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Friday, July 26, 2013

Kids these days



Editorial, Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice


Kids these days.  Heavy sigh.  Texting on their cell phones has made them illiterate and anti-social.  They have no work ethic.  Their music sucks.  Their fashions suck.   They have no respect for authority or their elders.  All they do is play video games, take drugs, hang out on Facebook.

Compared to my generation they're poorly educated and less intelligent.  Fear the future they hold in their uncalloused hands.


I hear the above opinions and more in casual conversations on a daily basis.  I've read them in editorials written by people who have obviously not made a significant effort to know and understand their subject matter.  I see it reflected as cliched truth all the time in sitcoms and movies aimed at us older folks.

It's a pack of lies.

Stop vilifying our children for refusing to be slaves to a past that never really existed.
"The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress." - Peter the Hermit, 13th Century AD (source: http://answers.yahoo.com)

What makes me an authority on the subject?  Not much, except I can still clearly remember being one of the "kids these days" when I was a kid.  I remember hating the broad unfair brush strokes my generation was painted with.  I've also covered events involving kids in Pincher Creek on an almost daily basis for about three years now.  Oh, and I helped raise one and did my best to listen and pay attention.

Communication

Older folks that complain about texting and the modified language that is employed entirely miss the point.  First of all, every generation comes up with catch phrases, styles of speech, and modifications to the way language is used to suit itself and also to distinguish itself from generations before it.  My generation did it, your generation did it, so did your parents' generation and your grandparents' generation.

As a child, I remember being glad that my social group had words, phrases, and stylizations that distinguished us from our parents.  I was even glad sometimes that my parents couldn't quite understand us.  If you didn't you probably had a very dull childhood that I wouldn't want to foist on the new younger generations.

Here's an example of English as it was written and spoken about 1000 years ago:

     Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum
     Si þin nama gehalgod to becume þin rice
     gewurþe ðin willa
    on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
    urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg
    and forgyf us ure gyltas
    swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
    and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
    ac alys us of yfele soþlice
          ~ Source: www.angelfire.com/la2/timeline/OEnglish.html

Do you talk like that?  Did you even recognize it as The Lord's Prayer?

Here's a  selection from a book of Middle English writings edited by J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon of 'Gawain and the Green Night':

     þis kyng lay at Camylot vpon Krystmasse
     With mony luflych lorde, ledez of þe best,
     Rekenly of þe Rounde Table alle þo rich breþer,
     With rych reuel ory3t and rechles merþes.
     þer tournayed tulkes by tymez ful mony,
     Justed ful jolilé þise gentyle kni3tes,
     Syþen kayred to þe court caroles to make.
          ~ Source: www.public.asu.edu/~gelderen/hel/gawain.html

Did you catch all that?  Maybe the 1963 Disney version of the Arthur legend is more to your personal taste?  Is it improper English?  Is the language you now speak, which derives from it, somehow more proper?

Languages are either living or dead.  Latin became a standard because it is a dead language, technically.  It provides an unchanging method of classification for scholars and scientists.  English is a living language.  It grows and changes with use and from necessity.

Texting serves several functions for young people, indeed for anyone who is brave enough to try something 'new'.  New being relative, because texting has been in common use for about 20 years now.  It's cheaper than talking on the phone.  It's quicker than typing out every single letter of a conversation.  It's just as effective.

Language distilled to the most basic usage is a phonetic thing.  When we talk we make sounds that "more or less synch up with our mouths" (Laurie Anderson).  The person or persons listening hopefully do their best to understand those phonetic sounds so that they can respond in an appropriate manner.  Frequently that process leads to understandings between us.

Texting does exactly that, only without sound.

An interesting factoid:  Shakespeare almost never spelled his name thus.  That common usage was decided on by scholars long after his death.  Shakesper himself used at least 6 different spellings for his own name.  Not much of a writer I suppose.  Illiterate by the standards many seek to pin to "kids today".  In Shakespeare's day language was written to represent the phonetic sound of the words, leading to much variation.  ~ see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelling_of_Shakespeare's_name

Communication is one of the most fundamental things that binds and divides our human cultures.   New ways of communicating that are effective for those involved in the conversation should be lauded, not shunned.

Our whole language is slang, bowdlerized bits of other languages and previous usages.  Yes, even the English of your specific childhood, lived in your specific geographic location(s).

When you see kids sitting around texting you can either throw your hands up in despair because you never had that option and it scares you, or you can realise that right there in front of your eyes is undeniable evidence that kids are very interested in communicating.  If they're not communicating with you, perhaps there's a reason for that which goes beyond the methodology involved.

Education/Knowledge/Intelligence

There's this thing called The Internet.  It contains all of the wisdoms and stupidities humankind has been able to assimilate and save, going back far beyond our written histories. It's a magical storehouse of knowledge, a stupendous encyclopedia accessible to almost everyone on the planet.

It contains all that is good about us.  It contains all that is evil about us.  It contains all that is banal about us.  It is us.

Kids these days grew up with it.  The answer to any answerable question a few keystrokes away.  Plenty of theories and speculation about the so-far unanswered questions.

It used to be okay to be illiterate.  Large percentages of my generation and the generations that proceeded it were functionally illiterate for the entirety of their lives.  It was relatively easy to get away with being illiterate in the old days.

Now all of a sudden to belong means participating in the biggest discussion humankind has ever had with itself.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Comment sections.  RPG forums.   Those that participate in those and other such places of thought are expected to be able to communicate clearly enough to matter in an ever growing stream of information their potential "listeners" are swimming in.

I'm not going to confuse communicating with perfect spelling or grammar.  However, if you don't know your their from your they're or your your from your you're you're going to get called on it.  A learning opportunity.  Daily.  Clarity is a good thing when it comes to communicating.  The internet encourages and even demands it.

I'm certain kids read more now that the internet is such a prevalent part of day to day living.  It's a much more mentally active recreation than television, the soporific of my childhood.  The internet, but its very nature, encourages thinking, participating, learning.

The definition of literacy has never been agreed upon by scholars, and in this age of rapid change is unlikely to be better defined anytime soon.  That makes it very difficult to provide scientifically reliable statistics.  Some stats suggest "High Literacy" is declining in Canada, which seems likely since books have been significantly replaced by other forms of entertainment.  I suggest that "Middle Literacy" is on the increase, as evidenced by a marked increase in using written language as a form of communication in the internet age.

Everything has fallen to pieces,
Earth is dying help me Jesus
We need guidance, we've been misled,
young and hostile, but not stupid.

Corporate leaders, politicians,
kids can't vote, adults elect them
Laws that rule the school and workplace,
signs that caution " sixteen's unsafe"
~ Anthem II, Blink 182


Social Involvement

Kids these days enjoy all the same social opportunities I did when I was a kid, with the addition of many more layers of opportunity to be engaged in the world's culture.  No longer constrained to conversing with people who live in the same geographic region, there are social discussions blossoming on the internet that transcend geography, specific cultures, gender, age, religion, and all the other things that have split humanity into small groups over the centuries.  There are dangers of course, but when has there even been risk-free social congress?

Sick and forced to stay at home?  Your friends are a blur of the thumbs away.  Nobody in your school shares your hobby or fascination?  There's a million people out there who do.  Want to organize a quick game of pick-up ball?  A team of like minded individuals is only a Facebook post away.  If you're lonely these days, it's because you want to be lonely or because you aren't trying hard enough.  Social events, protests, games both online and virtual, it's all just a click away, and every day I see people making the most of that, kids and otherwise. Humankind has never been this social before. The barriers are falling away, quickly.

Work ethic

It's really time to drop the whole "kids don't want to work these days"  bs.   Some people work hard, some people don't.  Some people work smart, some people don't.  Same as it ever was. I personally know a lot of hard working young people, my son included.  When I entered the workforce, back in the early 1980's, some of my peers worked hard at their first jobs in the adult world.  Some didn't.  Older pundits of that time, often while sitting on their butts somewhere watching the world go by or while assigning the hard jobs to the younger backs, muttered about how my generation had no work ethic.

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint" -Hesiod, 8th century BC (source: http://answers.yahoo.com)

Hey kids

Ignore the antiquated mutterers.  They've been with us for at least as long as we've recorded thought.  They're bitter and angry because they got old.  What was cool then isn't cool now.  Etc.  Same as it ever was.  Take it from me, old and creaky as I am, getting old has some drawbacks.  Being young is a gift with a limited shelf life.

Hey old folks like me

Remember that it's a much more complicated and dangerous world that the one we grew up in, generally speaking.  Show a little more kindness and understanding of our young folks.  Remember the resentment you felt when your generation was called shiftless, lazy, stupid?  Same as it ever was.  Lend a hand instead of  an ill thought indignity.

What's really going on with kids in Pincher Creek?

Well, first of all let me admit I'm too old to really know.  I'm okay with that.

What I do know is what I see, every single day that I actively spend in this community, which is about 340 days a year.  I see kids in 4-H, working hard as they learn to be the food producers of tomorrow.   I see kids playing hockey, football, soccer, baseball, basketball, rugby, badminton, track...  showing up for practice, traveling all over the place from game to game, putting in a major effort every day.  I talk to kids that are deeply intent on understanding the world around them, determined to help change it for the better.  I see them clearing away the garbage and weeds along our creek.  I see kids with very little opportunity seizing the ones that come their way and making the most of them.  They serve me lunch at the take-out window.  They help me with my groceries.  They put in long hours on the farm, or at the shop.  They volunteer.  A group of them cleaned my van today for a very reasonable fee.  I recently saw a kid I mostly knew as a rough-house hockey player transform into a brilliant thespian for the entertainment of much younger kids.  I see eyes light up at opportunity.  I see those eyes dim when they're assaulted (I chose that word on purpose) by the harsh words of unthinking oldsters.  I see them support each other.  I see them focus passion and determination into the pursuit of music, rodeo, art, poetry, photography, journalism, politics and a thousand other things.  If you don't believe me, take some time to look through the past two years of relevant stories right here on this website.

Kids today deserve our respect.  Most of them earn it every single day in a multitude of ways.  Show them that respect and I firmly believe you'll get more of it in return than you will by mindlessly dissing them.

Don't criticize what you can't understand.

Warning:  the songs below were written by young people for young people, and may include ideas and language offensive to some. Proceed with caution.









3 comments:

  1. Excellent story Chris - your bang on!
    Kim Buckingham

    ReplyDelete
  2. how 2 say in 140 characters “u made a breakthru 2 the othr side of the invsibl comunicatin bear e ur http://youtu.be/CbiPDSxFgd8 the doors

    ReplyDelete
  3. Too true!! Good job Chris

    ReplyDelete

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