The Coddled Kids of Generation Me?
I've heard a lot about the youth of America today, and all signs are pointing to the Millennials' ignorance and complete dependence on others being signs of the downfall of America's future. Did you know they don't know how to write or mail physical letters!? That's probably fine, because none of them can read or write. Back in the day, penmanship was a huge subject taught in schools. Nowadays, these kids probably think that “cursive” means four letter words. And reading? Oh, forget it. When was the last time you ever saw a kid or teen crack open a book without being assigned it for English class? They avoid books as if they were allergic to paper, and no kid will even enter a library unless he or she had to use their bathroom. I bet none of them have even heard of the Dewey Decimal System. Sure, they could ask the librarian for help. That's if they can even communicate with her without texting her on her smartphone.
My point is, these kids today are just dumb. I mean, look at all the basic things that they know nothing about. How do they expect to survive on their own? They can work every feature on their cell phones and computers, but they couldn't possibly be bothered to remember a friend's telephone number without electronic assistance or be able to write a paragraph by hand properly and legibly. There must be something in the water making all these kids so dumb, right?
It could be them. Or it could be you.
Perhaps they don't need these skills because they are—brace yourselves here, folks—useless skills. You might gasp at the idea of being able to find a library book useless, but when was the last time you used a library? If it was sometime in the last fourteen years, then it's time for you to get with the, well, times. The Internet is here to stay and it's not some toy that fosters laziness in America's youth. At the risk of sounding like a work-averse teenager, library research is too much work. Or more importantly, too much work for too weak/inconsistent results. You have to travel there, constantly run from one side of the library to the other looking through shelf after shelf, hoping that the book you're looking for is available and that it's been stocked in the proper place. You can search for a broad subject, but not really something specific. And you have to return the item in question.
"Oh, this is the nonfiction section? Well, better hurry over to the How-To section before the library closes in forty minutes."
Compared to the ability to type a phrase into Google and come up with millions of search results in less than a second, libraries are inefficient and unreliable. They lag behind their digital counterpart, the search engine, in every conceivable way. Are you surprised that the kids of today have completely forsaken them—and the ability to do library research—in favor of using a computer from the comfort of their own homes? Or do you also bemoan the fact that these lazy good-for-nothings don't know how to saddle a horse or churn their own butter?
Did you know that kids today don't build their own log cabins, but instead just buy or rent existing homes!? I bet they wouldn't even know how to set up an outhouse if they needed to! Pathetic!
I can say the same thing about cursive penmanship. I remember in the third grade when it was first introduced. All the teachers told us that we would be using this for the rest of our lives; that our junior high school and high school teachers, our college professors, and our future bosses would never accept writing in print (or in pencil, for that matter). In actuality, my high school teachers and college professors actually wouldn't accept print, script, or anything handwritten. Everything had to be typed (which was a huge pain seeing as I didn't own a computer at the time). Today I couldn't write a sentence in script to save my life. Most of these kids are the same, but not only is it not their fault, it's not even a bad thing. Unless you're jotting down someone's name and number on a sticky note, penmanship has been made nearly obsolete by word processors. Quicker and neater, typed documents are just easier to read and more professional looking than written ones. And again, technology has made one skill obsolete in favor of another.
Also, ever notice that computers automatically use print instead of script? Cursive isn't better looking; it's just harder to read and write, and therefore inferior. Instead of complaining that no one knows how to write cursive anymore, we should be trying to figure out why it was even taught to kids in the first place, and why they aren't being taught more useful skills instead.
Of course, the fact that they don't read at all is obvious. When was the last time you saw a teen crack open a book that he wasn't being tested on at the end of the semester? Never, right? Just goofing off on his tablet, or whatever the heck that “Amazon Kindle Fire” thing is supposed to be (electronic book readers that can hold a huge library of complete novels). That's why young adult novels never sell, and never get successful enough to get adapted in major blockbuster motion pictures. Except for Harry Potter. That was the exception to the rule. And The Hunger Games. And The Chronicles of Narnia. And Ender's Game. And Percy Jackson And the Olympians. I even saw a trailer for The Giver. Someone has to be reading these books for them to be popular enough for the infamously risk-averse Hollywood to notice. Even if the kids never heard of the books before the films, many of them do read the books after the films achieve success. And that's not counting the huge success of book series that expand the universes of popular video games such as Halo, Gears of War, and Mass Effect, as well as other fictional universes such as Star Wars and Star Trek. I can personally tell you that Halo has a huge line of books from a number of critically acclaimed science fiction authors. And while they aren't squarely Young Adult, who do think is reading the books? People who play the games. And who do you think are playing the games? That's right, young adults.
No, I didn't forget Twilight. I just choose to pretend it was a commercial failure. And thus I choose to pretend that no teens are reading it on their Kindle Fires, or other ebook devices that are slowly phasing out traditionally published paper novels.
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Yup, these kids are reading. And while more kids are reading print novels than you think, they are also turning more and more to downloadable ebooks that they can read on their tablets, computers, and cell phones. So when you see that young punk on the bus tapping away at his tablet, he might be playing Angry Birds, or he might be reading Divergent. If you're from a generation that sees all electronic devices as mind-warping toys, you probably won't know the difference (or care).
What people have to understand is that technology marches on. You might see these Millennials unable to do this or that and start predicting the downfall of America, but so did the generations before you. What did the older people of the time think when “horseless carriages” started to become popular? What about the next generation's horse-riding skills!? What about the invention of the calculator!? Surely all that will do is erode the next generation's ability to perform complex algebra with paper and pencil!
And the invention of the comm badge!? You just know the next generation has no clue how to use a handheld communicator!
We have to stop worrying about “these kids these days” not knowing how to do something the previous generation did on a daily basis. For every skill that a generation of kids never knows, they master another one that didn't exist during their parents' time. Focusing on things that have since become antiquated and obsolete will not help the future generations succeed in a world where technology develops faster than we can keep up with it. Stop griping that they don't have the skills to succeed in the 20th Century and start encouraging them to learn the ones they'll need to succeed in the 21st.