Thursday, October 17, 2013

These Kids Have It So Easy!

Back in my day, we didn’t have oxygen to breath.  Everyone had to smash themselves with two rocks to keep their hearts pumping.  That was when we weren’t working in the salt mines to get enough gruel for our daily meal.  It was hard, but that’s the way we liked it.  Not like today's kids, with their atmosphere and their photosynthesis!
Neener, neener, neener!


Every few years it seems another blogger or journalist makes the stunning observation that “kids these days are coddled”.  It's barely observable behavior, with no scientific or research basis, codified more from distorted memory of the “good ole days” than anything else.

Let's look at my favorite “observed” pet peeve from this article by the insightful Whitney Collins who claims: We Can Warm a Bench.  This is the suggestion that today’s kids are coddled and soft because of how parents and organizations treat their participation.  Gen Xers who believe they didn't receive participation awards should talk to their parents. You may not remember them because, well, they're unmemorable.  And that’s the point.  But we got them. Also ask your parents about their own participation awards.

They aren't new.

They also don't turn you into a blubbering, whiny, cry-baby.  You were already a whiny, cry-baby because that’s the only argument you had until your brain rewired itself during your teen years and you grasped logic, reason and negotiation over the more basic instincts.  I have a participation award that I actually treasure among the trophies I've won: my Tough Mudder orange headband. You can't buy these, and Mudders who’ve won them don't typically sell them.  But it's a flat out participation award.
Hey wait, I'm 40.  Where's my basement and free rent?

So this whole argument about “today’s generation” is a self-congratulatory pat on the back to being born at a certain time period, looking only at stereotypes of the next generations from an Us versus Them perspective.

In short, it's horse manure.

It’s about pawning off lazy and biased writing as substantive.  It’s about making unsupported claims and stating them as fact.  These articles paints a very rosy and completely false picture of one generation at the expense of another through equally false observations.  Each point makes broad, sweeping claims that suffer and die from the fallacy of generalization. Gen Xers, like every other generation, had vastly different experiences based more on socio-economic and geographic factors than they did being born at roughly the same time.  At best we could all nod and sing along to “The Smurfs” theme song, or provide forced laughter when someone yells, “Where’s the beef!”

Catch-phrases and trivial pop culture references do not make us a superior generation.

Quit yer whining.  Don't you have a participation trophy to polish?
There is no such thing as a “sweet spot” for children to grow up in, and ours is no different.  The complaints these articles level about Millennials being self-entitled and coddled are the same observations made by every generation all the way back to Neanderthals complaining that Homo Erectus had it so easy because they could make fire.

"Back in my generation the cave was COLD and that made you TOUGH. This FIRE technology, so called, is the downfall of SOCIETY!"

Horse manure.

I have had the distinct honor and privilege of working with high school students for the past six years.  While certainly some can fall into any given stereotype, others are the pinnacle of their generation.  With access to the internet and ebooks, Skype and 24-7 news, they are some of the best informed, best read and most rationale individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  They see an ever-shrinking world, in which the politics of one nation can have vast, sweeping and extremely detrimental effects on others.  They’ve lived through 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession.  By comparison to other generations, theirs has had the least stability, the most insecurity, and felt the greatest burden of risk.

I know you are, but what are we?
Sure, they may whine about a lack of jobs, opportunity, or the unfairness of being young.  But that’s not indicative of their generation.  All generations have done and will continue to do that.

This kind of pandering is one generation being self-congratulatory, while demeaning another. Complaining about the current generation's failings isn't bold or praiseworthy. It's cliché, as the New York Times kindly pointed out all the way back in 2011 about our own generation (and all the others):

Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the twentysomethings were indulged with every toy, game and electronic device available. They didn’t even have to learn how to amuse themselves since Mom and Dad were always there to ferry them from one organized activity to another. If we baby boomers were spoiled, the Whiny Generation was left out to rot. They had it all.

That’s right.  We Gen Xers, who are so awesome and well developed now, were once dubbed the Whiny Generation.  At least articles that complain about Millennials help us live up to that dubious moniker.

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