Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.
-Some old person
Actually, I’ve noticed an increase in less-than-flattering chatter about young adults making the rounds. For example, a recently published study claims that today’s teens expect to work less and have more than previous generations. I’m also sure you heard about the egoism exhibited by a certain famous millennial during a visit to Anne Frank’s House. And apparently, vocalists – more specifically young, reality television competitors – can’t even sing songs properly anymore. And then came the mother of all indictments from Time magazine – “The Me Me Me Generation“. Well, you know what? To all the haters, I’m calling HOGWASH!
Here’s the thing about most of the people I encounter who speak disparagingly about “those millennials”, they have almost zero interactions with young adults on a regular basis! There is no way an entire generation can be summarized by the actions of one person, one study, one reality television competition, or one article. In fact, many of the criticisms of young people I’ve been hearing lately, sound eerily familiar. It wasn’t too long ago that my generation was characterized as being a bunch of ambition-less slackers. We were even assigned an anthem.
And, as it turns out, we didn’t turn out to be the losers everyone predicted we would be. But I digress. The disapproval of young adults isn’t new, it is universal and spans time. (Please see the quote above which is most often attributed to Socrates.) So, as someone who has the good fortune to work with teens, here is my response:
- Sure, maybe some teenagers are materialistic, but probably no more so than any previous generation or any current other age group. In fact, according to the very same study, materialism actually peaked when my generation were teenagers! And the bit about teens having no work ethic, the teens I know work hard. Here is an example- despite making up only 11% of the population of Pittsburgh, teens were responsible for contributing almost 50% of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s volunteer hours in 2010!
- There is no denying that what the Biebs wrote was ludicrously insensitive. But there is not one adult on the planet that can claim to have never said or done anything embarrassingly stupid and self-absorbed in their youth. Teens haven’t changed, technology has. The humiliations (I’m using plural because there were MANY) of my youth could not be documented the way they are now, where mistakes are recorded permanently and can spread as fast as a wildfire.
- And lastly, the criticism of vocalists featured on reality television… Well, I guess I agree with that one. But that is the whole point of teen culture and style – whether it is singing or fashion- is not supposed to appeal to
old peopleadults like me. It is actually meant to repel us. Just ask the hippies, punks, goths, and ravers who have come before.
And so concludes my manifesto. To the teens of Pittsburgh, try not take the criticisms of adults too much to heart. In fact, knowing yinz has made me MORE hopeful for the future – a time when you, as adults, will most assuredly look down at the next generation! In the meantime, enjoy some films featuring the rebellious youth of yesteryear:
Filed under: Teen Interest