Like so many of you, I read the occasional post on Facebook from friends or friends of friends about what's wrong with kids these days. Sometimes my friends are venting, and sometimes they are redirecting blog posts from other people. I always find the ones about kids today the hardest to read.
As a teacher, I do spend a lot of time with kids. In fact, I may spend more time with the kids I teach than their parents do. Whether or not my opinion counts for something, I do have an observation to make about what's wrong with kids these days.
Because I see them, engrossed in their electronics at all hours of the day, playing their games whenever they have a spare moment, even in front of the TV! They have access to the entire sum of human knowledge in their pockets, yet they are constantly asking me to tell them the answers to relatively simple questions. Angry and anguished bloggers accuse them of being unable to think coherently or critically, of wanting everything to come easy to them and giving up if it takes work.
I think the people who make these kinds of claims are missing something. In fact, I'd wager a guess that some of them, maybe many of them, don't actually spend that much time with kids. Since I do, I'll offer my opinion, if you want to hear it.
The problem with kids these days is not complicated. It's actually very simple: We want them to be what we think they should be, miniature adults, and they aren't.
Kids make mistakes more easily than adults because they lack a number of years of experience. Often, they don't recognize the consequences of their mistakes, so they don't feel all that bad about making them. Adults resent what they see as immature behavior, especially when working so hard to eliminate it in themselves
Kids tend to have more freedom than adults. For adults like me who have given up freedom for responsibility, I am very jealous of that freedom. For reasons that are both appropriate and inappropriate, i take away some of the freedom of my kids, because I want to instill responsibility in them, and because I want to have power over them.
They're not adults, so they don't act like adults, and don't live up to adults' expectations. And when they do, you can't count on it to last. Some are studious, some seek quick rewards, some are insensitive and thoughtless, and some are all of these things in a single week. Just like we were. Just like our parents were. And hundreds of years ago, just like Mozart was.
I am well aware of the impact that environmental factors have on developing people, and the vulnerability of young people in particular to these influences. Is the internet age creating damaged or disfunctional kids? That isn't what I see.
I see young people in many cases becoming completely functional people with the help of, and in spite of, the internet that has created this generation's generation gap. I see the same good and bad tendencies in them that I saw in me, and that I read about in unsentimental accounts of kids from long ago. If their good and bad characteristics manifest themselves differently in them than in me, if their solutions aren't my solutions, it's because a) their world is different and b) they're not adults.
I have my responsibility to guide the children in my care the best I can. It is also my responsibility as an adult to own up to my feelings of powerlessness, ineffectiveness, and jealousy towards the world that is rapidly leaving me behind. If I do not, I am likely to assign my feelings to these children as flaws they do not necessarily have.
When I really look, I see kids thinking critically, having real relationships with adults and with other children, and coming up with solutions to problems I thought were unsolvable. When I really look, I see their failures as part of a long history of children being children, and those failures as opportunities for me to engage with them in a positive way. When I really look, I see so much more than a single sentence about what's wrong with kids.