The Kids are Alright

Kids these days… am I right?

Starting an article/post/news segment/podcast/ or whatever with a statement like that is a sure fire way to generate interest these days. There is so much anxiety about the state of today’s youth - about their attitudes, abilities, interests, and even the very fate of our society when they inevitably take charge.

I don’t buy it.

I’ve spent a lot of time with teens over the last 15 years - as a friend, youth pastor, coach, and mentor - and here’s what I’ve come to realize: the kids are alright. 

All of the fear and hand wringing about the coming generation is at best misguided, and at worst intentional fear mongering intended to generate views/sales of articles and books on the topic. The fact is, every generation chafes against the one who came before them and frets about the one coming after them. It’s what humans do.

A dissertation by Kenneth John Freeman, a doctoral student at Cambridge in 1907, summarized the complaints he found about adolescents in ancient texts. Here’s what he wrote (a version of this quote is often misattributed to Socrates):

“Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters.”

For no fewer than 2000 years people have thought the generation coming after them were disrespectful, lazy, and offensive. When In fact, a quick look at statistics shows the coming generation is off to a better start than the ones before them. In Canada, rates of teen pregnancy, sexual activity, and smoking (among other things) have been dropping for the last two decades.

Anecdotally speaking, I find teens more likely than older folks to do simple common courtesy things like holding doors open, saying thank-you, and simply offering to help.

One my my favourite stories that exemplifies this came on a missions trip a few years back. I had taken a group of students and adults to Grenada for two weeks to do kids ministry and help in construction work. On the job site one day a few of our students walked down the road to go by a coke from a road side stand. When they returned, one of our girls had no shoes on. I asked what had happened. She said she encountered a kid who had no shoes and whose feet were about her size, so she just gave hers to them. Sure, it was a little short sighted given that we had several more hours left that day on the job site, but her instinct was toward helping. 

In my experience with teens, this story is not the exception. I’ve witnessed hundreds - maybe thousands - of acts of courage, generosity, leadership, and sacrifice from teenagers over the years. I’ve listened as they’ve talked about changing their world and watched as many of them have set off to do it. 

There are issues to be sure. This generation has unique challenges ahead of them and much to learn. But, their future has yet to be written, so let’s not write them off.

Jeremy BestComment