On the topic of the Kids These Days

August 14, 2016
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The topic of the youth of today has been a topic throughout all of history. With a new generation comes new ideas and new ways of acting that tend to be quite alien to older generations leading to many talking about how “kids these days…”. Now to some degree this is an understandable reaction. Time can sometimes very easily leave people in the dust, especially since cultural trends move much more quickly in this day and age than it did previously due to superior forms of communication. Sometimes it can be a joke. Sometimes it can be born from a place of wanting to put perspective into lives. And sometimes it’s just the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia and simple misunderstanding of the contributing factors. The article I am here to discuss, entitled “Kids These Days” and penned by Resa W., is of the latter category. I’m unaware of the age of the writer, but it is entirely clear this is not an opinion the author thought out at all. It’s full of fallacies and foolishness that I’ll dive into presently.

Firstly, this is a very short article. At only three lean paragraphs, there isn’t much meat on its bones. And just as the spirit of January, the meat that is there is rotten.
The author already starts off on a bad foot by in the very first sentence instilling hostility into the discussion, stating that ignorance and disrespect are the main problems in schools. This is something that I can get behind. There is quite a lot of ignorance and disrespect that cause plenty of problems in schools, and those are equal parts the blame of the students and the administrations. The disrespect of school administrations towards their students is astounding, even when the metaphorical deck is stacked in your favor the administration’s disrespect is shocking. Dealing with children and teenagers one obviously has to assume some level of immaturity and inexperience, but the level at which most of those working in schools believe their charges to be is that of a ten year old many times. Regardless of age, when speaking to a human being you should speak to them as just what they are. If you instill the idea that someone you are talking to is inferior as a person of course they will be hostile and disrespectful. Inherently by instilling that idea you’re stripping them of their humanity. There are few who wouldn’t think less of that body for those actions. Now that isn’t to say disrespect from students isn’t a problem. No doubt we’ve all met the sorts of .people who cause problems for the sake of it. Sometimes they have underlying unresolved problems, sometimes they are just people of poor character, and sometimes it isn’t entirely their fault. Circumstances outside of the building have more effect than many give credit, and if said circumstances are poor the effect can be quite drastic. In many cases circumstances inside the building are to blame as well, be it their peers or teachers or administrators. No one is free of blame. However, none of this is said in the article. None of this is even broached. This idea is barely discussed. Remove the previous three sentences and the first three from this paragraph, and the text I have written on one sentence near doubles that which the original author wrote in their entire article. Complex issues like the state of schools and the inherent flaws with dynamics between student and teacher should not be handled in a sentence. If you want to write about important topics, put in the work and write about them.
The rest of the paragraph, a measly three sentences and short ones at that, discuss the idea that American, presumably of the United States, children are spoiled and don’t care about the world. Rather, they care only about themselves and their immediate surrounds and don’t know or care that sixty four children die in Africa every minute.
Where to start. Firstly, the United States is a rich nation. Our currency, even with the many hits it has taken over the years, is still very strong. That will inherently breed more of an expectation for certain luxuries that seem absurd in other parts of the world. That is the nature of a richer nation. A richer nation will generally result in a richer people, and a richer people will result in high expectations for living conditions and luxury items. Expecting a middle class family in New York to have the same expectations as, to bring up the location the Author did, a family in a similar niche socially and economically in the Congo, one of if not the poorest country in the world, is absurd. There is something to be said, however, for what can happen in these environments, the stated spoiling of populations. When people take certain things for granted, they tend to stop appreciating them. This goes for any group of people, and no doubt goes for the author themselves who, by no fault of their own, most likely takes housing, food, clothing, and internet at the very least for granted. That isn’t an inherently bad thing. Taking housing, food, and clothing for granted is like taking air for granted. It’s something every human being should have and needs for modern survival anywhere. Electronics, internet, and cellphone service are all things that are seen as necessary for modern survival in more developed nations such as most European nations and the United States. They are spectacularly useful tools for all sorts of things, and taking tools for granted is what the human race has been doing since we hit things with rocks. However, this can breed into something bad when combined with poor maturation. It can breed complacency with what you have and desensitization toward new developments. That is a dangerous thing indeed, and can be very unfortunate and lead to unfortunate people if not nipped in the bud. Overall, again, there are many factors to take into consideration and discuss, and yet again the author discusses none of them.
Now about the final sentence. The final sentence is plain and simply correct. Nobody knows that sixty four children die in Africa every minute, and frankly they don’t care. Because sixty four children don’t die every minute in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, approximately six point three million children, that being persons under the age of five, died in Africa in twenty thirteen. That comes out to approximately twelve children per minute, which is of course far less impressive than sixty four. If you are going to cheaply drag dead children into your argument for the sake of tugging at the heart strings, at least have the damn respect to get the statistics right.
By the correct statistics, in the time I’ve taken to write that, too many children have died. Not in the hundreds, but still too many. Twelve every sixty seconds. That means approximately a child dies every five seconds. Take that in a moment. There are many who don’t care, and that is saddening, but is it really their fault? Few can do anything about the situation and all have their own lives to worry about. The idea that every five seconds or so by statistics a child dies is soul crushing. People don’t like thinking about topics like that. They’re uncomfortable, they’re said, and they make people feel helpless. Nobody likes to talk about topics of that type. On top of that, much of our media over the years has desensitised the population to the idea of death, even of children. Brutal as it is, it’s the nature of things. If you told someone in feudal Europe that statistic, they wouldn’t have batted an eye. In ages with unending violence, whether real or otherwise, it stops being special. If you watch a hundred movies with people being shot to death brutally in close quarters, it loses its luster. If you hear a hundred news reports of African children starving to death, that too loses interest. Desensitisation is a huge factor in understanding people’s reactions to extreme circumstances and when faced with statistics such as an African child under five dies approximately every five seconds. They matter less because we’ve been there, done that. It’s a fascinating topic that can be discussed in depth and at length and I’ve barely talked about it at all here. The author allows it a sentence and a short paragraph. I believe that’s enough said right there.

Moving on to the second paragraph, it discusses the same topic as before, that of desensitisation to a topic, in this case being displayed by someone’s reaction to a request for donations to help a boy with leukemia that was according to the author “I don’t care - let him die.”. Now this is horribly. It’s not only a horrible thing to say, it’s a horrible sentiment and the kind of person who would say that rather than let it rest in their brain as a thought is a horrible person. A horrible person does not dictate the lot. Some mass shooters being white does not mean all whites are mass shooters, just as some Chinese people being good at math doesn’t mean all chinese people are good at math. Stereotypes, regardless of who they are applied to, if applied in real life, can be harmful. Stereotypes many times hold us back as a society, with many steeped in bigoted opinions not fit for the modern age due to their age. They create expectations for an entire group of people based on one aspect of their existence, something that is inherently going to be inaccurate and harmful if they catch on. Applying the same stereotype to the youth of today because one kid said something stupid that he might not have even meant or understood the full extent of the the meaning is as absurd as saying because you got mugged by a black man, all black men are muggers. And again, there is a level of desensitisation to horrible events that has occurred in all societies around the world. Ours has gotten off fairly lightly, with our desensitisation coming from films and television and video games and literature. Other societies’ desensitisation comes from real atrocities witnessed by the young and old alike, tangible things witnessed by all. Yet we can’t underestimate the power of media. These things have changed the world, and this is just one way they do so. As younger and younger audiences are shown more and more of these extreme situations, the power of what it means slips away. Now, I’m not saying this means we don’t understand the meaning of them. Simply that it’s lessened. Climbing a mountain once is meaningful, but climb that same mountain a hundred times and the meaning fades.
Once again, a situation that is important and interesting to discuss at length and many assumptions with too little text to even begin the discussion.
To finish on this paragraph, the author gives the rather ironic opinion that this sort of reaction could be prevented if the youth read about other people’s experiences and situations that they may be oblivious to. Education on these topics is very important, and people taking many things for granted and ignoring the base realities of this world is a huge problem that won’t go away. It’s the nature of people, we don’t like to think about the horrible if it doesn’t affect us. Reading, however, is probably the weakest way to educate people about this topic. Speaking to people in those situations and hearing about their experience from them in person adds a human connection and makes those things real. Speaking to someone who lives in fear for their life is different from reading about the same thing. However, many ignore this factor. Many would rather that to understand a topic you simply read more about it. This is foolish. It underestimates other forms of media and underestimates just how much we already do read about these things. Having a person you can put to that problem is far more powerful than any string of words on the same topic could be. And yet, again, there’s barely enough here for a discussion. This closing sentence reeks of a stagnant perception of the world the author themself holds, and is a testament to the ignorance of the phrase kids these days.

The third paragraph is about respect, and the lack of it with the youth according to the author. My counterargument would be that there isn’t a greater lack of respect. There’s just easier ways to see it. The communication channels I mentioned earlier allow for a much easier route for people to voice their disrespect for various groups, whether deserved or otherwise. The idea that children and teens are less respectful now than ever is highly unlikely.  And to the topic that many believe they are smarter than their teachers, that is at least in part because of the lack of respect to the students themselves. Respect is a two way street and must be earned and reciprocated. However, this is a vicious cycle. A teacher, disrespected by all their students, can become bitter and have that disrespect bleed into their own behavior towards the youth, and then bleed into the administration and become a deeper rooted problem. The next sentence brings in another possible cause, poor parenting, and brings the idea of outside circumstances into the mix. Again, a very important topic that influences this entire discussion hugely. Circumstances inside and outside of the school system shape us and if those circumstances are poor we are unlikely to be good people. However, generalizations are the only true way to make sure your point is unheard by the other side besides not speaking at all. This is a very diverse discussion that has far more complexity than many on all sides give it credit and it needs to be discussed thoroughly and with the respect for all involved it deserves. Mad people and disrespectful people have been on this planet since there have been people on this planet, we only notice them now that we have the means to share their madness and disrespect with all and with ease. Now the Emperor’s lack of clothes isn’t known by a city, or a country, but the world the moment after he walks out naked.

There is no one solution to this problem, if it even is a problem. We hardly know if it is or it isn’t because of people like this author. People who refuse to allow another point of view into the discussion, who simply can’t think about anything beyond what they see on the surface of things. Who can’t even give the smallest and heaviest coffins the respect they deserve. Who can’t consider perspective, comparative situations, or anything besides what they see. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but those thousand words are a fraction of the whole story, just as a cursory examination and discussion of the topic of the kids these days is a tiny fraction of what there is to examine and discuss. It’s important to take into account the backgrounds of everyone involved, to acknowledge that among all groups there are bad apples, to understand that sometimes people are just having a bad day. To have the self awareness to understand that you have become the thing you fight so bitterly against.
This isn’t an article. This isn’t an essay. I would hardly describe this as writing at all. Writing requires using your head. Writing requires thought. Slamming out three slapdash paragraphs that barely count as paragraphs that lack even the slightest fore or after thought isn’t writing. It’s a disgrace. It’s a disservice to people who share similar views who speak intelligently with valuable points and rationality who don’t lie about dead children for a tear jerker. The opinions within are misguided, unfounded, and toxic without any positives that I can see. There are topics for great discussion and interesting debate here, but there’s no meat on those bones. Shoddy writing, completeness that would be laughed out of anywhere, a lack of discussion of rather weighty topics and just the overall foolishness of the piece drag down what could be an interesting and intelligent discussion.
A pile of bones and skin isn’t a person, just as a measly three paragraphs that barely meet the requirements isn’t an article. Something of this quality is an embarrassment even disregarding incorrect statistics and the ludicrous lack of self awareness. Twelve a minute. Not sixty four.

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GG_LeBodeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 18, 2016 at 8:36 pm
"If you are going to cheaply drag dead children into your argument for the sake of tugging at the heart strings, at least have the damn respect to get the statistics right." - DAYUM *takes several steps back* You seem passionate about the topic and should write an original article based on it. Also the entire second to last paragraph. You, sir, are a savage.
GG_LeBodeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 18, 2016 at 8:26 pm
Excellent argument and eloquently put. Notes for the future: heavy reliance on idioms, comma issues, and a lot of set up to the actual argument including first person.
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