Thoughout mankind’s history, youth have been equivocated to inexperience, unruliness and in need of guidance. You can see it the next time that you take a stroll through the food court in your local mall. Our current culture is not the only one which has paved a way for mis-guided youth. In Greek mythology there were numerous accounts where youth made a bevy of mistakes due to their inexperience. The offspring of the of Greek Mythology most infamous gods, Zeus was actually given the name Hebe, meaning “youth”. In more recent years, the trials and tribulations which youth may go through as they grow older, has been succinctly summed up by Grace Abbott, Chief of the Children’s Bureau from 1921 to 1934, and from 1934 to 1939. She also served as a professor of public welfare administration in the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago. She stated:
“Children, because of their ever changing, gradually merging patterns of growth and development, and because of their constantly shifting response to environmental influences require for the solution of their problems the attention of closely integrated health and social services and a variety of educational opportunities in their homes, their communities, their schools, and in many cultural settings.”
A boring reference, I know, but it lays truth to what I am getting at…YOUTH ARE STUPID. But not to their own fault most of the time; in many cases, the thinking of youth is a direct result of the adults which they are around, so let’s not forget that nugget of truth.
Many of these notions are substantiated due to the mere fact that sometimes the younger one is the less life experience one has. This is the main reason why, we here in the United States, have a very structured educational system, comprised of at least twelve years of standardized education in order to prepare children to face living, surviving and distinguishing what is right from what Uncle Lonnie does out back in the barn to the farm animals.
In many cultures throughout the world there are “distinct rites of passage” which a child goes through, turning them into an adult. In the past (and currently in some remote cultures of the world) maturity is reached via sexually processes such as circumcision (for boys) and the beginning of the menstrual cycle (for girls). Here in the States, the land paved with Gold; the melting pot effect which this country has fostered has prevented a distinct point in an individual’s life when one become’s an adult. The age of 18 has been set at the legal age in which a person becomes an adult, but one still cannot drink alcohol or, in most states, purchase a handgun legally, things which we equate with adulthood. And I don’t know about you, there are very few 18 year olds which I would trust with making my hamburger, let alone trusting them with a pint of Jack Daniels. This unclear line of where adulthood begins and youth ends has made youth relations in the United States an issue not prevalent in media or the legal system, but has an underlining omnipotent presence in our everyday lives.
Today’s youth are in a stage where they have had great gains in the access to information, which in the past, has helped to differentiate the information rich older population with that of the inexperienced youth. Despite what political affiliation that you may be, you cannot ignore the fact that the “No Child Left Behind” Act imposed by President Bush (Jr.) has given youth easier access to information at a younger age (and you don’t know how hard it was to give props to this one).
Though the terms Information Access (IA), the access to information and Digital Divide (DD), the disparity in access to information, are two terms which have been used interchangeably, these two terms are very distinct in meaning and in practice. To start, IA is just a small part of what we know as the DDwhich has plighted most of the free world since the popularity of computers and The Internet in the past decade, working on a larger scale, depicting entire societies and countries that suffer from the disparity and knowledge of modern technologies such as cell phones, computers, fax machine etc. Conversely, IA refers more to the access to these same types of technologies on a smaller scale and mastering of these technologies to obtain and transmit information. It has been well documented that these two phenomena, which in past years was omnipotent, has been on the decline with the affordability of devices which harbor such things as the internet. In a report published by U.S. Department of Commerce Report entitled “A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding their Use of the Internet,” released in the Spring of 2003, they garnished the fact that with the availability of technology in the public realm coupled with their affordability, that the digital divide was on the decline.The trend has been documented on an international level as well. According to The Global Policy Forum, 2008 boasted 1.6 billion internet users internationally as opposed to 10 million internet users in 1995. This closure of the access to information and the ever changing lexicon is great for youth, but may be detrimental to communication between them and the generations which precedes them. Some speculate that the advancement in technology and access to immediate information as created a sense of urgency in today’s youth.
When you were considered a youth, I am sure that you have had a few examples of where you have tried to convey a message to an adult, just to have them either pat you on the head and look at you as though you had an additional arm growing out of your ass. At the age of ten years old, I along with my two younger brothers were with my mother when the tire of our Oldsmobile blew out on a busy street. We were fortunate enough to pull into a parking lot of a busy mall, but we were still miles from home. It was winter in the mid-west, so the weather was not conducive of an outside auto work for someone as inexperienced in doing so as my mother. A passerby saw her attempting to change the vehicle’s tire in the cold weather and he stopped to assist us. Moments after he had successfully assisted in changing the car’s tire, the kind gentlemen collapsed to the ground. Frantics pursued and I was tasked to run to the near-by shopping mall to get assistance. Once I entered the department store, immediately I accosted the first official looking adult which I could find and, for the lack of better words, frantically informed them that the guy who was helping my mom had fallen down. I don’t know if it was my garbled speech, my frantic demeanor or my age, but the adult immediately turned to his supervisor and informed him that my buddy had fallen outside, clad with a smirk on his face. It was only after the supervisor had walked outside with me to find my mother performing CPR on our Good Samaritan that he took the situation seriously and called for the paramedics.
Even as I aged, the communication difference still persisted. In my first role as a supervisor, I managed a team of ten to twelve people, ranging in ages from teenagers to middle aged. Needless to say, being in my early twenties at the time, the way in which I managed my younger staff members was slightly different that I did with my older ones. For those who were several years my senior, they were more responsive when they were managed with a lighter hand as opposed to that of the younger staff; who took greater appreciation to management cues when they were given at more of an authoritative manor.
Having adults look down to youth is nothing new and I have little doubt that it will end anytime in the near future. But you have to always remember that it’s not always the youth’s fault when they babble something unintelligible. If you don’t understand what they are saying, don’t just discount it, consider what they may be trying to say, it may just save a person’s life one day.