Oh Canada – A Lost Generation
I think at one time or another, virtually every politician in the free world has said, “We need to leave a better planet for our children.” Usually, this is the justification being put forward for more sacrifice on our part; environmental, economic, democratic or any combination of a bunch of things.
I believe we should try and leave a better world for our children and our grandchildren but just once, I’d like to hear a politician, an educator, an activist or any one of countless other experts stand up and say, “Hey, you know what? We need to leave better kids for the planet.”
I believe that we have lost our minds when it comes to parenting and educating our children and it has resulted in a lost generation of people whose values and purpose are confused at best and non-existent at least.
I remember when my daughter was very young, she questioned me about why she had to go to bed at a different time than her mother and I. She reminded me that I had taught her that we were all equal and if that were true, she had reasoned, then she shouldn’t have a different bedtime than her mother and I.
I was quite impressed with her ability to work that reasoning out at just five years old and a little concerned. It seemed to be a foreshadowing of what might be coming by the time she hit her teens. It’s not easy being a parent at the best of times; it’s downright challenging when your five year old is smarter than you are.
I attempted to explain the difference between being of equal value and having unequal rules. I used an analogy of lions on the Serengeti, which I thought was quite clever at the time. I told her that it was the responsibility of the adult lions to teach baby lions how to survive and live successfully. While they were still learning, they had to accept that their parents got to do things that they couldn’t because they didn’t have the experience to do it well or safely.
A few years later, when she asked me yet another of her somewhat pointed questions and I started to go into another long-winded parable, she looked at me with disgust and said, “This isn’t going to be another one of those lion stories, is it Dad?” So much for being quite clever.
I may not have explained it well at the time but the analogy actually works. Throughout the animal kingdom, animals learn from their parents. There are exceptions, of course; fish and reptiles aren’t reared by adults of their species. They’re simply hatched and away they go which explains their high infant mortality rate.
But most birds and virtually all mammals spend some time educating their young on how to provide for themselves and to survive in a hostile and dangerous world. Humanity has evolved this education to a very sophisticated and complex level but for all of that, we aren’t doing a very good job of preparing our kids to be successful in their lives.
In fact, increasingly, we suck at it.
Like most generalizations, that’s not true of everyone but it is true enough of society overall to simply be a fact. We are the generation that forgot that our children were more important than our lifestyle.
Look around. We are surrounded by young people who are trying to navigate life without having been taught the necessary fundamental values like self-respect, basic manners, a work ethic, integrity and self-reliance. So far removed are many of them from what we consider to be our society’s core values, some of them almost seem like aliens from another planet.
For all of the talk about freedom of assembly and free speech, our university campuses are hotbeds of intolerance and narrow-minded bigotry towards anyone who doesn’t think the ‘right’ way. Opposed to abortion? Don’t even consider trying to organize a pro-life group on some campuses. Want to hear people like Ann Coulter or Benjamin Netanyahu speak? Forget it. The free-thinkers on campus will not permit it. Want to support Israel? Not on this campus you don’t.
They have come to university with the belief that they have the right to decide to whom our Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies and have turned their campuses into a hman version of Orwell’s Animal Farm where all are equal but some are more equal than others.
It’s never our own kids, of course; it’s always the kids of someone else but there seems to be an awful lot of young people around these days who believe they are entitled to decide to whom our Charter of Rights and Freedoms does or doesn’t apply.
They are members of a generation that we forgot to teach both the value and the responsibility of earning your own way.
Paying for post-secondary education isn’t easy, even in Canada where tuition is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer; but then it has always been challenging. We all live through it but young people today demand – not ask, mind you – demand more financial support because they have a right to a college or university education even if it is at the expense of others. They protest increases in tuition without any knowledge or understanding of the true cost of education or the realities of the economic world in which we all live.
They demand others pay more because they need their money for smart phones and gadgets.
Too many grew up with an expectation of having things handed to them to the point where now they lack the ability to understand the difference between what is needed and what is wanted. They stand on the threshold of adulthood without any real sense of priority and have replaced self-reliance with an attitude of entitlement that moves back and forth between victimization and simply flat-out selfishness.
They are a generation that believes that pirating DVDs and movies online isn’t stealing, plagiarizing isn’t cheating and hacking into the computer systems of others isn’t breaking and entering. They are a generation that feels entitled to whatever they want whenever they want it because our generation fostered and catered to that belief.
Parents, educators and politicians placed very little emphasis on teaching them values both by design and increasingly by example. They have learned too well from all of us.
We replaced productive time with our kids with things because it was easier and helped to assuage the guilt we might feel for being to busy to spend time with them. We bowed to their peer pressure to make sure they had the right brands when it came to clothes and tech toys because that also reflected back on us and we relaxed the rules so that they didn’t have to earn their way to a privilege.
Our generation was too busy building and maintaining a lifestyle to realize that we were giving them everything but us and what they really needed to be successful and prosperous.
We changed how and what we teach our children Instead of teaching values, enforcing discipline for breaking the rules or for bad behaviour; we decided it was better to focus on not damaging a child’s self-esteem. The result has been a generation with little to no self-respect or respect for others.
We eliminated consequences for failing to hand in assignments on time or at all. We took away the consequences for failing an exam. In fact, we changed how we measured a student’s progress so as not to put too much pressure on them in order to make them strive to be successful. So intent were we on ensuring that no child was left behind we held them all back rather than encourage them to move forward.
We attacked competitive sports by trying to remove any concept of winning and losing whenever we could. We stopped keeping score in many leagues and one soccer league in Ontario has so far as to try and that who scores the goals on a team accurately reflects the team’s ethnic diversity. It’s a concept of participation equity evolved to insanity.
We took away their right to fail and to learn how to overcome adversity – the very kind of adversity they will encounter throughout their lives. We denied them of the motivation that comes from having accomplished and we lowered standards and expectations rather than teach them how to strive to be the best they can be.
We have tried to shield them from life’s reality but in the end have only succeeded in creating a generation that is ill-prepared for the real world. In our rush to be all-inclusive, we have denied them access to their own traditions and heritage if it doesn’t meet some arbitrary politically correct trend. We protect them from the true meaning of Christmas and even the word while exposing them to the materialistic consumerism of that time of year.
We ban books like Lord of the Flies despite the morality lessons it taught because it had the dreaded ‘N’ word in it. We ignored the context of the language and the lesson it taught in favour being politically correct.
We taught our children how to be shallow rather than thoughtful, how to demand rather than earn and what to think rather than how to think.
A parent in Ontario filed a human rights complaint because students at a particular elementary school were being forced – forced, mind you – to sing the nation anthem in the morning before class started, a cappella. He called it unconstitutional for students not to have musical accompaniment when they sang. Another parent wanted all oak trees near a school cut down because there might be students in the school with a nut allergy.
We focus on all the wrong things.
We protect them from every day words but leave them exposed to relentless danger online. We spend less time with them than they spend on the Internet, the same Internet where they are exposed to bullying, pedophiles and pushers; the same Internet we violently oppose the implementation of any consideration of regulation.
We enroll them in sports, dance classes, crafts, guides, scouts and all manner of activities but we ourselves spend no time actually teaching them our values, the same values they will need to be better citizens when they become adults.
We pamper them and give them things instead of parameters within which they must live as they are growing up and treat them like they’re adults before they’ve left puberty.
We want to be our children’s’ friends rather than their parents.
The result is all around us in a self-absorbed, self-righteous, arrogant, bigoted and narrow-minded lost generation that places a higher value on things than on people. So bereft of real values are many young people today that they see nothing wrong with selling themselves online on web sites like seekingarrangement.com where they can get cash for companionship.
It’s a meet market that is more meat than meet. They sell themselves as cheaply as if they were nothing more than sides of beef. So much for an educational system focused on their self-esteem.
And that’s the real tragedy in all of this.
It isn’t simply the arrogant behaviour; it’s the lack of self-respect that is so troubling. Teen suicides are at an all time high and bullying is rampant. Information has replaced knowledge and values have been replaced by expediency. Expectations are unrealistic and the discouragement that comes from crashing into reality when those expectations aren’t met is crushing for many.
It breeds anger, resentment and an unrealistic sense of entitlement.
They’re a lost generation for the most part and it’s our fault, not theirs. We were afraid they wouldn’t love us if we lived up to our responsibility to teach them values and the hard lessons and that they would resent us for enforcing rules with discipline.
Our generation; parents, educators and politicians pandered to them and protected them from the wrong things because we were so intent on leaving a better world for our kids – we forgot that our real responsibility was to leave better kids for our world.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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