Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kids Today

I've been reading an interesting book that chronicles the shortcomings of youth. The author chronicles kids who go off to college and get drunk; duped by intellectual frauds on campus; drop out of college; rebel against their parents; engage in dangerous incidents of violence; and the list goes on and on. The youth portrayed by the author are gullible and overly impressionistic, prone to lose their moral bearings. It's a troubling picture of the young.

This would seem to reinforce what so many critics point out are the fruits of our new digital culture. These would seem to be the bastard children of television, video games, iPods, and Britney Spears.

The problem with this analysis is that this book is discussing youth in 16th and 17th century Germany. The book is Three Behaim Boys: Growing Up in Early Modern Germany by Steven Ozment. The book looks at the lives of three members of the Behaim family and chronicles their struggles through their early adulthood. What strikes one when you read the book is how similar the troubles these kids went through are to the issues that kids today face. The book is a collection of their letters to the various adults in their lives and the adults' answers are stunningly similar to what we hear today about the decline of youth.

Is it possible that every generation thinks the younger generation is corrupt and represents a decline of the previous generation? Boomers complained about Gen-X slackers. "Greatest Generation" parents complained about the Boomers. You can trace this back through condemnation of greasers and communists in the 50s back to beats, flappers, etc. And yet each generation seemed to turn out just fine.

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