Thursday, September 29, 2011

What's the Matter with Kids Today?

One of the many songs that runs through my brain on a regular basis starts out this way: “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” It goes on to complain about the strange way the younger generation talks, the weird things that interest them. The plea of the song is summed up like this: “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?” Sound familiar? Do you hear folks expressing this thought quite often these days? Remember- this song was written in 1960 for the Broadway musical Bye, Bye Birdie.
Looking back, my own generation was certainly not perfect. In the late sixties and early seventies, our parents stressed over the music we listened to. Far worse than that was the drug culture that permeated everything. In fact, given all the dangerous things we did as teenagers, we were very fortunate to have lived long enough to be grandparents.
So, are kids really any worse than we were? No, just different. And who exactly are we referring to here? As my own offspring grow up, the top age limit is creeping into the mid-thirties now.
Social networking is their cup of tea, and they use it to full advantage. One of my friends on Facebook is not even human, it’s a Van. With some human assistance from a young visionary and many like-minded folks, the Van delivers necessities like shoes, socks and toiletries to the homeless population of Central Arkansas. Now, the Van even pulls a converted trailer which houses a portable shower. In my daily walk from my car to my high-rise office, the people I encounter are starting to look cleaner and happier.
This generation also loves to mobilize and act quickly. When one of them has a problem, they create prayer pages and fund-raising pages that get hundreds of hits each day. Community events like car washes, pancake fundraisers, mass races and “walks” kick into high gear. One local police officer, who we met before he became an Eagle Scout, recently went on television to have his head shaved in support of a fellow officer’s young child who has cancer.
The baby boomers were raised in front of the TV set. Our children substituted video games for television programs. We worried, thinking that the games were robbing our children of the ability to think for themselves. Quite to the contrary.
At the University of Washington, a competition called “Foldit” enticed avid gamers to help in finding a cure for HIV (AIDS). Participants worked to create a virtual model of an enzyme that the scientists had been unable to build. To quote one of the originators of the game “We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods have failed.” When the gamers quickly solved the puzzle, this same official said “The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force.”
As these gamers become the workers and executives of top companies, we find that their skills are being incorporated into their jobs. Smart companies take advantage of their imagination and creativity to find new solutions for old problems. By making tough issues into competitions, these “kids” are making amazing strides.
Of course, not all of the members of this generation are so altruistic and caring. No more than our own generation is perfect. But, in the hands of Generation X and Generation Y, I think we can feel safe. All in all, they’re pretty good kids. Are we surprised? Not really. After all- look at who raised them.

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