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Condition of the Month–April 2014

April 8, 2014

Now that we’re solidly in our mid-twenties, we’re probably old enough to ask questions like, “What’s wrong with kids these days?” Whether it’s the pervasiveness of technology or bad attitudes about school, you can’t deny that today’s kids and teens have some issues. Here’s what we think are the most frightening things about the younger generation…

little merskank tile

This question provokes a lot of potential answers but I think I am going to go with the obvious one: technology.  Now, I don’t think that computers, television, video games are evil– in fact I think they are wonderful examples of the creativity of mankind.  The problem is not so much the product as the level of consumption.  Back when I was in undergraduate I used to babysit for this family– the younger kid was really loving and fun, and we had a great time playing games and building lego cities, but the older kid just wanted play on his iPod touch all the time.  I remember feeling bad for his brother who was more or less rejected at the hand of this small technological object.  The older one could have been making lasting memories and having fun with his brother, but instead the only thing that interested him was one-player games on a tiny screen.

I grew up in the 90s so I was not immune to technology growing up.  I have fond memories of Nickelodeon and even fonder memories of Zelda Ocarina of Time (Best Nintendo Game Ever!!!!).  But somehow technology never consumed my life in the way I feel like it does for an ever increasing number of kids.  And, along side television and games, comes advertising and a whole slew of concepts and world views that can be damaging for kids.

Here I am complaining– but what can be done?  Honestly I am not sure.  Being too strict as a parent and zealously limiting your children’s interaction with something often results in that item being a prized forbidden treasure.  So, I am not sure that is the route.  I am not a parent, so I can’t claim any high level or wisdom or experience in these areas, but I think maybe the best thing you can do is be a good example for your child.  Kids learn from their parents, and a parent who watches a lot of television,  is constantly online or on their phone, has to be teaching their kids that technology is the best source of fun and entertainment. So, really- I think the pressure is on us not our kids to limit our consumption and engage with life in reality not just on a screen.

–The Little Merskank


cinderslut tile (2)After spending the last few months teaching in a U.S. public high school, I have plenty of ideas about where the next generation is headed, and in a lot of cases it ain’t pretty. Perhaps my doomsday predictions are a bit hyperbolic and overly influenced by the fact that I primarily work with kids at the lower end of the achievement spectrum, but in any case I definitely see that kids these days face a lot of challenges that previous generations did not struggle with as much.

Almost every day I notice something terrible about my students and their abilities. I’ve had them ask me how on earth you calculate a percent, give me blank stares when I mention the Holocaust, and struggle to perform basic tasks in Microsoft Word. And don’t get me started on some of their life “plans,” which include dealing drugs and living on welfare. Seriously! I have had students tell me they “Don’t fucking care about school,” because they won’t need it. Right.

Our schools are full of students from low-income families, immigrants struggling to learn English, students who are borderline retarded (that’s a real designation indicated by IQ tests), and those with a variety of mental disabilities and learning disorders that make it extremely difficult for them to succeed in a traditional classroom. These are the people who inevitably drop out or barely graduate, and then they have very few options in life. They are part of a growing culture of underachievement I’ve noticed in this country—the reason the U.S. is falling behind other nations in so many categories, the reason people complain about a bloated welfare system. I’ve had to draw the conclusion that one of the biggest issues with the world today’s kids are growing up into is the lack of productive opportunities for people who can’t hack it in school, and a culture that doesn’t value school, learning, and bettering yourselves, at least not enough.

I think about generations past, in which the “stupid kids” or the kids with “authority problems” had other outlets—perhaps they wouldn’t attend school past the 8th grade, but they could work on the family farm or go to work in a mine or factory and still earn an honest day’s wage. Those who weren’t cut out for higher education weren’t expected to achieve the same things, and they actually had other options. Now, though, we try so hard to force everyone into the same mold, and we are far too tolerating of kids and teenagers who waste their own and everyone else’s time with their disrespect, apathy, and bad life choices.

As a teacher, of course I want all my students to reach their fullest potential, overcome adversity, and blow expectations out of the water. But I am also a realist, and I just wish our country, our culture, and our schools provided alternative paths that didn’t lead to a lifestyle of poverty and crime.



snowwhore tileEven though I’m not that old, sometimes I feel like I am when I am around kids who don’t understand any of the cultural or music references I make. But that is to be expected, and that’s something everyone goes through. Even though I think its sad that they don’t know who the Spice Girls are, its just a part of life. But of course there are things about kids these days and the culture they live in that do get me more legitimately upset.

It upsets me that they don’t know what life without a smartphone is like. Any time I see an eight year old on their iPhone I can’t help but be disapproving.  Do you really need a phone at that age? Who do you have to call? Can’t you use your parents cell phone? I don’t think its healthy to be so young and so glued to a piece of technology. I know the same things have been said about computers and video games to people of our generation, but that doesn’t make it any better. And even though I had access to technology as a kid, my parents made rules, and forced me to spend more time outside than inside glued to the TV or the Nintendo 64 (dated reference! Woohoo!). Sometimes I feel like kids in this generation will not have a balance like that.  And the thing about smartphones that’s scarier than TV or video games, is that it is always with you. I do not want my kids to have a smart phone.  What is the point? Go play on the swings. Sometimes I wish technology would just slow down.

Something about our culture that makes me happier for kids these days is our awareness of food.  I spend a lot of time nannying when I was in college and every family I worked for seemed to care about what they were putting into their kids bellies. There was an emphasis on fruits and vegetables and non-processed snacks.  I know that sometimes people who shop at whole foods seem snooty, and organic food comes with a hefty price tag, but I’m glad that our culture is standing up and taking notice of the food industry. I’m sure obesity will still be a big problem in the U.S. for some time, but I’ve seen a lot of positive steps, and that makes me happy for children.  It makes me feel like they are getting a good start because a lot of parents are getting more educated.

–Snow Whore


Gsleeping booty tileee, way to make me feel old Cindy. I’ve already felt it more than I expected to on this trip, bunking with college kids in hostels and dodging high school groups in museums. But I like to think I’m still part of the current generation, that I’m part of all the worlds and can hop back and forth whenever I so choose. So if I’m going to talk about what kids these days are dealing with then it’s likely to be something I’m dealing with too.

I’m obviously worried about screen time. I know I’m as bad as anybody, but when people choose screens over real life we’re definitely losing something. Same goes for outdoor activity v.s. sitting inside. I’ll be super worried if my kids can’t go outside and play in the sand box for 8 hours because they miss their indoor devices. I’m worried about gun use in the US, smoking in Europe, poisonous everything in Australia. I’m worried about the ridiculous rates of depression in middle to upper class Americans. Today I counted, a solid 5 of my closest friends have been on antidepressants in their 20s.

I’m worried that there will be a natural resources war before we manage to rely solely on wind and sun. I’m worried that so many people I know are in debt. I’m worried that we sometimes think of comfort as a substitute for happiness and joy. I’m worried that with so much immediate feedback on their internet lives kids these days won’t learn how to be independent, always seeking approval. I’m worried how easy it was for everyone to turn on Justin Bieber (Jonas brothers. I don’t know who else. Remember when superstars just faded out and didn’t get personally attacked forever?). People exist as more than internet memes.

This is hard. Maybe I don’t spend enough time around teenagers, or maybe I just can’t see my own generation and the dumb ass things we do clearly. To me the world now seems as filled with good and bad things as any other generation. Who are we to say we had it better than the new or old one?

–Sleeping Booty

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