Why the Children Aren’t Our Future.
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
No offense to Whitney Houston, but I don’t agree with the line from her classic song. We've all heard the Greatest Love of all at almost every childhood rite of passage. It's a great message. I definitely think we should show them their inner beauty and yada yada yada, but I think the line " the children are our future' is a little problematic.
Besides the fact that with climate change there may not be much of a future for the younger generation, I think that we do the youth a disservice by telling them their power lies in the future.
My twenties are coming to a close and I never had that Eureka moment, where I felt like an adult. I went through the motions. Celebrated the big birthdays (18, 21, 25). I hit the major milestones (graduated college, got my own car, started a career, and lived on my own). I felt like a poser. I found myself in adult situations wondering who the heck let me ‘adult’. I’ve also found myself at play and wondering if I was too old to be doing certain things (dance-offs in my living room).
I have heard a lot of crap flung at my generation from older generations. This is a slander on the ‘new guy’ nothing new… The “Greatest Generation” gave birth to the Baby Boomers who were considered hippies for their opposition to war and fight against civil injustice. Then came Gen-X. The hairspray and Jheri curls of the 80s and the high tops of the 90s were ill-received from the 'mall rats'. Now, Millennials are being condemned for our love of avocado toast. Instead of buying homes and building families, we just want our hipster coffee shops and house plants for our studio apartments (please read the sarcasm).
I think that we do the youth a disservice by telling them their power lies in the future.
Generally, it is accepted that Millennials are those born between the years 1981-1991 (sometimes it’s even inclusive of those born through to 1996). It always perplexed me any time Millennials would be used as a scapegoat or generalized for being lazy or entitled. Millennials include Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Andy Roddick, Mark Zuckerberg, Lebron James ( and almost Jacinda Ardern). Millennials have reshaped the landscape of society. I don’t think we have earned the negative reputation that has been pushed upon us.
But now, society has a new can to kick: Gen Z. Generation Z is already being critiqued and condemned for how they choose to live their lives.
Which brings me to my next point:
Letting the children lead the way.
I say we let the best person for the job do it. No matter age, creed, or race. But Letting them lead the way after we have led them astray is bit toxic, don't you think? There is no onus on the adults in the room to do the right thing. They just get to check out. The sentiment a lot of Millennials and Zoomers feel is now we have to fix problems that we didn’t create. I mean, we gotta live on this planet too, so of course, we will- but change shouldn’t just come from ‘the children’.
We all need to be invested in the solution.
I think it’s time to break the cycle of judging young people. It’s important to remember that they are just a reflection of the environment in which they grow. An environment in which we provided for them. Much like children's behavior are a reflection of their home environment. If your toddler has a nasty habit of cursing like a full grown sailor, you might want to reflect on how they learned the words. I find it ironic that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are often lauded for changing the world. Both are considered geniuses in their own right, yet we condemn the youth that have benefited from their efforts.
I have heard a fair share of criticism for my generation’s ‘over-sensitivity'. We've often been slandered as ‘snowflakes’. You know where snowflakes aren’t a problem? The poles, because they're melting. Millennials and Zoomers are vilified for having concern for the environment. It’s always perplexed me… Polar bears are drowning! How can you not care about polar bears drowning? The Amazon was on fire for a month before I’d heard anything about it. The coral reefs are dying out because water temperatures are rising. How can you not care? It’s like the older generation was never educated on Environmental Science or something. Nature is so delicate that the absence of a single species can disrupt entire ecosystems. Excuse me one moment while I go hyperventilate in the closet.
Okay, I’m back. It’s just talking about the state of the world causes me mild anxiety. The state of the world is far from where it needs to be. There are so many states of emergency, it’s hard to know which ones to prioritize. Gen Z is the most informed generation ever. While I have had access to the internet since I was old enough to access it responsibly, Gen Z literally will have access to it before they have gained all of their motor skills.
I encourage everyone (especially Zoomers) to Question everything! Then seek your own answers. Your perspective matters. I implore you to be discerning between fact, fiction, and opinion.
I can tell from the way so many young Millennials and Zoomers are breaking from societal norms and redefining who they are. Revolutions have always been powered by the youth. And now in the age of technology, the youth can rally and organize at an unprecedented rate.
One of my favorite lines comes from the 1861 poem by Walt Whitman Pioneers! O Pioneers! :
The premise of the youth being the bringers of change is a tale as old as time. So to all of the GenZers reading this, I want to say commend your activity and involvement. We love to ask children, “what do you want to be when you grow up”, yet how often do we question what they want to be in that moment?
Generation Z is so stellar. Standouts include Malala Yousafzai, Yara Shahidi, Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg, and so forth. We shouldn’t consider these standouts to be outliers. They and so many others are putting in the work now because unfortunately, we haven’t secured them a future. Gen Z is showing up en masse marching for their lives, Black lives, women, Dreamers, LGBT+, and Mother Nature.
The world that I inherited as an adult is less than ideal. I was in middle school when 9/11 happened. America has been at war for more than half of my life and it’s barely a point of discussion anymore. I started university the year Obama was elected. I graduated from university during the middle of the Great Recession. Then I was told to catch up. I don’t want to do that to the next generation.
I don’t want them to have to go through the things that I went through. Some progress should have been made between them and us right? I will be thirty this year (God, help me). Columbine happened when I was 8 years old. Why haven’t we had gun reform to make sure these children are safe in a place that we legally require them to be? Why isn’t our economy set up to give them a fair chance to establish themselves in adulthood? Why do they have to fight for freedoms that are innately theirs?
As a millennial, I do not want to be a gatekeeper to change. I want to usher these young people in. They are bringing a fresh perspective. Just like we Millennials do now. Just like Gen Xers did before us. We don’t have time for them to wait, we are a point break. We need all hands on deck.
As a millennial, I do not want to be a gatekeeper to change.
Wisdom comes from experience, not from age. Typically the older you are the more experience you’ve had, but don’t let them discount your youth. Don't let them deny what you bring to the table. You won’t always be right. You won’t always have all the answers, but (spoiler alert) no one will.
I look forward to seeing the growing engagement of the Zoomers as they all come into their own. The future is bright because the light is coming from not only from behind us, but beside us.
Until Next Time,
(Sidenote: The poem Pioneers! O Pioneers! is slightly problematic as the main purpose was to encourage the Westward expansion of the United States of America under the premise of Manifest Destiny, but if you can get past that and the casual mention of slavery, the sentiment is universal.)