As in the past, today's youth getting bum rap

Copyright 2017 (all rights reserved)

By Rudy Apodaca

(published as a guest column on September 10, 2017
in the San Antonio Express-News)

     The children nowadays love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love to chatter in place of exercise.

     You’ve likely heard much of the criticism above about our youth. Here’s another one: “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels. . . has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth . . . [preventing them] from improving their minds.”

     That’s a combination of quotes, part of it attributed by Plato to Socrates, some 400 years before Christ. The rest written more “recently” in 1790 by Reverend Enos Hitchcock in his book, "Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family."

     Many such observations are found throughout history. Today, our news is replete with stories concerning problems involving teenagers. Even a cursory search on Google will provide such hits as, paraphrasing: What’s wrong with young people today? Fear of youth is worse than ever. Are youngsters today worse than ever?

     If not careful, we can buy into the idea that youngsters today are a lost generation.

     Certainly, we’ve all crossed paths with a disgruntled youth seemingly walking around with a chip on his shoulder and a sense of unwarranted entitlement. And I’ve made the mistake of allowing the so-called misfits of society, inevitably headed for trouble, to become the standard to judge all our youths’ character and promise.

     But even good, decent adults do bad things repeatedly throughout their lives.

     Although many other factors come into play, such as heredity and culture, it’s well established that behavior is learned. Youngsters, especially, are greatly influenced not only by their parents and siblings at home, their peers at school and in the streets, but by adults in all settings.

     We live in a world that appears as one of entitlement, where we hold unrealistic expectations of what good things should come our way. Even adults may be guilty of viewing our future, not as a product of hard work, but of thinking that we’re entitled to a successful life, not only with little effort on our part but without an appreciation of what it took on the part of others to get us to where we’re at in life.

     Is it any wonder that these attitudes may rub off on our younger generation and we then find their conduct unacceptable?

     So we shouldn’t be shocked when we encounter bad attitudes among our youth.

     But no matter those attitudes, are today’s youngsters really a lost generation?

     Despite evidence that serious drug use and crime take place among them, when considering the overall posture of all young citizens, the question can be answered with a resounding no.

     My opening quotes made a point, I hope, that in generations throughout history, there have been people who, using standards founded on their past, believed the youth of their day didn’t measure up. On the strength of such opinions, one would have expected doomsday long ago.

     When we were growing up, our elders disapproved of our music, dress attire, and what they considered our lack of respect. Each generation has undergone that.

     Yet, here we are, our standard of living and our technology advanced. We’ve survived the foreboding gloom. Granted, we have serious world issues, such as hunger, poverty, wars, critical medical needs, civil unrest, cultural intolerances, and climate change. But our youth aren’t to blame. They were born into a world inherited from us, without a say, to face whatever hardships came their way.

     However difficult life may have been for us when we were growing up, life is much more complex today with the advent of improved technologies. So our youngsters confront greater difficulties. They’re faced with challenges unknown to us in the world we grew up in.

     Our youth are perceptive and probably even smarter than we were at their age. They’re fully aware of our world problems. The fact is, youngsters have great potential, despite glaring examples of the few we categorize as misfits.

     In that regard, we owe our youth. What? Well, it’s our duty to provide the proper influence, education, and role-modeling to assure that they grow up to be productive, decent citizens.

     We should constantly remind ourselves of their importance. After all, from them will surface tomorrow’s leaders. It’s to them that we’ll entrust our world’s future.

     Let’s protect that future by doing all we can to assure our youth have the chance to be not only all they want to be but all they can be. And let’s stop giving them a bum rap.