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Does the Younger Generation Know Best?

Every now and then, we heard that young people will change the world. You see, they have a calling, a need to create something, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on. I recently attended a colloquium where an education leader said about her pupils, “They ask questions I never imagined asking.” A lot of young people are interested in sustainability. They are deeply worried about the future of the planet. And they are skeptical of adult authority and the “old school” behavior of deference to authority. Clashes with authorities are reported almost daily in the media. They want to enjoy absolute freedom. They say that their parents are unknowing consumers of planet’s wealth. Surely, the younger generation has dreams and ambitions.

The sad thing about this is that carried to an extreme stereotypes can be positively dangerous. Strongly entrenched myths persist. For instance, some people think that young people have a monopoly of the best human qualities. When they speak about those sensitive souls, it makes me wonder whether they are talking about angels or superheroes. One more thing. Education experts speak about how to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators. I dare to say that the idea of innovation is becoming one of the great clichés of our time. They don’t take leave to doubt that the younger generation are going to create the best of all possible worlds. They say the older generation have lost touch with all that is important in life. But is this necessarily so? Every new generation is different from the one that preceded it. Is the difference today so significant? Hardly. The younger generation are going to be in as much trouble as we are now.

Now, of course, we can say that is one thing to have ideals and quite another to have initiative, imagination, and the essential qualities of character such as persistence and a strong moral foundation to create something lasting and significant. Sure enough, society must use its wealth to secure the best possible opportunities for children. All kids deserve a good start in life. Even so, we know that not all students will have the superior performance we call talent. Beyond that, several studies show that underachievement, or dropping out, is not uncommon on the part of talented teenagers. The family milieu is a crucial determinant. If a child experiences too much deprivation or discouragement on the part of family, she can easily be sidetracked. Anyway, we must not forget that no one can do all by himself. We need many different groups working side by side. Conflicts can be avoided. And – get this – the old people have a wealth of knowledge and tricks of the trade that younger workers need.

Finally, although I disagree that a new generation draws the line, I do believe the views of young people must be heard. In fact, the world would gain from youthful leaders.

Marco Antonio Bomfoco is a lifelong language and storytelling enthusiast and a passionate advocate of quality education for all. He lives in southern Brazil. You can reach Marco at http://marcobomfoco.blogspot.com/