I’ve been thinking about the young woman, Greta Thunberg, recently. She’s been splashed all over social media lately, garnering attention from all sorts of people, groups, etc. Perhaps the most disappointing thing has been the desperately negative reaction from so many adults. Disappointing, but not surprising. As a human being and a parent, I find the reactions… Well, rather ignorant and disgusting.
Well hold on there, Dan! What gives you the right to say something like that?! Everyone has a right to an opinion but you don’t need to be so rude about it!
Really? Funny you should say that… What I meant to say was, “…rather ignorant, disgusting and hypocritical.”
I know, right? Lobbed that one so slow, I almost didn’t want to swing at it. Almost. Some days it’s hard being your own straight man. Good thing I saw it coming.
Now, before we go any farther, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind about what Greta is talking about. The people that agree with Greta will continue to do so. Those that don’t, well, that’s more of a given, really. Honestly, this has nothing to do with climate change and far more about who’s watching and listening to you.
In the first sixteen years of my life there were two central themes on how many older adults viewed the youth and their value in society.
1) Children should be seen and not heard.
2) How the hell do you fix the blinking VCR clock? Ask your children or grandchildren to do it.
Rather utilitarian and somewhat ironic, isn’t it? Little value to a situation -until they’re needed. I’d like to say that’s changed a lot, but it turns out my generation and those before mine might have learned a little too well from those that taught us.
Today it would be
1) Children these days don’t know a damn thing. Something, something Tide Pods.
2) How do I configure the wireless router for my television? Well…
What’s interesting about these enduring themes is that we place little value on what the youth know, even as we stress education and learning because we rely on what they have learned. Well, some of us stress it. These days it’s become more and more popular to value opinions and alternative facts, what my high school educated father would have referred to as, “Bull***t”, but I digress.
Do you know what’s endured just about as long as these themes? The trials and tribulations of parents helping their kids with homework. Of constantly exclaiming, “You’re learning this now? I didn’t learn this stuff for another year or two!” And also the constant of pain of not being able to help them with it because we no longer remember the knowledge, or never learned it in the first place.
Interesting indeed. Even before the Internet, our education system was increasing the rate at which children were taught new and more complicated materials. The scope and speed they face today is more than when I attended school, and certainly more than when my parents attended school. But don’t worry, children should still be seen and not heard, they have nothing to teach you, no knowledge that they might be able to impart. They certainly aren’t capable of any real intelligent thought or reason.
Did you know that our knowledge and understanding of engineering is advancing so rapidly that much of what is being taught right now will be obsolete in 2-4 years? Not wrong, just no longer complete, no longer everything there is to know. The science keeps getting better, the techniques more advanced and refined. Imagine what we won’t know 5 or 10 years from now. Imagine what you don’t know now because you never learned it. But your children and your grandchildren are, and faster than you would have.
“But Dan! That’s not what we’re saying at all! This Greta person isn’t just talking about stuff she has no idea about at her age, she’s being manipulated and used by those people with an agenda!”
Oh, well that’s different. I didn’t think of that. My face is so red right now!
16 year old people are young, not stupid. History has given us a plethora of examples of young, intelligent people with thoughts and ideas that are wonderfully coherent, well considered and, most importantly, their own. I would wager that for most of you, your own experiences at that age, or with people at that age, have also shown you that this is true. No this does not mean every youth is this way, and no, not every youth is right regardless of their talent and intelligence, but it does mean they are more than sufficiently capable of teaching you something.
Unless you already know it all. These damn kids these days don’t know a damn thing, but you sure do. Don’t you? You know enough to ignore your history, to ignore the evidence before your eyes and ears, to repeatedly disregard the hard work and lessons that the youth of today have spent literally all their lives up to this point, learning. That you, yourself, once learned, too.
And now, in front of your children and grandchildren, you’re teaching them the same stupid lesson that others passed on to you. And you’re doing it in wonderful and vicious ways. If you’ve learned nothing else, you’ve certainly learned that social media makes for a wonderful whipping post. Everything from attacking her looks, her intelligence and learning, to denigrating her parents, teachers and the people that surround her. She doesn’t know better, she’s being manipulated, she’s too young to understand! You offer conspiracy theories, religious dogma, and oh so many excuses or arguments as to why this person isn’t right, can’t be right, isn’t worthy of being considered.
Who is she to tell an adult anything? Who indeed.
And behind you, soaking in all you have to offer, are the next generation, ready and eager to learn that same lesson from the people they love and respect.
I’m not concerned whether Greta is 100% right about what she’s trying to teach others, I’m worried that your children and grandchildren think you are.