Tuesday, October 25, 2011

O Ye of Little Faith...In Our Youth

Today’s youth has received a horrible reputation for being ‘rude, ‘wild’, and ‘irresponsible’ says a recent study of contemporary teens versus those born before 1999. Adults from 1989 were asked to compare today’s youth to their own peers and words such as selfish, materialistic and reckless were used quite frequently from the folks from Generation X. Pretty harsh if you ask me!

Each generation of teen youth receives a failing grade from the older generations before them as they tend to say the younger kids in today’s society have it easier compared to when the baby boomers were born.

I don’t think any teen, either today or from years ago, has dodged the saying “when I was your age…” and wished they could be anywhere else but that conversation. Just for kicks and giggles, lets’ take a stroll back in time to enjoy the previous era’s and what the teens of that time might hear shall we?

1920’s (Roaring 20’s)
Teens were called the ‘Lost Generation’ by their respective elders stating the younger folks were disillusioned and cynical. Adolescents and young adults could commonly be found listening to big band music and doing the Charleston in a Speakeasy club while prohibition was the hot topic of the day. Teen girls scandalously exposed their arms and legs with the new ‘flapper’ fashion and wore their hair cropped in a bob while wearing makeup. (Also considered extremely indecent for the time) The 19th amendment was passed and this created a new level of fairness for women who now had political equality. (Hallelujah)
Moving on…
Obviously the early 30’s moving into the mid 30’s devastated many lives with the great depression and the dust bowl. Families were shattered as was their way of life.  This is probably the only era before or since that received a break from the ‘one up’ stories. Everyone was in dire straits and appreciated the opportunity to be alive one more day. Yeah, it was that bad.
Swing music revolutionized the way people expressed themselves through dance, the ‘pin up girl’ became immortalized, pencil skirts and chunky platforms were donned by the young girls and finally with father off to war and mother working in the factory the term ‘Juvenile Delinquent’ was born to the unsupervised youth. Naughty boys and girls…wink, wink.

Thank the Lord for 1956 when integration began and all children, regardless of their color, were able to attend school together, equally. Teens rebelled against conservative Middle America and insisted on listening to the new music sensation of Elvis Presley’s Rock and Roll. 1950’s teens were labeled ‘Separate Generation’ led by the likes of James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause. Those crazy kids!
It’s said to be the ‘Age of Youth’ as 70 million children from post war baby boomers now were becoming teenagers. This was the era of revolutionary thinking, dressing, music, and politics. Crew cuts now rivaled long haired hippies and bouffant hairdos accompanied miniskirts with go-go boots. This was the era of sexual revolution expressed in a myriad of ways including literature, film, music and clothing.  Protests were extensive demanding equal rights for all and historical icons leading the movements were important in carving a path for future generations to come. Thank you rebellious ‘Age of Youth’.
Welcome to the fashion era that went dramatically wrong in so many ways! Two words: bellbottom pants! With the Vietnam War still going strong, this divided most Americans politically and teens were often against the war as most young men were forced to enlist against their wishes.  It seemed a time for an advanced maturity level as a majority of young adolescents became heavily involved in political movements. To the watchful eye of the surrounding adults, the youth were considered to be a “lost cause of deadbeat, political fanatics who were lazy and opposed the typical American way.” Wow, talk about critical!
Enter the Generation X teens who were labeled the ‘Me, Me, Me’ era of status seekers. Teens were said to be materialistic as fashion trends were closely regarded by the name on the label. Conservative adults had a field day regulating and censoring the youth by banning classic literature such as The Grapes of Wrath, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Catcher in the Rye. The teens of the 80’s were certainly looked down upon by their older predecessors and were undoubtedly considered to be selfish .
Generation Z or Net Generation (The techi teen) has found an era all for themselves to flourish in. The World Wide Web was born changing the lives for everyone young and old. Elders criticized their teen children for their technology driven obsessions and distance from the family.

And so this leads us into our current era where the age old question persists “How is this generation going to make an impact on society?” Easy…just as the youth of yesteryear had to grow up one day and put their big boy or big girl pants on, so will our current youth. Everyone will make mistakes, as everyone should…how else does one learn? Giving labels to our youth will not teach them a valuable lesson or inspire them to succeed; it will affect their level of respect for the elders who have earned that particular position. I believe each generation has a gift for the next and our society has definitely been rewarded thus far with many positive aspects as well as negative. But is this not true for any of the previous eras of teens and young adults? We are a species of curiosity, intelligence, and problem solving. I continue to have faith in our youth that they will provide not only a new way of life in our future but improvement as well.  

So I ask you to give our youth a break and have a little faith in the underdog. Instead of comparing their culture to those from the past and throwing out insults, try embracing some of their ways to form a common ground. No one likes to be called something uncomplimentary or worse recognizing the fact that current adult mentors have zero confidence in the performance capabilities of teen society. Remember, they will be waiting for a time when you are too old to care for yourself and will happily enroll you into the nearest rest home…savvy little teens!

1 comment:

  1. The problem is we add a little wisdom (and I emphasize the little) into the equation with each year and of course the younger generation seems rash compared to where we are now.
    In reality, I think we were all pretty much the same. I think every teenager wants the latest, whether its clothes or technology or a fast car.
    I did.
    The also have their own culture, how closely did you listen to the advice of your parents?
    It's part of the everything was better in my day syndrome. Twaddle in other words.
    Get with the real world and give the kids a break.