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How many times in the past have I complained about "Kids nowadays," how lazy and self-centered and ignorant they are? Not like my generation!
The answer is, never that I can recall. I can't remember old-manning teenagers about the good ol' days, ever.
Matter of fact, when a discussion in one of my high school English classes led to a moment when it looked like it was time for me to Tut-tut my students, I'd often say, "You know, right about now, I'm supposed to tell you what's wrong with your generation, how young people used to be polite and mind their parents and turn in their homework and join in marches for civil rights and protest the Vietnam war back in my day. But it's kind of hard for me to old-man you when my generation's slogan was 'Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll.'"
Maybe as a teacher I wasn't supposed to say that. Setting a bad example and all. Except it's true. Children of the 60s have plenty to be red-faced about when we think about some of the things we said and did. And as for the 50s, well, we 60s college students were the ones who condemned our formative years for their lock-step conformity, racism and sexism. It would have been beyond hypocritical for me to praise the "Father Knows Best" era.
To my last day in the classroom, I maintained the students I had in the final years of my career were as good as, maybe even a little better than, my first students 30-plus years earlier.
The kids are all right. Always have been — acknowledging the obviously stupid, irrational, dangerous behavior which is part of growing up (also part of being a grown up, as this grown-up can attest). All the way back to the youth of ancient Athens running wild in the agora and, according to the leaders of the city-state, having their minds corrupted by that rabble rouser Socrates, the kids have been all right. When youth do truly awful, vicious, violent things, they're likely mirroring the society they live in.
Yeah, but can today's kids take their eyes off their phones? Can they put down the video game controllers? Apparently so. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are saying, "Yes, we can" and taking action after seeing their fellow students shot and killed along with some beloved teachers. They may just end up leading this country to a better place when it comes to gun violence. A few years back, right here in Tucson, students in the Mexican American Studies program said "Si se puede" as they fought for a TUSD curriculum they believed in, fighting a government mandate which has been condemned in a federal courtroom for having racist origins.
Will the spirit of those wonderful young people at that Florida high school spread to other youth across the country? Will it be picked up by adults who will help further the cause? Early indications are, what the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have begun isn't going to stop any time soon. Students across the country are walking out of their classrooms in support. Three nationwide marches are being planned between now and April 20. There's no telling what's next.
True, the momentum may slow. The grieving Florida students may move on with their lives. Their efforts may not lead to significant changes in our gun laws. But if that happens, I certainly won't fault them, any more than I fault the parents of the children shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, or the Tucsonans following the Gabby Giffords shooting in 2011, or so many other groups of people which have tried and continue to try to bring a bit of sanity to our gun laws but have so far made little headway.
If the Florida students and their supporters manage to symbolically smear the blood of the shooting victims on the NRA logo — so next time it's a little easier to fight the well-funded front men for the gun industry — that will be something. If they manage to help "Vote them out!" — help kick some NRA apologists out of office — that will be a significant victory. And they could accomplish far more.
Right now, I'm putting my money and my hopes on the younger generation.