem, but one thing that's fantastic is how much they recognize that it IS a problem. Also, I remember that I would often have to remind the class to not say things like "That's gay" or disparage homosexuals, as it would frequently come up at the most random times. I don't even feel the need to point this out anymore, as I've had classes where it's never even been an issue. (And if you're somebody who thinks that kids being accepting of homosexuals is a bad thing, kindly buzz off and read another blog.)

My point is that if you're going to take a few stories about kids being disrespectful and use that as a wide brush to paint the entire generation, then I can easily play the same game and show you that they're not only not so bad, but they're better than we used to be. It's not that I think that's necessarily the case either, but every generation is going to have its own faults and issues, and there's never going to be one where the older folks will say: "Ya know what? These kids nowadays have got it together! Why couldn't we have been this good?" I'm sure even the "Greatest Generation" had their parents complain about them. And let's face it - does the word "generation" even mean anything more than just an illustrative generalization? (That's a tangent that could be its own blog post.)

Stop romanticizing the past and be a little bit more realistic about how you used to be. And for those of you who are part of today's youthful generation, remember what you're reading here, and don't let me catch you saying the same thing when you get older. Because I knew what you were like, and I'll call you out on it.

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