I told a friend the other day that I was contemplating writing about the “Everybody gets a ribbon” mentality that seems so pervasive these days. This much younger friend immediately asked me, “Hasn’t the “older” generation always complained about the “younger” generation?” His question has merit.
In the 1920’s jazz came along and was surely going to lead everyone who listened to it straight to perdition. Skirts got shorter, women bobbed their hair, and illegal hooch was everywhere. You could drink bathtub gin, bootleg whiskey, or home-made moonshine all while dancing to the provocative sounds of early jazz. Preachers preached, mama’s warned, and the music and the dancing continued joyfully until the Great Depression struck and changed the tunes.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s the vibrant music of early rock and roll was proclaimed to be the sign of the end of time. Surely, only the devil could create music that drove young men and women to move and gyrate the way they did when the music took over their feet and other body parts. Music continued to be made and that same music that was declaimed from the pulpits seems pretty mild by today’s standards.
When I was in grade school during the height of the youth rebellion in the late 60’s my teachers were always telling us that our society was exhibiting all the same patterns that late Rome exhibited, just before the fall. They were sure that the rebellion of the day was a sign that our society was going to crash around us. As a pre-teen, it made sense to me but I was torn between a vague feeling of unrest from their claims and a youthful admiration for the hippies and flower children who were living so freely.
If I chose to, I’m sure I could find examples of every generation being considered thoughtless and wasteful. My friend was right, that is how the generations roll. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and crotchety, but the current trend of “everyone gets a ribbon,” feels a little more damaging.
In my opinion, there is competition, which means winning and losing, everywhere in life. To tell a child that everyone’s a winner is doing that child a great disservice. Every time you apply to a school of higher learning, you are in competition with everyone else who is applying. Every time you apply for a job, you are in competition with everyone else who is applying. Every time you see someone you are attracted to, you are in competition with everyone else who finds them attractive. That’s how life works. If you are raised thinking everyone is a winner, how devastating will it be the first time you lose a competition? How graciously will you deal with winning when you come out on top?
To tell a child to always let an adult solve their problems is an even greater disservice. We need to be raising a generation of problem solvers who can look at the problems of the world and try to figure out some solutions.
If you are used to always going to an adult to solve your problem, who will you go to when you’re the adult? I can’t think of a single boss or co-worker who would’ve backed down if I’d called my mom to talk to them every time things didn’t go my way. Not to mention how my mom would’ve reacted if I’d asked her to.
I have heard the theory that if we raise all the children to be loving and non-violent we will have a non-violent world. That sounds really pretty, but there will always be those who resort to anger and violence no matter what they were taught. We do not live in a perfect world and no one raises perfect people.
I want my grandchildren to grow up knowing that their voice and their concerns matter. I want them to know that they can apply their hearts and brains to figure out how to deal with confrontation by themselves. I want them to know that they don’t always win, but if they keep trying they will eventually achieve great things. Achieving takes a lot of effort and sometimes failure is the best incubator for success.
So, in answer to my younger friend’s question, Yes, every generation has thought the younger generation was going to Hell in a handbasket. I just hope we’re able to give this next generation tools to be prepared to move our society forward. It won’t be easy, but I think they can do it with the right coaching, not indulgent pampering.