The children of the 60’s have grown up. They are now the parents (and in some scary cases the grandparents) of the 00 generation. The harvest we are reaping isn’t exactly what I think the peace and love generation intended.
Now I fully admit being born in the mid 60’s I barely qualify as a child of the sixties, however, I was raised by a mother who was very much devoted to the ideas of sexual liberation, feminism and the questioning of authority. I was taught that life was not fair, that there was a fight to be fought and you could either sit down and let the world run over you or you could stand up, question the powers that be and make things the way you wanted them to be. Not all these lessons were intentionally taught or even taught in positive or proactive manner, but I learned them nonetheless.
We question the government and our leaders. I very much agree with the line Michael J. Fox spoke in the movie American President. In America isn’t just our right to question our leaders, it’s our responsibility. Why are we doing what we are doing? Why is our society inequitable? What are we going to do to change it? We demanded explanations. We demanded accountings. We demanded change. We demanded equality.
The problem I see is that the questioning and the demanding are no longer followed by the stepping forward to take accountability and responsibility. The harvest of the 60’s and 70’s has become more than we bargained. We got the good things. We got Civil Rights (at least in the letter of the law). We got increased equality for women and awareness of women’s issues. We got funding increases for social programs to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves. But we also got self centeredness, ME-ness, a lack of responsibility and a martyrdom that no one wanted.
I look around at the 13 year olds in my classroom every day. I see the people at the grocery store, the library, the movie theater and on the city streets. And every day I wonder more and more what happened to the children of the people who said we can not turn a blind eye, we must stand up and be heard and counted, we must make things better.
“Why did you give me an F on this quiz?” I didn’t give you an F on the quiz. You earned an F on the quiz. Did you study? Did you prepare for the exam? Did you do the daily activities to help you learn the material? No? Then you earned the F on the quiz.
“Why did you give me a demerit?” First of all a demerit, for those who don’t know is a conduct cut or a “strike”. Three strikes in my school equals a detention. So why did I give you a demerit? I didn’t give you a demerit. You earned a demerit. Were you shouting across the room while I was talking? Were you out of your seat trying to grab someone else’s pencil because you didn’t bring your own? Were you late for class? Yes? Then you earned a demerit.
“I wasn’t talking!” Really? Was your mouth moving? Was sound coming out? That’s called talking.
“It’s not fair!” No? Did you do the thing that got you the consequences? Are the rules the same for everyone? Yes? Then it is fair. There is a difference between not fair and not what you want.
But these are kids, right? This is part of their immaturity and something they will grow out of? Well it doesn’t look good considering the reactions and conversations with many parents. “Why did you give my child an F on the assignment?” “Why did you give my child a demerit?” “You’re picking on my child. It’s not fair.”
We are raising a group of children who are not the getting the message that it’s okay to question authority. They are getting the message that it’s okay to ignore authority, that anyone who is doing or saying something they don’t like is somehow “wronging” them.
I’m not sure there is an answer. I’m certain that the adults in the 50’s and 60’s felt the same way. But I can’t help but think that young people questioning authority that said it was okay to discriminate against someone because of their race or sex is different than the young people I see who seem to believe that rules of any sort do not apply to them, only to everyone else.