“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
According to a sociology book published in 1953, authored by Patty and Johnson, Plato first attributed his mentor Socrates with the quote above. He did so when writing his own essay discussing the question that many concerned adults ask today. “What’s wrong with kids these days?”
I heard it from my elders growing up. I’m almost 60 years old now, and I’ve been asking the same question since my own children were teens! It’s a strange thing indeed to hear my kids echoing the same lament. “Oh daddy, what’s wrong with these kids nowadays?” No doubt, the question has been posed by frustrated elders long before Socrates, and yet, has it ever been answered satisfactorily?
While contemplating the question and what I will write about it, I decided that I must first figure out what kids I will chastise. Are they my kids? No. I could criticize them, but I dare not! Are they the 20 or 30 somethings, or are they the teenagers of today? I must also decide on the characteristics I will judge these KIDS on. Will it be their morals, manners, and appearance? What about intellect, health, and self-discipline? I’ll tell you what… catch me in the wrong mood, and I’ll find deficiencies in every area for every kid 30 and below!
“Gosh durn kids with their musical television compooterized telephones… all gimme, let me, can I have attitudes!”
Ahhh, but do I want to be THAT crotchety old man? No, I do not. What I want is to relate better to my grandson Kaeden. He will be 13 soon. I’ve struggled this past year to figure out where he’s coming from, and more importantly, where he is headed. I question his study habits, the education he is receiving, I wonder what must be going on inside his head about his world, and what is he thinking about the greater world around him that is filled with so much chaos? I wonder if he is experiencing anything like what I went through growing up during the tumult of the sixties and seventies. I fear for him. I am worried that the main thing wrong with MY kid these days, is my own inability to understand him. So I googled “Kids these days” and I came across a couple of refreshing articles online that give me hope, and some insight into Kaeden, and his peers.
In an article published on scarymommy.com, one young mother wrote an essay pointing out what is right with kids these days. Among the attributes listed, Christine Organ explains how kids are using today’s technology for good. She writes, “Kids these days are using technology to expand their worlds and connect with others. They are using their intellect and creativity to code, and… to teach their grandparents how to use Snapchat! They are coming up with new ways to solve problems and they are looking at the world with fresh eyes.” I concur with her positive affirmations, and I feel a twinge of guilt. I have overlooked the good, by focusing too much on the bad. Still, having identified what I saw as problems with my grandson’s education, I can’t help but believe that Internet technology is part of a larger problem for kids, and society as a whole.
In his essay, Kids These Days: Why They Think Differently and What We Should Do About It, Dan Olinger believes that over use of the Internet by educators, actually dumb kids down. In the article, focused specifically on education, he poses the question, “–if we can just look up whatever we need to know, then why clutter our brains with memorized stuff?” He suggests that children are not retaining information they will need in life to engage in critical thinking. Thinking that is crucial to decision-making and problem solving. Olinger raised some serious issues in his essay. He also offered good advice to educators about how technology is used to teach, and how it might be used more effectively to do so. I liked the way he concluded his work with these words of wisdom. “History teaches us that major cultural shifts bring bad as well as good, and no society has ever been able to be completely selective about that.”
From 1960 to the present, our culture has changed dramatically a few times. Is it logical or necessary for us to understand the actions and habits of today’s youth entirely, or the perspective they have of our shared world? Maybe what we perceive as wrong is simply different, a changed world. In conclusion, I suggest that nothing is wrong with kids these days that hasn’t always seemed wrong to generations of wizened, albeit wise and well-meaning elders. But if we the wise, ever cease to scrutinize our youth, they in turn, may never learn to scrutinize themselves.