By Josh Beavers
To our more seasoned readers. Tell me if the following statement hits the nail on the head.
“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.”
If that’s how you feel about young folk, you’re not alone. You’re not even original. The quote above came from Socrates, and he said it 2,400 years ago.
Older generations have always had negative views of those who come after.
I read an article in a Life magazine from the 1930s. The writer called the youth of the day “lazy” and “shiftless” and opined they would spell the doom of the Great American Experiment. Those lazy and shiftless kids went on to be dubbed as the Greatest Generation.
Another great fella once said: “I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!”
So why does the same refrain echo throughout eternity? For one, our brains change as we age. With more years, our ability to distinguish chords of music diminishes. It’s why all new music sounds “like noise” to older people.
Lack of exposure also plays a part. I don’t know when I went from the person who fixed the tech issues at home and work, but now I’m nothing more than a “turn it on, turn it off” guy and then send an email if that doesn’t work. I let my skill diminish. I failed to continue learning. It’s now difficult and irritates me. I’ve become the one who needs the help.
The world changes. That’s as true as you shouldn’t lend money to friends, and you shouldn’t ask a man why he’s digging a hole. Don’t build a structure with a flat roof either. Just asking for trouble.
Young people don’t necessarily know more than older people. They just know more about a modern world that is run by computers where fame and fortunes are made over an Ethernet connection or Wi-Fi signal. There was similar sentiment at the invention of the railroad, the car, the washing machine, the dishwasher, the airplane, emails, text messages. The inventors of those were hard workers. They were entrepreneurs. They were young. You see young people work just as hard as older people. They just do it differently. Kids learn differently now. Their brains are wired in a way that is foreign to those of us who knew a world before the internet. It’s why I can’t teach the way I was taught. Attention spans are toast nowadays. I had to change as well.
Values change. Political beliefs change. Society changes. It happened from my grandfather’s world to my fathers. It happened from my fathers to mine. And it’ll happen from mine to my daughters.
Facebook memes tell us “these kids today” are the problem with the world, but the same story persists throughout time.
In reality, probably one of the biggest problems America has is that when you get old, a lot of us simply forget what it’s like to be young.
Maybe it’s because I’m around them all day every day, but I feel protective of and defensive for younger generations. They help keep me young. They remind me of what it’s like to be a kid. I’ve seen good ones who will go on to do great things. And I’ve seen ones who I know will amount to very little when the real world comes calling. In other words, they are just like all the rest of us. Like every generation to ever exist all the way back to Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel.
So, I’m not one of those who believes we’d never survive a war with millennials calling the shots and Gen Zers filling the ranks. Because the wars that will come to America in the future likely won’t be waged with bullets. They’ll be waged with keyboards and Wi-Fi connections.
Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been recognized five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.