Twelve years ago I witnessed four students gang up on a professor. The professor was an Asian female of slight build and the students were not outsized, but were so direct in their questioning, that the professor slowly backed up and literally ended up in a corner. It was at that point that I came to her rescue by interrupting the conversation with a casual question, which defused the situation and allowed the professor to escape.
At the time, I did not recognize that I was observing a shift in what I call the “respect paradigm”. Today’s youth are exponentially smarter and quicker than adults were 30 years ago, and they know it. They know it the first time they show us how to do something on an electronic device. More importantly, they inately understand that their “smartness” extends beyond electronics.
They are not easily cowed. They do not accept the “because I told you so.” They do not “respect their elders”. In fact, to the old school generation (OSG), their beliefs and actions border on disrespect. But we need to ask ourselves if this is bad. I’ve seen kids who were so cowed by adults until they lacked self confidence or self esteem, which not only effects their future, but the future of our country.
Let me clarify that I am primarily speaking about kids who have grown up in middle America and in mixed race environments. Those kids raised by “soccer moms” and “helicopter parents.”Those who are expected to excel. The “I am a winner” attitude builds expectations and confidence in our children.
When they enter college, we are faced with students who have high expectations and will not back down. When they get a grade of “B”, they will absolutely question it. Their response usually starts with “I’ve never gotten a B before” or “I always get A’s” or “this B will affect my GPA.”
We have created these kids and now have to deal with the outcome. They “talk back.” They don’t back down. They know they are smarter than the adults and therefore, have different perspectives, expectations, and responses.
Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Willow and Jaden Smith, and many of the kids in the mid to top tier universities have what Patti Labelle calls a “New Attitude”. This new crop of kids are our Olympians. They’re the best because they know they’re the best… and isn’t that what we want?