Wednesday, April 21, 2010
As an educator and a history teacher, April 19th and April 20th are dates that I'll never forget. I'll never forget sitting in Mrs. Toothaker's 11th grade Chemistry class on April 19th 1995 when she announced that the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. I'll never forget sitting in my college dorm room on April 20th 1999 when, as I was watching ESPN, a "breaking news" alert across the bottom of the screen announced that there was a school shooting in Littleton, CO. I immediately turned on CNN and followed the horrific scene for the better part of the afternoon, and, openly thought about the career path I had chosen. As a part of my school's teacher education program, I had just returned home from one of my first school visits that morning. While I could go on and on about how these events impacted our country and our schools, my purpose for mentioning these horrific tragedies are different.
I mention them because, as I watched 84 7th and 8th grade students being inducted into National Junior Honor Society on Monday evening, thoughts of Oklahoma City and Columbine entered my mind. I thought about the irony of how National Junior Honor Society represents one of the many ways that this generation of students are successful and are making a positive impact on our community and how the tragic events of Oklahoma City and Columbine represent two of the darkest moments in American history. Most of the print, television, and web media mentioned (and rightfully so, to some extent) the impact of these devastating events, and its very easy to find plenty of examples on a daily basis about what's wrong with today's kids and what's wrong with today's schools. But, where is the positive news? Who is talking about the positive impact being made by this generation? Who is talking about the many, many young people that make good choices, that give back to their communities, and that treat their parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, etc. with respect?
Please don't get me wrong. I not arguing that the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy of media is wrong. All forms of media are in the business of making money, and we as consumers have demonstrated that we want to read about crashes and scandals instead of "feel good" public interest stories. At the same time, I firmly believe that this philosophy makes a significant contribution to our overall view of today's young people. I'll lost count of the number of times that I've heard "today's kids are different" or "what's wrong with kids today?" Do I think that kids today are different from what they were like ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, and one hundred years, ago? Yes. Do I think that today's kids are better or worse than they were ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, and one hundred years ago? No. Unfortunately, I think that we often look at different as better or worse, and we shouldn't.
My point is this. I don't think that we should jump to conclusions about "today's kids." Its a line as old as history. My parents came of age in the 1960s, and, given the change of that decade, I have no doubt that the "what's wrong with today's kids?" line was thrown around a lot. I think we are a country that's prone to label and generalize, and, unfortunately, that doesn't tell the whole story. My own personal story is interesting when it comes to the most prominent of our labels, generational ones. I born 11 days into the start of Generation Y, leading me to wonder if I might possess some Generation X attributes, too. Maybe I'm extra special because I have the ability to take the best attributes of X and Y!
My favorite quote when talking about "today's kids" is as follows: "Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers." I'm sure that there are plenty of kids of there that at some point in time will fit the label. What middle school boy doesn't gobble all of the food? What child doesn't at one point in time contradict their parents? That's not what makes this quote interesting. What makes it interesting is that it was delivered in 400 B.C.E. by none other than Socrates!! Guess that he had a bad day in the classroom using the Socratic method with "today's kids."
In closing, I guess the "moral" of this post is to not lose sight of the the many positives things that our middle schoolers have accomplished, and will accomplish over the course of their 3-year middle school career. Monday's ceremony reinforced my belief in "today's kids," especially those at Providence Day School.