I have been accused by those around me of railing against the youth of today as if I were some crotchety old man talking about how my generation was different and of being prone to starting sentences with the words “when I was young…”. And indeed I am guilty as charged. I have long held that today’s teens are the most coddled, privileged generation and that this does not bode well for the future of our country. I have opined both in previous posts on this blog, and in rants to anyone who will listen, that today’s teens lack of respect for authority; my generation’s helicopter parenting; our legal tying of the teachers’ hands; awards for participation; the educational system’s relaxing of basic grammar and spelling rules; and the advent of ubiquitous social media, will all lead to this generation of teens becoming the soft underbelly of an already spineless society. But it appears I may be wrong, and that there is hope for this generation. Real and exciting hope.
My son has been in Army Cadets for two years now, and in four weeks he leaves for his second summer of training at Canadian Forces Base. I just attended the annual review parade for his cadet troop, and came away with a sense of pride, not just in my own son but in the youth of our nation. At the annual review, as well as over the last couple of years that Jacob has been in Cadets, I have been fortunate to see a generation of teenagers at their utmost. These teens, almost equal numbers of each gender, are of course regular teenagers. I am sure when not in front of their commanding officers, teachers or parents they swear, sneak booze and cigarettes, and are sexually active. But they are also good students destined for higher education and successful careers where they will be able to support themselves and their families as well as make a contribution to the community. They are unfailingly polite, respectful of authority, have a strong work ethic, are physically fit, self-motivated, and many, if not most, possess leadership skills far beyond their years.
While I am on the subject of teens, I have, through my son, met many other of his high school classmates, who, while not in Cadets, are equally impressive. In addition to being academically inclined and demonstrating hard work and perseverance, they play competitive sports or pursue some other endeavour such as dance or music at a competition level. They hold down part time jobs to earn their own spending money, do far more hours of volunteerism than just the minimum required by their school, and have a clear idea of their future path.
So maybe hope is not lost at all. Maybe my son’s generation will be the best yet. They are growing up with the benefits of the most advanced science and technology in the history of the world. At first glance it appears they squander too much of that for superficial and banal purposes but a closer look reveals a generation who will ultimately use their own internal drive, intellect, physical abilities, and technology, to do great things for themselves and for our community. If these teens I see are indicative of what is to come, I have no worries that the future of our country is in good hands.