I have to speak in front of our local Lion’s Club, well I don’t have to, I agreed to. The subject is kids, something I should know something about having taught and coached them for over forty years. As any educator will tell you, JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU HAVE SEEN IT ALL, THEY WILL DO SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU REALIZE YOU DON’T. However, even saying that, I BELIEVE KIDS ARE STILL KIDS. I read or see our next generations being characterized as entitled, elitist, dumb, stupid, weak, soft, lazy or gullible…should I go on? No because I believe, like a lot of “OLDER GENERATIONS,” we are not giving them their just dues.
There were entitled, elitist, dumb, stupid, weak, soft, lazy and gullible kids throughout my teaching career. What has changed is not the younger generations, what has changed is the world we live in. Technology, social media, the destruction of the middle class forcing parents to work longer to put basic necessities on the table, national media focusing upon the negatives that sell rather than the positives that don’t and giving out trophies to everyone who participates in any an extracurricular activity are just some of the reasons that SEEM to make kids appear to be different, weak and entitled. They are different but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and if it is bad, it’s because we, the previous generation, have made it that way.
These new generations do things differently than “our generation” …the same way that I did things differently than my parents and my parents did things differently than their parents. I don’t think any of us want to go back to planting seeds by hand or using a seed drill pulled by horses to put beans on the table the way my grandparents did. This “new generation” doesn’t learn the same way that we did nor even work the same way we did…if they are lucky enough to find a job. I don’t believe we want to give up our computers, smart phones or data processing software for an abacas or wax board, rotary phone or old Royal typewriter with correction fluid. I do call my daughter when I need to program some new form of technology.
Maybe I am looking through rose colored glasses because I was always associated with good kids for the most part. There were a few little “Johnnies” but not many. I don’t think I am suffering from cognitive dissonance because I taught at many different types of schools; urban and rural, large and small, economically entitled with over a ninety percent college attendance rate, unentitled schools where kids were more likely to go into military service, predominately white and predominately other races. I found kids to be nothing more than kids who wanted to learn, who wanted to be taught boundaries, who wanted someone to listen to them and give them some attention. The only difference seemed to be that the modern generation tended to use the word teachers and coaches hated the most…” Why?” “Why do we need to learn this or why are we having to do this.” “Because I said so” was not the best answer to provide.
Children of all ages, races and socio-economic standing want attention and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter whether it is negative or positive. They want love and will look for it wherever they can find it; at home with their family, in church organizations, with positive mentors or with drugs, gangs or bad interpersonal relationships. That was true fifty years ago and it is true now. Unfortunately, the numbers involved in negative activities seems to have increased.
That is where you and I, the old generation, comes in. We need to bridge gaps whether it is through the Lion’s Club, the Phyllis Wheatly Center, tutoring, the Y or just coaching a little league team. All we are doing is investing a little time to insure the successes of our next generation.
For more unique life stories or posts by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf