Kids these days…

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Kids these days…

  1. mofulco

    I think this idea of treating kids and their actions as “alien activity” is a thing this society, and especially teachers, should be aware and careful of. I think there is a lot to learn about kids and their actions these days, good or bad. I think understanding how kids act “these days” is vital if a teacher is looking to not only further understand their students, but to have a way to reach out to them and connect with them. Life lessons are perhaps just as important as anything a book could ever teach them, and as teachers, I think we should understand that, and use it as a positive thing.

    • Jorge- your voice is extremely prevalent here in a positive way. When you stated, “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.” I was imagining your voice being dramatic and your hand gestures exaggerated. Great job! =)

      On the other hand, you addressed an important topic that should not be overseen; to learn is to do. In order to learn, children must make mistakes. It is a process and an important one that can not be taught in a book. In order to educate our youth, we must keep on top of what is current and what is seen as an “alien activity.” What society tells children to do and what the children are actually doing are two completely different things. As educators we need to keep this in mind.

  2. CHAUCER

    Jorge, I definitely enjoyed reading this humorous post but I have to disagree with you. I think technology has seriously diminished the attention span of our society in general. Although “narratively deprived” is quite an elaborate phrase for describing this, I do think the constant access to information and continual stimulation and distraction of phones, computers and the television hinders our ability to learn. As a society we just aren’t used to to staying that focused anymore. 

    That’s why I think there is a great need for a shift away from tradition pen-and-paper instruction and a movement towards developing a curriculum that actually utilizes the power of learning. If this is the new, digitally literate society we are becoming, then it would be foolish to try to teach our kids to live any other way. 

    And while our “narratives” may not be as complex as those of the past, the daily discourse in twenty-first century America is diverse and multifaceted enough to make  this a small consideration. – Mary Beth

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