“Y’all always talking down on our generation.”- a 7th grader, 2017
Today, one of my students asked me if I saw hope in this generation. I hesitated, fighting myself not to answer with a cold “no”. Because, after all, that’s not how I honestly felt. After a moment of reconsideration, I answered, “The question is: do they see hope in themselves?”. The student nodded knowingly. Her classmates interjected with defenses like “I got hope in myself” and “I’m going to college”. As some of them rattled off their expectations to be NBA players and other wealthy professionals, I quietly thought, All of this “I’m going to be rich” talk, and they don’t even have a plan.
Now, let me state that I am in no way shape or form trying to be a discouragement to these students. My judgement of them comes not from a close-minded, authoritative space. It actually comes from them, if that makes sense. See, I have daily conversations with them about college preparation, career goals and life (situation) planning. I even engage in general discussion and conversation with them very frequently, just to pick their brains. In doing so, I find that most of them want so much for themselves but lack the discipline in actually being proactive in their pursuits. They are so engulfed and distracted with the short-term that they fail to prioritize. Moreover, they fail to prioritize because they have no idea of what is substantial.
Mirroring the adults in their surroundings, many young people hold material possessions to the highest esteem. They are consumed with consuming—-sneakers, cellphones, jewelry, etc. If it is new, it is a MUST, even if there is no real use for it. And no, there is nothing wrong with wanting nice things. However, I have witnessed too many instances where students are bragging about recent mall trips one minute and begging for pen and paper the next. These same students will literally walk over a classmate without the slightest “excuse me” but come to tears when they drop their new iPhone. Random occurrences such as these re-affirm the fact that they aspire, not to be progressive and productive, but to be a collector of things.
And truthfully, I believe many of them are unaware of their misstep. Still, if unchecked, this act of incessant, short-term goal setting will undoubtedly render them short-sighted. My hope for this generation is that they not only see, but rectify this, sooner than later.