“kids these days” (finally no longer adressed at my generation, but still stupid)

A commenter at pharyngula left this really fucking annoying “kids these days=-style comment in response to a post about entitled douchebisquitry on twitter:

I think maybe people like this belong to Generation ‘I’… see this link:

ok, so a)kids these days are not actually feeling more entitled to have their opinion valued than kids in the past, and are overall actually less likely to be entitled douchecanoes than teenagers of previous generations (or at least, are likely to be less entitled and less doucheconoe-y), as can be seen by their increased support of deconstruction of various forms of privilege in society; and b) kids these days are maybe more heard than they used to be, but quite frankly I’m against instilling authoritarian values of “kids should be seen, not heard” in children. Plus, while kids are by definition less experienced and less informed, on average, than their elders, they’re not inherently wronger than their elders; especially given the fact that plenty of old people didn’t exactly use their years to learn anything (see: teabaggers and assorted other willfully ignorant dolts). Therefore there’s no reason to assume that a young person’s opinion or argument will be by default more incorrect than an older person’s opinion or argument. Sayng otherwise is to pretty much agree with those Republicans who whine because young people are liberal and whine about how the voting age should be raised to 25, because you know kids, they so stoopid.

Anyway, that’s just about the comment. The article linked to is even worse:

TODAY’S teenagers are shaped by a multitude of weighty issues – high levels of teenage obesity, a heavy binge drinking culture and a social media landscape with hefty consequences.

I’ll give you childhood obesity and the newfangled problems of growing up on the internet, but since when is getting ridiculously drunk as a teen/young adult a new phenomenon?

But pause for a moment and consider the corresponding gargantuan rise in the younger generation’s confidence in the value of their opinions.

Also not new. Thinking you know better than your parents is an essential ingredient in young adulthood in the West, and has been so at least since a bunch of “kids these days” went out to protest against their parents’ social order in the 60’s.

The sheer weight of their viewpoints is growing exponentially as parents and teachers alike are counselled to hold a young person’s opinion in the highest regard.

Highest regard? Teh lol. I admit though, this is at least newer than the participation-ribbon whining.

As a teacher with more than 20 years’ experience it is increasingly painful to read and listen to opinion in the absence of background knowledge, research or experience – ”no offence”, teenagers.

As a person spending a lot of time on the internet, I am similarly pained by having to “read and listen to opinion in the absence of background knowledge, research or experience”. I just don’t find that such is at all limited to teens. In fact, personally I experience it far more from adults. Maybe, just maybe, this has fuck-all to do with “kids these days”, and a lot more with the anti-intellectualism that this quote I keep on referring to complains about, and you just think it’s just teens because you’ve been stuck in a room with them for hours every day?

Past generations paid due regard to the expertise of the teacher and gained intellectual exercise by reading and (gasp) memorising important information.

And now we have Teh Google and don’t need to rely on faulty human memory. As for “past generations paid due regard to the expertise of the teacher”… well, the “past generations” didn’t seem to think so:

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent onthe frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.”
— Hesiod, Eighth Century B.C.

“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”
— Attributed to Peter the Hermit, A.D. 1274

“the father accustoms himself to become like his child and fears his sons, while the son likens himself to his father, and feels neither shame nor fear in front of his parents, so he may be free; […] To these, said I, such trifles do add up: the teacher, in such a case, fears his pupils and fawns upon them, while pupils have in low esteem their teachers as well as their overseers; and, overall, the young copy the elders and contend hotly with them in words and in deeds, while the elders, lowering themselves to the level of the young, sate themselves with pleasantries and wit, mimicking the young in order not to look unpleasant and despotic.”
— Plato (putting words in other people’s mouth), ca. 380 B.C.

Point being, you can probably find, in every generation, some adults in authority who’ll freely and happily complain about how disrespectful towards authority “kids these days” are. Generally without any evidence for that being the case, and without evidence that argumentative youth are an actual social ill (rather than a personal annoyance).

No wonder today’s students find university such a challenge, coming from a school system where the mathematics curriculum includes estimation and the English curriculum covers social media.

I don’t know anything about this estimation stuff, but why wouldn’t an English curriculum cover social media!? It’s an important form of modern communication, why shouldn’t students learn about effective use and interpretation thereof? Anyway, I don’t know shit about the issues Australian students have with Australian universities (explanation on this subject would be highly appreciated), but I have a pretty good idea why American youth may find university challenging: creationism and similar bowing to parental/religious bullshittery leaking into high-school curricula; defunding of education; active opposition (by adults) to teaching kids critical thinking*; making higher education more expensive while at the same time cutting financial aid, forcing students to take anywhere between 1 and 3 jobs to support their university-going habit. And as for European teens… I don’t find that they are having a harder time at university than they used to (except as caused by the issues with having to suddenly work in addition to study, since cost of university has gone up pretty much everywhere). So, hey, maybe Australian teens are singularily stupid and are the only kids on the globe who find university more challenging because we let them have opinions. I doubt it though.

Having recently spent time teaching students in China, I can’t help but draw stark comparisons to my local teaching experience. Students there expect that they will be given a tonne of information and will be assigned extensive homework involving engagement with the instructional material. Invitations to express opinions are met with puzzlement. Rather, they expect and welcome direction.

What’s fascinating about this quote is that I had a similar conversation once with a professor of mine; she was pointing out the difference between American students and freshly arrived Chinese students. She was having a very hard time getting the Chinese students to evaluate ideas critically and engage in discussion, preferring instead to uncritically absorb information given to them by an authority figure. Unlike the author, she did not at all find that to be a positive quality, and I agree. Sure, teens and young adults are very likely to get it wrong and Dunning-Kruger when they criticize an idea. But they’re students, meaning they’re practicing critical analysis, and we should teach them how to do it correctly instead of telling them to STFU and listen. Because otherwise, they’ll leave college having only learned that one should always uncritically absorb what authority figures say. Which is not how you get an informed citizenry; or a good crop of engineers and scientists.

In contrast, our students launch into impassioned and complex negotiation the moment there is a hint of work to be done (a technique all too familiar to any parent attempting to institute household chores).

How is passively absorbing information “in contrast” to refusing to do homework? And what does it have to do with the previous part of the rant where teens were Teh Spoilt because they felt entitled to opinions?

Mind you, I’d like to see some evidence that “kids these days” are actually more likely to try to weasel out of work than they used to, because in my experience, it’s always been thus. Or is the complaint here rather that kids now actually voice said complaints to the teachers directly, instead of just forcing the Nerd to do their homework for them, surreptitiously (or collaborate, the way we did, to minimize the amount of work each individual had to do)? Because that, if true, would be at least an interesting topic of conversation.

When the work comes in (often late) it is littered with sentences starting with ”I think” – an amusing oxymoron.


Little reference is made to any research other than nominal efforts to cut and paste from Wikipedia.

True enough. But it’s not just plagiarism that got easier, but the discovery thereof. I’m willing to bet kids used to crib off each other/their older siblings/friends (or, just have their essays dictated by parents in some cases) before the advent of plugging their paragraph into google made it easier to spot such behavior. Also… the author has complained above that kids are insufficiently submissive to authority, and is now whining because they use wikipedia as authoritative? Consistency, please: unless kids are taught to navigate the internet (something that the author also just bemoaned as unsuitable for English class), and unless they’re taught to evaluate sources as reliable or not, they’re going to uncritically regurgitate whatever they heard/read somewhere, and it’ll be all the same to them whether it was their teacher or their teabagger uncle or Teh Interwebs.

Having now taught through generations X, Y and Z, the labelling of the next generation is clear. Generation I – the first, foremost, the centre of attention.

This is really fucking hilarious, considering the exactly same whining was being done when the current crop of teens were Gen Y and how their Helicopter Parents were spoiling them rotten. Now, as the oldest members of Gen Y are beginning to reach the “respectable” age of 30, it’s apparently no longer cool to complain about them being “Generation Me”; so instead the newest crop of teens get labeled “Generation I”. Creative, that.

I think I’d better retire before I face the gargantuan task of teaching this next generation of overconfident individuals. Their weighty opinions are too much to bear and I’ve exercised all my patience.

Sounds like an admission that actually, it’s the author (and having run out of the patience and energy it has always taken to with teens in institutional settings without being allowed to beat them**), not “kids these days” that are the problem. Retiring might indeed be a good idea, before the author start yelling “get off my lawn” at hapless students crossing the campus greenery. Alternatively, some citations about how much worse the kids are these days would be appreciated. Or is research only for kids, and adults are exempt from that requirement now?

– – – – – – – –
*From the Party Platform of the Texas Republicans (page 12):”We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
But hey, maybe the author agrees with the Repubs, since she doesn’t seem to like it when students challenge anything and undermine authority.

**There’s a reason I thought the rule of teachers retiring after 20 (or 25, I don’t quite recall now) years of teaching was excellent. Some few people have amazing (even for teachers) stores of energy, but most people tend to get slightly exhausted and… “odd”, to put it delicately, after spending more than two decades dealing with humans in their most annoying stages of development.

7 comments on ““kids these days” (finally no longer adressed at my generation, but still stupid)

  1. Benjamin says:

    I loathe “kids these days”-style comments. They always remind me of this quote:

    “Horace and Aristotle have told us of the virtues of their fathers and the vices of their own time, and authors down the centuries have done the same. If they were right, men would now be bears.” -Montesquieu

  2. David Marjanović says:

    Also not new.

    The linguists have a term for this: recency illusion. Example: “ZOMGZ kids these days say shit in crazy newfangled ways” that actually date back to, like, the 14th century…

    There’s an ancient Egyptian passage that complains about the disrespectful kids those days. It’s from 2500 BCE, IIRC, and ends in “the end of the world is nigh”.

    a school system where the mathematics curriculum includes estimation

    As I’m now officially old respectable, I can point out that mine included estimation. The point was to make us able to notice immediately if our results were off by a wide margin.

    why wouldn’t an English curriculum cover social media!?

    Social media should, if for no other reason, be taught so people don’t give away all their personal information.

    the issues Australian students have with Australian universities

    Student loan debt of apparently American proportions.

    True enough. But it’s not just plagiarism that got easier, but the discovery thereof.

    Speaking of which, the life of the former German minister of defense, the former doctor zu Guttenberg, is about to be turned into a satirical movie.

    From the Party Platform of the Texas Republicans (page 12):

    This implies two scary things:
    1) WTF. Did you seriously read twelve pages of Texas Reptilian party platform!?!?! I hope there was a table of contents and you went straight to the education section…
    2) Perhaps more refreshing than scary: the Reptilians have given up all pretense and now imitate, nay, plagiarize art, specifically the Simpsons (“WE’RE JUST PLAIN EVIL”) and Conservapœdia.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    all their personal information

    and that of everyone else they know.

  4. Daenyx says:

    […]coming from a school system where the mathematics curriculum includes estimation…

    Funny, in all my time doing my undergrad in an engineering field, and now my PhD as well, informed estimation (“back-of-the-envelope math”) is up there with basic calculus and statistics at the very top of the list of profoundly useful skills I was taught. And actually, in my thesis work, it’s well above calculus in terms of utility. Being able to generate an order-of-magnitude estimate for a complex process on your own lets you notice when your algorithm or protocol is not working correctly and giving batshit results – WHO KNEW??? (Not this person, apparently.)

  5. Ani J. Sharmin says:

    I absolutely hate the “kids these days” arguments, precisely because people seem to forget how their generation used to do similar things. These arguments also stereotype horribly. I remember when I was in middle school and high school, and I would see news reports or articles about how kids are doing certain things, and I remember thinking that I wasn’t doing any of that.

    I’m not sure if I qualify as one of these “kids these days” anymore (not knowing where the cutoff would be), but I think this now probably refers to some of my younger cousins. Whenever I’m tempted to say that something they are doing is weird, I’m reminded of how I felt when someone said something negative about my generation, and I realize it’s a difference due to something like technology or them liking different shows or music. (For example, while computers were available for really all of my life, I didn’t get used to using them until middle school, and didn’t use them on a regular basis until high school, whereas some of my little cousins who are still in elementary school already feel comfortable using computers on a regular basis.)

    I do think there is a problem with our education system, but it’s adults (not kids) who decide what will be in the curriculum, and there are places where (as you mentioned) they’ll put in things like creationism. There is a certain amount of memorization required for certain subjects, but critical thinking is vitally important, or people won’t be able to make decisions based on the information.

  6. Ysanne says:

    Too late to the party, but just a point about the Australian university question. (I live in Australia with a maths professor, used to teach maths at German universities myself, and have a kid in an Aussie school, so I feel kind of qualified to answer.)

    Students starting university around here have an extremely variable level of education; some know a lot, most know some things but have forgotten the details, and some are completely clueless.
    This has a lot to do with how the Australian school system works (public/private/faith-based) in terms of funding, focus and catering to individual children’s needs (specifically disadvantaged ones), and also with the kind of training and lack of recognition that teachers experience.
    A bit different from Germany in the specifics but you get the idea.

    But: German first-years aren’t much better, in spite of selective admission and academically focused education streams (ie Gymnasium). The top of the class may be slightly larger and start out at a slightly better level, but the majority has managed to forget most of what they were supposed to learn in school by the time they start uni anyway.
    Oh, and of course EVERY year the new students are the worst ever, even if last year seemed like it couldn’t get any worse. Standards are falling, probably since the days of Euclid. ;-)

  7. David Marjanović says:

    the majority has managed to forget most of what they were supposed to learn in school by the time they start uni anyway

    Oh yes, definitely.

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