I swear to all that is good an holy that if I have to listen to one more twenty-something complain about bills and college and, you know, LIFE, I am going to lose my damn mind.
I’m an ageist. I admit to totally being completely and unabashedly discriminatory against the under 30 set. And, I admit to hating this generalized demographic even while having many friends, colleagues and other people I generally respect, fall into this category.
It is absolutely not that I am out of touch. I get it. I’ve taught for long enough that the first few graduating classes of seniors I worked with are now squarely in their 30’s. So, while this makes me super old, it also means that I have watched teenagers grapple with the educational system since the 90’s. I understand that everyone tells you that you HAVE to go to college, then you go broke once you do the thing that everyone insisted you do, but weren’t sure you really wanted to do in the first place. But, you marched along with the other lemmings and filled out your FAFSA and got your degree in French Literature and now you fold sweatshop clothes at the strip mall. I know. We all know because you have told us about a million times on Twitter, but perhaps you may have forgotten to take responsibility for your own actions, decisions and life.
My 9th graders are working on a research project right now in class. I would estimate that only about 30% of them have accepted this challenge by digging in and really pouring through resources. That 30% is going to the library, using databases to find periodicals, and utilizing scholarly websites and journals to find high-quality information for their writing.
The other 70% says something like, “can you help me?”. Now, it is totally my job to help kids. But, when I would come over to the desk of one of these 70%’ers, I would usually say, “What can I help you do?”. This is usually met with blank stares. Or, with a generic, “I don’t know how to start?” or just “I don’t understand.” If pressed with, “what don’t you understand?”, I either get “all of it” or a shoulder shrug and more blank staring.
See, the thing is that for years and years, we’ve tried to protect our children from failure, doubt, mistakes and disappointment. And, as a teacher who has seen a generation of kids who cannot struggle in a healthy way terrifies me. There are millions of young people who are incapable of dealing with heartache, with rejection and with broken promises.
Is college too expensive? Yes. But so is just about everything that we actually want. When we told all the kids that they needed college, they listened. The demand went up. It got more expensive. This is how things work.
Are there too few jobs out there and is the majority being suffocated by the so-called “1%”? I dunno. Maybe? But, so the fuck what? Do something about it. Change your world. Change yourself. Change your perspective. Just don’t write a letter to your CEO about how you can’t afford your rent. It’s not his problem. It’s yours. Figure something out. Struggle. Sweat. Overcome.
I want my children at home to be independent. I don’t want them just to make awesome independent decisions about getting mermaid hair or listening to 21 Pilots be Just. So. Avant-Garde. (Look at us and how avant-garde we are!) I want them to tell me, “It’s okay mom. I can do it myself” when I offer to button a shirt or cut a banana. I’ll cry that my babies are all grown up, but I do not want to raise boys who cannot or will not try something that is hard, maybe even do it wrong or just shitty or even get a little bumped and bruised in the process, but the come out on the other side with a product that they can own entirely themselves.
In the words of one of my favorite fashion gurus, “Make it work,” people.