Leave those kids alone

It’s time to leave those kids alone. This is an excerpt from a post that just came across my Facebook feed. It’s a common complaint I see coming from the 50+ crowd,

“We don’t need yet another generation of entitled brats who think everything’s about them because their obsessive parents gave them awards just for showing up.”

I often wonder if these cranky old bastards have children in school now or if they actually associate with young people. Those “participation trophies” stop after maybe the second grade and give way to years of tyranny at the hands of teachers frightened to lose their jobs, and volunteer coaches, and high pressure after school activities, high pressure “projects,” which the parents end up doing, and even worse, which the school teachers reward. And when the kids are not busying solving for “x” in the second grade, their teachers are cramming geometry down their throats.

By the time kids reach high school they’ve been tested, sorted, and most thrown on the heap of mediocrity, which in today’s world is the loser pile. There’s a rather crass joke about Asian people that goes something like “Do you know what an A- is to a tiger parent? An “F.” There are tiger parents in every culture and you know what, the kids don’t need their tiger parents to tell them they are “losers” when struggle to get “C”s or “B”s. Message received.

And when they get to college, a few “C”s on an otherwise outstanding transcript puts them out of the running for the better grad schools, which in turn puts them at a disadvantage when competing for jobs. And if you think that doesn’t matter, ask any recent graduate of a third or fourth tier law school. Mostly report they cannot get work as lawyers or if they do, the firm expects them to work for free in exchange for a desk and conference space and a share their profits. And that’s all while paying back hundreds of thousands of dollars in school loans. All while trying to get along in an anti-union, “gig economy” that does no longer provides health insurance or fixed benefit pensions.

So yeah, they have iPhones and Air Jordans, and yeah the lucky ones have parents who can afford to enroll them in after school activities and advocate for them while wending their way through the obscene obstacle course of high stakes tests and pressure filled sports, and extra curricular activities, which if they don’t do they won’t get into decent schools, and yeah they are often not required to do chores around the house but that’s because they spend all of their time in a pressure cooker competing with all the other kids for the choice spots in everything.

Unlike my cranky-ass peers, I put off starting a family until later in life. My son is still in high school. Just this past summer he applied for a counselor-in-training job at the  summer camp for gifted kids which he attended from the fourth to eighth grade.  There were literally only 12 positions available. He competed with a pool of several hundred “gifted kids” to get the job. There was a waiting list of 50 kids who were only less qualified by the equivalent of hundredths of a second. Even though he is working for the camp, as opposed to taking the courses, we still have to pay the full amount. We made the last tuition payment a day late and they assessed a $25 late fee. When we questioned it, the camp operator said fork it over in two days or he loses the spot.

I’m pretty sure every 14 to 18 year old I know would love to have the adolescence I had. The only standardized test I took were the Regents and the SATs. The former was optional and outside of NY had no real effect on your life. I shot hoops with my friends after school, had a part time job, played every sport with a ball, figured out how to get in and out of trouble, went cruising in my parent’s cars on .50 a gallon gas, did marginally well in high school, stumbled in my first few years of college but still gradated from one of the top colleges in the US with a decent GPA and still landed a full ride at the number 16 graduate school for my discipline. And I started my post college life owing just $2500–and that’s because my father died in my senior year.

How about we look in the mirror. It is us 50+ adults who think we are entitled. It is we who created the world as it is. We’re the ones who fucked the banking system, killed the unions, wrote the laws that made it more profitable to send our businesses off shore, who allowed the credit card companies to become legalized loan sharks, who changed the bankruptcy laws so that it is now essentially impossible to recover from a financial misstep, unless of course you’re a rich asshole like Donald Trump. We’re the ones who hired lawyers to sue everyone for everything, and so on and so on.

Want to “straighten out” the kids? Let’s do what we can to right the ship before we die instead of leaving it to our kids with holes in the hull and a broken bilge pump.