Our young people are fantastic
February 15, 2014
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."
This may have been said by Socrates, who lived 2,400 years ago, or maybe not, but similar words have been said about the younger generation over and over.
Most recently, an Other Voices column in the Feb. 8 edition of The Union displayed a similar sentiment, saying that today's children are out of control and that the situation could be changed if teachers and parents would spank and hit the kids with sticks more often. I strongly disagree.
The current generation, those under 25 years old, will turn out to be the next "greatest generation" (this in no way diminishes the contributions of the Other Voices writer's generation any more than Hank Aaron's baseball feats diminish Babe Ruth's). Perhaps the Other Voices writer has personal knowledge of a few youth and families that match his complaints, but I urge all to view a wider picture.
Attend a NEO event with a few hundred kids. The music is too loud and some of them dress in ways that may seem odd, but watch how they interact with each other — and with you — if you speak to them. Visit the after-school Hangout. Consider how students at Nevada Union have elected a homecoming king and queen for reasons other than being a top student or athlete. Look at what they do for senior projects and personal campaigns to reduce hunger and poverty around the world. Outside of Nevada County, sports teams have allowed opposing players who have little chance to be regular stars to be stars for a moment.
Current youth will surpass all other generations precisely because many parents, and others, have learned that there are better ways to discipline their children than by hitting and yelling. The Friendship Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters use these ways with exceptional success — with absolutely no spanking by mentors. Nonviolent discipline is completely supported by research. (See this story online for a summary of study of 7,000 U.S. families, 32 countries; and a study of 967 middle school youth on yelling from University of Pittsburgh).
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Will this generation be perfect? Of course not. Most people agree that human behavior is one of the most complex phenomenon that exists, but anyone can become a developer of behavior in a child without knowledge of how or training.
It's difficult for parents and others to put aside what they learned from their parents when they were 10 or from their limited experience as parents of a few children, but the more we learn about what children need and how to give it to them, and the more people accept new knowledge, the better each generation will be.
Ned Russell lives in Grass Valley and volunteers for Got40?