kids these days

I have heard that the current generation is selfish and shallow, that they are the iGeneration, that they focus on MySpace, but rarely think about OurSpace. Students meet together, but they do not entirely connect. It seems that share a physical proximity, but each sends texts, listens to iPods and lives within a self-centered cocoon.

Maybe it’s the fact that I work in an urban environment, but I do not see the self-centeredness and selfishness that people describe. I see students seamlessly sharing music, texting in short sound-byte conversation, participating in social media – not to be selfish, but to regain some semblance of community in a culture of alienation. They are both more idealistic and more cautious about the world (perhaps because they were in the second grade when the 9-11 attacks occured).

I’ve noticed that most of my students rebel against a society drenched in amusement. They can sniff out phoniness and will challenge teachers who hand them stacks of mindless worksheets. I feel as if they come to me yearning for deep dialogue and a chance to tell their story. I get the sense that they thrive in being able to write poetry and narratives, becuase so many of their movies and music and t.v. shows are a cynical mockery of the sacred.

This morning, as I was grading papers, a kid wrote:

Nothing can describe what I felt like when I lost my brother. It’s like a piercing piece of scrap metal ripping through my heart. I won’t say that I’ve lost all hope, but I’ve learned to hope with a limp. You just want to die and forget this nightmare of pain. I push forward thinking maybe I’ll wake up from the nightmare. But I’m also scared of what will happen if I wake up and the nightmare will become too distant of a memory.

That was just one of many papers where students wrote about a powerful memory. I won’t lie. I’ve found myself crying a few different times. It feels so strange to read something so personal, when I really don’t know my students very well yet.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

5 responses

  1. John,

    It’s Grant (we went to high school together). I apologize for the tackiness of contacting you via a blog comment, but I’d really like to reconnect. My e-mail is glsimpso@indiana.edu. I’ve been feeling guilty about losing touch with you for almost ten years now and I’m so glad I finally found you.

  2. Ok – I’m not Grant, but I do feel inspired to respond. I think that the people who make accusations of shallowness (is that a word?) or any of the other negative descriptors fail to understand the concept of social networking and how it forms a silent yet vital undercurrent in kids’ lives. (I shouldn’t say kids. Instead I’ll amend that to read “anyone under the age of 35”).

    I was reluctant to admit the legitimacy of these applications until I undertook a summer’s training in the now outmoded web2.0 technologies, but what an eye-opener it was for me!

    Kids have always been somewhat self-centered. Didn’t Plato say something about that long ago? Or is that urban myth? At any rate, it is natural for kids to be interested in their own lives and the lives of their friends. Can we condemn them for that?

    Can we condemn them for communicating in a different mode than adults do? Haven’t they always?? I’d say yes!

  3. Wait – I should have read before I published. Just to clarify, I mean that yes, kids have always communicated in a different way, but no they shouldn’t be condemned for it! :.)

  4. Great post! Do you respond to their writings?

  5. I usually write a few things in the margin. It’s hard, because I don’t want to write something trite and I don’t want to use that as a moment to correct grammar.

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