Young adults get a bad rap. I’ve taught an entire generation of Millenials and am heading into Generation Z at full throttle, and one thing always stays the same: the criticism.
“They have no drive.”
“They’re too busy on their phones/computers to have a real life.”
“They’re destroying …” (insert object of pearl-clutching here)
The Preachers says, “There is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). One generation has always feared for the future of the next generation; the old guard has always found flaws in the up-and-comers. Kids have always met with their parents’ disapproval for their phones, video games, email, CGI special effects, reading choices, music videos, hot rods, disco, rock-n-roll, long hair, tattoos, blue jeans, and jewelry. A hundred years ago, kids were scolded for leaving the family business to pursue their own vocations. Over twenty-five hundred years ago, kids were criticized for hanging out with and constantly quoting some weirdo named Socrates.
As someone who’s worked with teenagers for over two decades, I’m here to reassure you: the kids are alright.
Over the past two decades I’ve seen my students become amazing adults. Kids who would have rather played video games than write papers have become compassionate adults dead set on making others’ lives better. Kids who rejected (or were rejected by) the traditional college-to-career pipeline have returned from their sojourns wiser and kinder. Even the tightly-wound, straight-”A” students have relaxed long enough to participate in life more fully and enjoy the very act of being human. My former students are doctors, journalists, mental health advocates, nurses, educators, paramedics, writers, artists, managers, lawyers, and ministers. More importantly, they are good human beings.
This present generation is no different. These kids live in a world that seems alien to us older folks: what was once science fiction is becoming ancient history. They’re interfacing with each other differently and engaging their minds in unprecedented ways. But when I interact with them and learn how they’re thinking critically about the world around them, how they’re moved by compassion for the hurting and helpless in their communities, and how they’re planning to move beyond the old paradigms to make this world a better place, I’m filled with confidence and hope.
When people who know I’m a high school teacher ask me how I feel about this generation, I usually respond this way: the future’s in good hands. These kids are barrelling toward it with fire in their eyes and passion in their hearts. Let’s nurture their inquisitive spirits and wild enthusiasm. And if we can’t figure out how to do that then, at the very least–let’s get out of their way.
Todd Gordon graduated from University of California, Riverside, where he earned two Bachelor’s degrees — one in English and one in Religious Studies. He has a credential in English and has taken dozens of education classes, making him superbly qualified to serve as our English Department Chair and to lead our High School faculty’s professional development.
An avid reader, he’s typically working on two books at a time. “I keep trying to watch TV or play video games, but I can’t find the time around my reading habits. True story,” said Todd.
One of his most endearing qualities is his deep knowledge of Star Wars and comic book trivia. You definitely want to be on his team in a game of Trivial Pursuit!
You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.