Kurt Vonnegut once quipped that “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country”, a sentiment I have long held to be apropos, but has seemingly become that much more frighteningly appropriate with each passing generation.
Of course each generation compares and contrasts their own with the one following behind it; as the world changes, so too does the scope of youth. Nonetheless, post 9/11 children, teenagers, and young adults, are a particularly unsettling result of Kardashian-esque reality, helicopter parenting, pandering social media, the possibility of a moronic caricature of an American president and an education system that does little more than push them out the door. We have effectively raised not one, but several nations of six year-olds.
The future is alarming at best, but far worse when you consider that those left to clean up the mess all have crippling anxiety – a blanket term I have begun to loathe nearly as much as ‘fill-in-the-blank’ food allergies. Now understand that I am not claiming that anxiety does not exist, as I am well aware that it can manifest in truly dreadful forms. Nonetheless, you can’t deny the spread of this generally banal malady along with its close relative, displaced entitlement.
The symptom(s), however, are not the cause, we are. We have failed as a society because we have failed as parents and we have failed as educators. How long will it be before we hear of a parent challenging their child’s employer because that child has been passed over for a promotion? It may sound ridiculous, but that same behaviour is already seen in elementary and secondary schools the nation over. Parents have necessitated the expectation that their child will be treated as exceptional, but not through merit, simply because they exist. And the education system bends to these whims, perpetuating the continued loss of accountability. We have coddled out any sense of capability and are surprised by their inability to thrive.
You may be thinking “I agree, kids today… but not my kid”, and while that may be true, I’m doubtful you can see your child without those rose coloured glasses you put on when they were born. Yes, it is natural for parents to want to protect and defend their offspring, but not at the sacrifice of their adulthood. However, somewhere along the line, parents were replaced with friends and the education system became a glorified (and underpaid) babysitter. But to what end?
Terrorism is a threat. Trump is a 50/50 threat. Global warming is a definite threat. Billy didn’t get invited to Jimmy’s birthday is not a threat. In our efforts to be tolerant, we have become intolerant to triviality – the ‘everyone-gets-a-ribbon-because-they-exist’ mentality needs to stop. Or instead of raising a generation with the confidence to overcome, we will end up giving the kingdom’s keys to a generation too fearful to even look out the window.