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What's Wrong with Children Today?
by Gerhard A. Fuerst

Reposted by the Coffee Coaster with the author's permission

"Young people are handed a given set of circumstances at birth, and they grow into it, they try to adapt and adjust to it, they try to fit in, to find their niche where they will not feel alienated or rejected, or they will manipulate it for their convenience, and often in ways which are confounding, often risky, even dangerous. Experimentation, trials and tribulations, pushing the's a trademark of youth."

"What is wrong with young people today?"

The posed question is one which had been asked by many throughout recorded history, generations upon generations, for perhaps thousands of years. For example, I believe it was the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who had lived in the 5th Century B.C., who apparently at a frustrating moment and time in his life wrote a commentary about "those young people of today!"

It is a puzzling and perplexing situation, but it is also a perennial aspect of life which will be with humanity in perpetuity.  We grow up (and graduate... gradually) in stages, and we always respond to the given socio-economic, socio-cultural setting and environmental situations with whatever means society provides, in whatever ways society deems acceptable or denies and rejects as not permitted or as unacceptable.

Young people are handed a given set of circumstances at birth, and they grow into it, they try to adapt and adjust to it, they try to fit in, to find their niche where they will not feel alienated or rejected, or they will manipulate it for their convenience, and often in ways which are confounding, often risky, even dangerous. Experimentation, trials and tribulations, pushing the's a trademark of youth. Daring and bravado, assumed invincibility, are also the hallmarks of youth, to the point of teasing fate.

Young people are tempted, and old people will either caution or admonish. What is found to be inconvenient is often readily avoided or evaded. Challenges need encouragement with reasonable rewards in sight!  Young people will not reject the rigors of preparations, when set goals are considered to bring well proven personal rewards. All young people anywhere and at any time had to face up to such situations, they had to endure to survive, or they opted for means of their own, not always with pleasant consequences, especially when caught defaulting on the given set of rules. 

The "older" generation, which I prefer to call "the more mature youth," {however, only if & when actually justified!} will always look at those coming behind with a mixture of awe, admiration, joy, pride, surprise, jealousy, suspicion, and even anxiety and fear.  The young wish to be grown up in order to be able to play in the grown-up world by grown-up rules, but they are somehow also considered to be intruders, and for that reason, the supposedly "older and wiser" put up barriers and hurdles over which the young must jump in order to qualify. These are the rules and rituals of initiation into adulthood.

The young must negotiate the adult-made slalom course or roller coaster ride to full acceptance and full membership.  We call it education, expectations, requirements, preconditions..., the list of semantics is endless, and so are the restrictions imposed by society.  Many of these are most sensible for reasons of health and safety, necessary requirements to gain experience and to fulfill qualification requirements, but others are merely a desire to keep the young in line and at a certain degree.

It comes as no surprise that some young people find it difficult to distinguish between necessity and mere nuisance, wishing to accelerate their growing up process to reaching a level of relative or quasi-independence, called emancipated youth status. In most cases they find that the tasks they sought are taxing and overwhelming. Nevertheless, all societies throughout the ages, even aboriginal ones, had special requirements and real demands, including tests of bravery and endurance for their young before they would be admitted into the adult world for full membership. 

However, age alone does not make a person mature. The media report continuously about alleged adults who act as if they were juvenile delinquents, engaging in acts which are not in keeping with what is expected of an adult.  Then there is the perpetual desire "to be young" again, to feel young, to look young, to act as if they were young, which is actually quite a natural sentiment and desire.

When taken to excess, however, many young people consider that to be invasive of their respective turf. Therefore, we need a flexible, sensible, and non-combative coexistence, we need to communicate, we need to be there for each other in mutually respectful interaction and interdependence.  Adults need to be real role models the young would want to emulate!  By the same token, young people also have the inherent right to progress, to grow, and to be and become different, to seek their own destiny. They are not mere clones.

Permit me to rephrase the given question as follows:

"What is wrong with our older people?" 

Just figure they created the world which the younger folks will inherit at one point, a world of which they will have to take possession, a world which they will want to share in terms of co-ownership, a world in which  to live and survive...etc.... Now what kind of legacy are they receiving? It is a world which is less secure and less safe due to the conflicts which are raging today, and which are not likely to get any better any time soon. 

Young people did not or do not start wars...

They are expected to fight and die in wars which were and are begun by older people for whatever reason, real or imagined, actual or contrived, mostly fraudulent and vindictive! In other words, all the blood-letting and suffering is caused by adults! Young people do not start religious turmoil or ideological conflicts, older people do. Older people impose their various brands of fanaticism on younger people and exploit them for their evil designs.  Younger people are sucked into the self-destructive eddy currents created by adults, and are made to be complicit in the evil.

Demagogues and polemicists with their deliberately extreme and provocative rhetoric, dished out in daily doses of relentless propaganda, for the most part are old and aging, some even of very questionable personal character and intentions which are more than suspect, and with real conflicts of interest. Those who suffer abuse when young at the hands of the older, often become abusers themselves when old. Young people see and experience, and then follow in the footsteps of their forebears. 

Young people are lured into the personal, physical and mental destructiveness of drug addiction by adults with criminal intentions. The same thing goes for cigarette and alcohol addiction, produced and caused by adults, for adult profits and adult enrichment, gleaned from the suffering and victimization of others. The list is depressing in content and length.

Pogroms were not started by the young...

The Holocaust was not started by the young. No genocide in history was ever started by the young. Younger people do not screw up the economy, older people do. Are we really surprised that young people have become distrustful and cynical, when we have adults in government who lie, and leaders of corporations who steal and defraud.  Most younger people do not cheat in business; alas, many, many older people do, deliberately and habitually.

Younger people do not cause unemployment...

Older people do. Older people outsource jobs, and in so doing cause fewer opportunities for the young. Older people cause the nation's indebtedness and saddle the young with its repayment. Younger people do not pollute or destroy the environment, older people do.  Young people do not pillage, rape, and plunder the environment for profit and then leave it devastated, older people do that with a vengeance. Should I continue? 

Perhaps you can add to the list and make up your own questions. Confrontation and collision of generations can only lead to hostility, mutual distrust, disrespect, disdain and dislike.  As I suggested earlier, the doors need to be kept open, the dialogue needs to be ongoing, and whenever young people make mistakes, they need to be guided back to where they can feel safe and welcome. It is time for older people to become real role models for the young.  If truth and honesty is to survive, let adults be honest and truthful.

Challenges for good accomplishments are always right and justified. Adults need to be the guides to the future, and they need to allow the young to make their own mark, to use their own creativity, inventiveness and ingenuity in a positive sense. The survival and wholesomeness of any society depends of such positive generational interaction.  The challenges of youth on their ways to adulthood will continue. How they arrive will in many ways depend on what adults had done to guide them there. 

Adults should lead, not mislead...

Adults need to be honest, not devious. You want honest young citizens? Well, let's have honest government(s) and honesty in politics for starters...or is that a mere oxymoron!?  The young have eyes and ears.  What they emulate is what they are given to emulate. You want loyal followers? You want others to practice what you preach? Set a good example! 

The young have been shafted and shortchanged for far too long! You want the young to make paradigm shifts, while the shiftless are still in charge?  The hope for the young rests with adults who are heroes, not villains!  


Gerhard A. Fuerst
Retired secondary and university educator

Post script:   I have not given up hope. I am gratified to know that the majority of young people turn out all right, in part due to an innate sense of ethics, due to good parenting, and due to good educators, who are role models. Love, kindness, patience, positive persistence and good guidance conquers all!



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