Thursday, October 12, 2006

The state of our youth, part 2

Earlier this week I started my pontification on how we as a society have failed our youth. This is where I pick up:

Parents often stress to their children the importance of doing their homework. Well, I’m making that apply to adults as well. Adults, IT'S TIME TO DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK!

The fact is: many adults are downright ignorant when it comes to understanding today’s culture. As a result, what ensues is a significant gap between their world and the world of young people. Adults are quick to come down on kids because of the way they dress, the types of music they enjoy, how they speak, and how they act. But, what adults don’t usually think about is that – at some point – they were once children also. Chances are, they probably heard some of the same things when they were younger. Even if adults (both now and then) were hard on children so that youth could improve, my question is simple: why be so mean, uncompromising, negative, and disrespectful in doing so?

I think that we adults today are so rude and brusque toward young people because we want to separate ourselves from today’s culture as much as possible. We’d rather lock ourselves in our basements -- only coming out for food, water, and church – and only embrace our traditional ways of life; even if they aren’t relevant to today’s world. But as I contend, the only way for us to effectively reach young people is to reach them at their level. I can’t work with youth like I would with a 65 year old who has a Ph.D. I have to engage with them as one of them. But, if we refuse to make that type of engagement, we’ll never truly know them. If we continue to look down on their sense of music, style, language and entertainment, refuse to examine their technology (Myspace.com especially. You’d be surprised at some of the stuff you’ll find there), and fail to analytically study their culture, we’ll never address the real problems at hand.

Interestingly, many adults shy away from today’s culture out of fear that being involved may damage our “testimony”. To avoid the “corruption” of the world, we stay away from their music, their television show, their clothes, their languages. But we don't seem to understand that just because we do examine their culture doesn't mean that we have to enjoy it. We take part in it to learn about it. For instance, just about everybody who knows me is well aware of how I much completely loathe Black Entertainment Television. But, I watch the station nevertheless, just to get a feel for what’s out there. More adults need to do the same. If a parent saw his/her child fall into a sewer, I highly doubt that the parent would say “Yuck. I’m not going in there.” Instead, they would jump in head first – without even thinking -- to save their child. Why, then, can’t we jump in headfirst to the things that are damaging our youth’s physical, mental, emotional, and spirtual well beings?

Even the Bible reminds us that we can’t help others without an adequate sense of knowledge of where they are in their lives and what they’re going through. Just as God said through His prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (4:6) Youth today are involved in a deep and complicated struggle, which we can’t reasonably help without digging deep to uncover the problems that need to be addressed. Sadly, if we don’t do our job at helping our children, they’ll find a way to “help” with their struggles by going somewhere else; usually at their own detriment.

Even if we don’t want to accept it, the enemy is out there and is constantly growing. But there is no way for us to sufficiently battle that enemy unless we truly know about it. Sports teams don’t play their opponents without first watching game tapes and performing scouting reports. Militaries don’t go rushing into war unless adequate intelligence has been collected (or, in the case with Iraq, unless intelligence has been created/manipulated. That’s another story…). So why do we feel like we can help our children without study anything about their culture?!

With all we know and all that our society has faced, simply throwing up our hands and saying “Oh well. I don’t know. That’s just how things are.” is not acceptable. Young people want to be exposed to the truth. But, like Jack Nicholson famously said in the movie A Few Good Men, we can’t handle the truth. As an alternative to providing answers, we find it easier to just tell them “Don’t to this”, “Don’t do that”, “That’s not right”, “That’s not how I was raised”, “Because I said so”, etc. Instead of relying on that mindless and useless ways of combating today’s problems, it’s time for us get off our asses and get our feet moving and our hands dirty. We need to stop shaking our heads at the wild and out of control youth or relying on Dr. "So and so" to handle the problem. We need to stop saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with these young people today”. That’s a lie. We know exactly what’s wrong. Whether we attack it or not is a different story.

I remember talking to one of my former coworkers (ultra conservative, die-hard evangelical Republican type). She told a interesting story about how she overhead two of her friends' children -- no older than 14 -- talking about their sexual experiences. She gave pretty vivid descriptions on what they discussed. Though the conversation itself didn't really suprise me (knowing how active youth are these days), I was pretty upset by what I heard. I was more upset, however, that this coworker didn't say anything to the teens and decided not to get involved. Uh..why not?! I guess that -- on the one hand, I can understand her not wanting to jump in and intefere with other people's children. But, on the other hand, for her to do nothing was similar to her stamping her approval of their actions. She allowed a great chance for intervention and ministry to fly by.

We must make it a point to get involved in the lives of our young people without holding dear to the concept of blissful ignorance. To use the Matrix Philosophy as a reference, we need to take the red pill. Passive ignorance does more than just keep our hands free from contamination; it kills our youth. Ignorance is not bliss.

I'm sorry for getting so long-winded again. But, I had to get this off my chest. For my next installment, I'm putting the church on blast for its failures. But in the meantime, I'll leave you with this:

Plz make teh efrt 2 hlp da yung ppl. Mmk. Thx. :)

If you adults need help translating this young people computer slang, go here.

- ACL

2 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

thehc said...

Nicely said Dre,
I'm starting to miss the good ol'days when I could find things in your pieces I disagree with. I never cared much about how my kids dressed or the music they listened to as long as their behavior was correct. Having said that, I made sure to warn them that when they reject society's norm, I.E. dressing gothic or whatever, to not be suprised if society rejected them back. Remember, you rejected them first. Also, I would caution people to not try too hard to be your kids friend over being a parent. Remember, your kid has lots of friends, they don't need more friends, they need a parent. I used to tell my kids, "I'll be your friend when you make it unnecessary for me to be your parent." All my kids said they were suprised how much nicer I was after they turned 18. Your right on target about one thing though, to help your kids you have to understand their culture. For the record, the best thing you can ever give your kids is two parents who love one another. It makes every part of their life feel safe and secure.

Cynthia said...

I was going to wait until you finished "pontificating" in its entirety before I comment, but I guess I'll toss my two cents in now. Now's as good a time as any, I suppose.

Before you get all up in arms (I know how you can get), I completely agree with everything you've said so far. Our youth are dying physically, socially, and spritually yet we sit around and do nothing but complain about it. What earthly good are we if we identify the problem but won't do anything for fear of hurting our reputation or "getting involved with somebody else's kids"?

Nicely stated.