Do You Really Believe Kids Are So Different Today?

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I know you’ve run the across the same news articles I have, the ones that sound so very, very sad, that just drip with sorrow, that lament the fact our poor, deprived, underprivileged kids are “so different” and that they “have nothing to do anymore.”

Different? Nothing to do? Are you kidding? 

Today’s kids can often do more in five seconds than we could do in my day in five hours. And they can do it better, faster and more accurately. And often without so much as getting up off their backsides — because it’s not needed. You know it, I know it, the media people know it — and the kids know it too.

Kids don’t change. How could they? Times may change. Cities may change. Schools may change. Home life may change. Movie houses may change. Television and radio may change. Politics may change. Cars may change. The highways may change. The climate may change. The sun, moon, sky, stars, and Planet Earth may change.

But kids don’t change. They are, after all, the same species.

They are just as cute and just as ugly, just as smart and just as dumb, just as happy and just as angry, just as honest and just as sneaky, just as blind and just as knowing, just as naive and just as wise, just as interested in sex, each other, and who’s wearing what, and just as disinterested in history, improper fractions, Shakespeare, and Sunday school as we were.

They’re the same kids! Go talk to one. I did — for 22 years!

So why is it that we keep hearing the same old things every day? “Oh, our poor kids! So different! Nothing to do anymore!”

You know what that really means?

It means, “They don’t do the things we used to do.”

Well, why should they?

They don’t have to bounce a little ball with one hand, snatch up some king-size thumbtacks with the other and call it fun; they don’t have to use a broomstick to slam a tennis ball 30 yards up a side street as pseudo-baseball; and they don’t have to choose up mobs and have one mob try to catch the other mob while it hides all over the neighborhood, and if they did they’d get arrested.

They don’t have to mess with broomsticks and tennis balls because they have real bats, and real baseballs, and real fields with real plates, grass, grandstands, and everything else it takes to play real baseball — including uniforms, umpires, parents, bad tempers, lousy sportsmanship, sports injuries, fights between fans, ambulances, drunks, arrests, lawsuits and all the other good things that we in our incomparable wisdom have provided for them.

Why? So that they can learn to be like us.

They don’t have to bounce a little ball, snatch some jacks, and call it fun because if they want to sit around doing as close to nothing as you can do they can sit 20 feet apart spending 20 minutes sending text messages they could have said in plain English in 10 seconds. Dumb? Sure. Fun? I guess. You define fun.

They don’t have to choose up sides and play fox and the geese because they have electronic games that let them chase each other all over the world — in castles, dungeons, caves, spaceships and sewage plants. And if they did get outside and started running around the neighborhood yards, hiding in bushes, climbing up trees, jumping walls, diving into culverts, sneaking into open garages, and generally trying to slip around without being seen we’d call out the riot squad and have them all rounded up, cuffed, read their rights, and hauled off in a black mariah. After which would come days in jail with people who would teach them some new games we don’t want them to learn, a stern warning by a judge who did the same things when he was a kid, days spent trimming lawns as “community service” and maybe a few days off for good behavior if they promise faithfully not to be kids again.

And the last thing they would dare to do — heaven forfend! — is mark up a sidewalk with chalk and jump around playing hopscotch. If they did that we’d call out the riot squad again, arrest the whole pack of them, charge them with felony vandalism, possession of graffiti materials, suspicion of public drunkenness, hopping under the influence, and underage stupidity.

And camping? You want them to go camping? Really?

Where? In the national forest? With all those sneaky rangers watching in case you’re packing a gun? Or in “improved areas,” up to their armpits in garbage, dirty diapers and starved bears?

Besides, admit it, what is camping anyway? Why do we leave our warmed and air- conditioned homes? All that indoor plumbing? Our modern appliances, soft beds, good food, and television sets?

Tell the truth now. We do it to pretend we enjoy all that stuff, and so are as much like cavemen — oops, cave-persons — as the generation before us, which did it to show that they were as much like cave-persons as the generation before them, and so on ad-infinitum. Be honest now. Isn’t that really why we do it?

So, if our kids have finally made it into the Iron Age how can we criticize them for it?

And school?

Hey, folks. If our schools — yours and mine — had been like the ones today we’d have lit up the torches, had a Frankenstein-type nighttime march on the bad guys, burned the schools to the ground, and gleefully toasted marshmallows over the ashes.

You know what our schools are doing?

If you don’t, Johnny. You might want to skip reading the rest of this. It’s not good for your digestion. Or your heart.

First of all, think back to your school. Did you have kids that got As? Kids that got Bs? Cs? Ds? Even Fs? 

Yes? What did that mean? It meant that some kids are bright, and some are not. The ones who are bright get As and Bs; the rest get lower grades. So what? Even a kid with D is averaging a 60 percent. Ever think about what that means? It means you remembered 60 percent of what you were taught. Hey! Is that so bad?

Do you remember 60 percent of what you did yesterday?

I don’t. And I was a teacher for 22 years.

Today’s kids are required — by the official authority of the federal government (known as No Child Left Behind) to do “better” each year than the kids did last year. That’s right. That’s what AIMS tests aim to test. You think that you, with all your age, and experience, and education could do better each year? Forever?

Or even pass a sixth-grade AIMS math test? Hah! Go take one.

Pass out the torches. And quit worrying about the kids. They-R-Us.

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