If you haven’t done it you’ve likely seen it. It’s the team-building activity called “Trust Fall.” Someone stands on a platform with their back to their team. With arms crossed over their chest, they count down and while remaining as stiff as a board, slowly begin falling backward. The team is awaiting the fall. With their collective arms, they catch the individual and spare them the injury of falling needlessly to the floor.
Trusting others to catch our life-falls isn’t natural. It has to be taught and learned. Instinct must be betrayed – logic denied – fear unlearned. Some either inherited or have developed incredibly powerful strands of independence DNA. In those cases, trusting others to catch them when they fall, fail, or otherwise flounder in life is about as likely as putting a saddle on the wind.
As time passes, most of us do learn to trust – at least in part. Sometimes we’re forced into it in order to survive, and then occasionally we figure out it’s in our best interest, and allow others to step up and give us what we cannot provide for ourselves. An inevitable challenge to our collective trust will affect us all when our children and our children’s offspring become those to whom our nation looks to for leadership.
While reading from a blog source to which I subscribe, one of the titles stopped me in my tracks. It read, The Teens Will Save Us (Dina Leygerman). With such a title, I had no choice but to read it. As I read through the article I was looking forward to the final word, the main point of her story. When I got there I was stunned. Here is the final paragraph:
“Teenagers will save us. So, just like Emma Gonzalez, my students did not back down nor conform. They fought for their rights. They won. And, adults can learn a lot from the teens of this generation. While the adults are complacent, jaded, and disparaged, teenagers are ignited, spirited, and take no prisoners. Do not squander their fight; they really are our future. Do not call them entitled; that entitlement is their drive and their passion. Do not get in their way: they will crush you. Foster their rebellion. They are our best allies.“Diana Leygerman
I had to go back and read the paragraph several times to ensure my understanding of the writer’s sentiment. Once satisfied, I came to my own conclusion. I couldn’t possibly disagree more.
Before moving on please understand that I am 100% invested in championing today’s teens toward reaching for and achieving their best selves. There are some huge holes however, in this blog’s conclusion, and someone has to talk about what is being observed. If it had been written 20 years ago I might have jumped onboard. In 2019 I assure you there are quite a few directions our kids are going that you don’t want to see fulfilled. If these gain too much momentum it’s a good bet we will be crushed anyway.
It’s actually quite difficult to separate the behaviors I and many other educators and mental health professionals have observed in the past few years. You don’t have to look far to see the hundreds of thousands of articles and even books written about millennials and their sense of entitlement. Many of them are now parents. Want to wager a guess as to what they’re passing along to their kids?
This entitleitis, I believe, has paved the way for another huge, maybe even bigger complication. It is called victimitis, and although it’s not necessarily new, it is enjoying a resurgence for the ages. It seems that huge numbers of Americans are looking for new and more excessive ways to be victimized. The mere sense of discomfort has given rise to hypersensitivity and taking offense at almost anything or anyone, and nobody is safe from having the finger pointed at them.
If a child is uncomfortable with, or not interested in a subject at school, it is not unusual for him to have every expectation that the teacher will just leave him alone. If there is a struggle to understand a new topic, idea, or subject, there is a growing likelihood that he will simply give up. Simply put, the work ethic just isn’t there. Grades aren’t nearly as important to a majority of students, and their overshadowing parents are feeding them from this poison apple.
One of the greatest challenges to these dilemmas is, the public education system has also bent to the will of the hypersensitive public (including the children). Many parents regularly threaten teachers. Educators are told by these parents that they don’t know what they’re doing and should consider another line of work. This is before taking the time to come to school for a parent/teacher conference. They threaten everything from “meeting behind the school” to court actions. School districts, in order to avoid anything of this nature are afraid of what parents will do. This has given way to a gradual loosening of expectations of students both behaviorally and academically.
The states have in turn, followed federal mandates, and lowered their bars to ensure that every student passes to the next grade in order to preserve their self-esteem. I never saw one student held back during my time as a public school teacher. Knowing there were students that never put forth an ounce of real effort, their “diplomas,” if they stay in school, will share the worth of a paper towel.
Yes, teenagers will fight for their rights. To a point, it is a good thing to let them learn to advocate, but not unbridled or without overwatch. Literally all kids are a long way from understanding what their “rights” really are. The cure for anything they don’t like becomes their “right,” and a clarion call to the offended masses. The unwillingness to give respect to adults – their own parents, and teachers alike – could easily lead to anarchy.
When the focus again shifts to reading, mathematics, history, writing, and learning to be a good person while children and teens are still in their formative years, we will see a return to accountability and respect. Until then, they’re an angry pack looking for a place to spend their hypersensitive emotions. As long as their primary focus is about them and their rights those of us who have gone before might be in for a rough landing in this Trust Fall. Seeing to the needs of others before you satisfy your own takes time to develop. If too many “rights” are given before selflessness is learned, there will be a sad, dire price to pay.