“It’s all that the young can do for the old, to shock them and keep them up to date.”
George Bernard Shaw
The older I get, the more careful I have to be not to put on my rose-tinted spectacles of a morning, or to get all misty-eyed about ‘the good old days’. When I look at the lives that my children live, and compare them to my own childhood, it is obvious that there are very significant differences. We didn’t have the Internet, satellite TV, laptop/tablet computers, smartphones, SATs tests, cheap air travel, young adult fiction or Peperami. We did, however, have the cane, and teachers who regularly shouted at us. We also had copying off the board, sitting in rows at wooden desks with lids, ink fountain pens and writing lines. On the plus side, we were allowed to ‘play out’ without our parents getting paranoid about it. In the holidays, we would disappear into the woods with our cousins for the entire day, only returning home when the sun began to set or when we got too hungry to continue. There wasn’t much in the way of Child Protection in the ‘good old days’, though, as is made abundantly clear through the horrific stories of abuse that are only now being revealed.
Yes, it is probably true that modern children are less ‘obedient’ and meekly accepting of adult authority than they used to be. Yes, this does make it harder to manage children’s behaviour, both as a parent and as a teacher. But I would prefer a million times over to be where we are now, than where we used to be when I was at school. It makes me incredibly happy that my children (sometimes/mostly) enjoy school, that they ask ‘why’ when they are told to do something, and that they stand up for their ‘rights’ (even when they have completely misinterpreted what those ‘rights’ might actually be). When I hear people call for a return to more ‘traditional times’, to ‘how it used to be’, I want to grab the rose-tinted spectacles off their faces, and give them a jolly good wipe. We can no more hold back change and progress, than we can stop the sea from coming in or the Earth from orbiting the Sun. Complaining about ‘the youth of today’ has been going on for as long as children have been on this planet. And it is nothing more or less, I’m afraid, than a sign that you are getting old.