In the video game Persona 4, there is a cranky old teacher who at one point rails at his students by saying “You kids and your my-places and your life-journals.” The basic tone is one we are all familiar with. It is likely that we all heard a variation on this theme as we were growing up. And, of course, our parents heard it too, for them it was TV and rock and roll, or perhaps reality shows, or…something. It’s always something.
Every generation, it seems, is suffering from some alarming lack of attention, morals, or all of the above, and we are doomed, I tell you. Doomed.
Let me submit one in the latest of such generational “kids these days” rants: Jessica Helfand’s notion that “The impatience with which people have come to expect everything to be delivered to them is a terrifying prospect.”
Another claim that keeps popping up which we can see in her argument: “A friend of mine actually referred to this recently as, this is the culture of narrative deprivation,”
Ah yes. A friend of hers. How very anecdotal.
Let me make a radical, world shaking claim: Kids these days are human beings, people just like you and I. They will do stupid things, they will do great things. They will read complex stories and simple stories and they will create art we don’t “understand.” They will seem to be doing new and dangerous things, but really, they will be doing the same things human beings have been basically doing for all existence, but in different mediums.
I bring this up for one important reason. I see adults around me, all the time, treating what “kids” do as some sort of strange or alarming alien activity, when in actuality the things they are alarmed about are at worst continuances of usual human faults in different contexts and at best are not things to be alarmed about.
To take the example of narrative, any argument that the present generation is devolving into “narrative deprivation founders upon even the briefest examination I could argue, in fact, that narratives have tended to grow more complex over time, rather than simpler. At worst, teenagers are using narratives no more or less complex than in the past.
Any time, especially as teachers, where we are treating “kids these days” as fundamentally different, strange, new, and alien, we are treating them as the “other.” Instead, what they are doing is precisely interesting and fascinating in how it has continuity with the past while also creating something new, just like what came before it. If we are willing to see that continuity we can connect what they are doing to the larger world and help them see how they are *already* a part of the things we are teaching them about.