Friday, November 5, 2010

The Stagnation of Youth

This is an opinion article I wrote when I was interning for a local newspaper my junior year of high school. Not surprisingly, they didn't publish it, despite having published several of my other (less provocative?) pieces.

The Stagnation of Youth

Youths today have it better than ever before. With the numerous technological advances and social reform that have put them in such an advantageous state, it is an ideal time for an adolescent Renaissance.

Instead, when given this unparalleled chance for learning and growth, teens have chosen to waste their time on trivialities. They've chosen stagnation. There is a precept in America that states nothing is ever your fault. If you beat your children, it's only because your father beat you. If you're an alcoholic, it's only because you had an absentee mother. If you were fired, it's because the prejudiced system kept you down.

This country is beset by political correctness, a need never to hurt anyone's feelings, never to offend anyone; oftentimes at the expense of the truth. Because of this, we're teaching our children that it's okay to make excuses, it's okay to settle; that you don't have to work hard for what you get. This has bred a generation of children who would rather complain and moan about the state of things and try to escape to more favorable conditions, than ever actually have to do anything about the problem.

This broken ideology has infected many of the youths of our town, of our community. None can argue that Katrina destroyed homes, livelihoods, even lives. But it did one thing of benefit: it drew us together as a community. Trivial quarrels were forgotten, and instead of letting the one place that for so many of us has always been our home be destroyed, e bonded together to rebuild not only our community, but our lives and spirits as well.

Although my family was here for Katrina, I was not. I did not see the storm that would cause so much devastation, only the aftermath. The ruined businesses, houses, streets, neighborhoods...this was the home to which I returned.

While I've lived in many places, I've always felt the Gulf Coast is my true home. It was the unmovable rock that grounded me amidst a sea of calamity and uncertainty in life. I can't even begin to explain the elation I felt in knowing that my community, the one I've always loved and felt a part of no matter how far I may have been, could grow so strong against such insurmountable odds. I was even more elated to begin school here this year, again among my family and my people.

I was shocked and appalled, however, to find no such similar sense of elation regarding the tenacity of the community amongst the peers at my new school. What I found was apathy and disdain. Despite the extremely caring, dedicated staff and administration, with every student that I talked to, there was only a single thing they had in common as far as he discussion: how much they disliked our school, and, moreover, how much they disliked our town.

There was a good deal of talk about how it was so much better before Katrina, as far as resources went. Rarely, talk was of how much better it was immediately after the storm because of the closeness and sense of kinship that was present, and how they felt the current climate lacked that sense of kinship.

When students were asked which ones planned to return to the Bay after they finished their education, in a class of fifteen students, only two raised their hands. I was one of the two.

There's constant talk about our school administration, about its policies. There's talk in the larger sense about the numerous problems of what is lacking and what needs to be fixed within the Gulf Coast.

There is, in itself, nothing wrong with complaint. The coast is in a constant state of rebuilding, and saying that there are places in which it needs improvement, and seeking to make the necessary changes, will only benefit others in the long run.

But what the vast majority of adolescents seem to miss is this crucial second step.

You cannot spend your time bringing up critical points of discussion for change, and then leaving it up to other people to make said changes.

Because youths today seek only to complain and not to learn, they fail to realize they themselves can make a certifiable difference. If they disapprove of school district policies, for instance, they can rally and petition the board in charge, or rally adults to help them.

Adolescents don't see this, however. They only see the work required to make those changes they so desire. They see only the challenges present; they see the great big roaring monster of adversity yet don't look past to see the land of achievements and successes that lies beyond. That land is easily reachable, should they choose to put in the small amount of required effort.

Not only do they fail to put in this effort, they fail to realize that the even can. It stems back to the good ol' American concept of, is something is challenging, why even bother?

The most tragic is that they don't see their own power. I have had moments of utter apathy, or of disdain, or even contempt. It's human nature. We all have. But to be ignorant of the fact that you can make a change, and to choose to further that ignorance by not even attempting anything at all, is inexcusable.

It's beggars can't be choosers on a grandiose scale. Those who refuse to act to help themselves or others give up the chance to better their situation, and therefore lose any right to complain about the situation chosen for them by others.

Oh. Very curious indeed they never published it.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very good article. Reminds me of some of the stuff I used to write. Not surprising they didn't publish it.

    "...But to be ignorant of the fact that you can make a change, and to choose to further that ignorance by not even attempting anything at all, is inexcusable."

    Well said, sir.