#060–What do we expect from American teenagers today?

I think this is one of those questions that’s so damned simple til we really get thinking about it, kinda like the meaning of the word “freedom.”

What do we expect from our kids, from younger Millennials and the kids growing up today? Technically, I myself am a Millennial, but among the older ones (which would make me Gen Y for some purists). I’d just turned 18 a couple weeks before 9/11, and the world certainly became a different place. Most of the ones making the news now were either not even conceived yet or just toddlers when that event happened.

I’m asking this question because between the tide-pod thing and the school shooting protests walkouts by teenagers, there’s a lot of shit getting thrown into the mix. We have some very contradictory views of young people and what they’re capable of.

I can’t recall anybody telling them what they’re capable of, really. Maybe this is the moment when they find it for themselves and tell the rest of us.

I ask this question because I can’t remember if anybody told us what they expected of us either, other than going to college and getting a great career. I’m of the age where we were at the forefront of the transition to more technology and social media, yet grew up expecting to function in the social world without it.

For more on this transitory craziness, I refer to this blog post about Gen Y that can boil it down far better than I.

Anyhoo, I’m sure the answers that immediately come to mind are the more typical ones that our parents were told: go to school, get a good job, buy a house, get married (not necessarily in that order).

Okay, I suppose it’s technically the same for every generation.

Maybe I’m being too Debbie Downer about all this, but I have to wonder about the “entitled Millennials” moniker that’s become cliche. I find it funny that my family will complain about Millennials all the time, and don’t seem to realize that I’m in that generation bracket, too.

So, from the perspective of someone spoon fed the glories of a WASP, middle-class lifestyle her whole life, I have to address some concerns about what we’re expecting out of this generation (from almost-voting teens to mid-30s).

What do we expect of our young people in America today?

Well, if we expect them to go to school (or finish high school at least), that’s mostly a given. That sea of standardized testing and a breeding ground of conformity, of being kept busy and getting nowhere. Several decades of breeding students for a college-bound track and being crammed full of after-school activities which leaves little chance for being–gasp–unsupervised for more than a few minutes at a time.

Yes, heaven forbid they learn how to be bored and use their imagination. Who knows what they’ll be able to create? Nope, better to ensure they just learn to obey, get more and more electives taken away every year, and get called out on every dress-code violation. Because honestly, a bra-strap partially showing is a bigger priority to take care of than whether you make your Algebra class and are prepared for the final exam.learn-3069106_1280

Now, we’re officially aware that the idea of “college-degree = lifelong success” is gone. We were all told that a college-degree would mean everything, and so many doors were open to those who pursued one.

Once upon a time… but now a Bachelor’s degree even is just about what a high school degree was 30 years ago: needed for the basics. It is true that a college degree DOES help you make more money than someone with just a high-school diploma in the long run. However, you still have to get that job, don’t you? And you have to drop a lot of money to get started.

So, college degrees don’t make you stand out quite so much as people like me were made to believe. We’ve become an over-educated and under-employed group that has little to no direction in how to use what we’ve learned and apply it to careers. The ability to network, to put your best face forward is far more important than the path to education a person has taken.

We were told to find that thing you love and stick with it. Jumping from job to job was anathema; now it’s expected that a person put in their time a few years and move on.

I bet most employers love that–fewer raises to give out.

How is one to get a good, steady career if they’re not fortunate enough to get jobs that align close together? Where’s that good, stable job that’s supposed to let you plan for the future, help you make sure you can pay for the things you need and save money?

Then of course is the “get a house” benchmark. If there’s anything Millennials are bitched about more, it’s the lack of movement from home and independence. Millennials are staying at home by the millions because they can’t move out. Why can’t they move out? For older Millennials/Gen Y, they may have tried and did it for a while, but as prices went up and jobs or opportunities were lost, they may have had to stay home. It’s hard to buy a house when you can barely pay for gas money, and something has to go.

For the younger millennials, it’s like they’re expected to stay home a while longer before even trying to move on. Hell, I see 20-somethings without driver’s licenses all the time: they only have identification cards given by the state! I’d never seen an identification-only card until I’d gotten my current day job; I thought when you turned 16, you went and got your license, and that was it! But many young people don’t know how to drive, and that was a staple of growing up, of independence, like riding your bike to the corner store to get milk for mom or something–made you feel like a big kid.

StockSnap_SFSZEAAQH6

FREEEEEEEEDOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM! (Seriously, we all need it. It’s good for us)

But if the parents are having a hard enough time keeping a roof over the family’s head and food in the pantry, how the hell are they going to save up to help with a down payment on Junior’s car, or a place of their own? And with a car would come freedom and the responsibility to get a job to keep said car. Or if you’re lucky enough to have great public transportation that goes everywhere you want, then a little starter money til you get your job.

Instead, many youngsters don’t have driver’s licenses, and definitely don’t have cars. These “entitled snots” have to rely on bumming rides, especially if they live way out away from possible employment. And if they can’t get to their jobs because they don’t have their own transportation, they’re screwed. I hate the broken chicken and egg analogy, but that’s a helluva vicious circle.

Our parents were all about saving. Most of us have tried it, only to realize it’s damned hard when you have no stability. And if you can’t be an independent person, it’s hard to get the house and know how to pay for it, or get an apartment even, the way housing and rental costs are going up all over. Even when they drop, the ability to purchase isn’t there for the younger set. Easier to have a huge communal group pitching in (which would probably not last too long, if there are too many stepping all over each other’s toes).

And then there’s getting married. That other lofty goal that’s supposed to make everything work out.

And if dating gives you a headache as a Gen Y/older Millennial, I’ll post this blog article link one more time. I can’t believe how accurate it feels.

Granted, I’ve never lived with anybody that wasn’t family, and never been in love and moved in with a boyfriend, but if your job prospects aren’t there, and you don’t have a home of your own, how the hell is marriage supposed to work out?

Married couples could use privacy (and I’m sure if they have an active sex life, others would love to give it to them… especially parents. I don’t know of any parent who is comfortable thinking of their adult child having sex, no matter how old they are, let alone in the same house). Married couples may eventually want children of their own to take care of and raise. And that gets hard with people tripping over each other’s feet.

So, it’s roundabout, but what the hell do we expect from our young people today? If what we expect is for them to go to school, get a good job, save for a home of their own and get married…then we’ve dropped the freaking ball as a society.

Because if these four basic staples of a middle-class lifestyle, the same lifestyle hinted at as the American ideal, aren’t accessible, then by definition, haven’t we set these teens and 20-somethings up for failure?

What else do we expect of our young people? Fear of society has led to keeping kids in and watching them at home or at school, and yet never protecting them online from negative influences. Teachers can’t teach everything–learning and socialization begin at home, and I think as time goes on, that lack of socialization only gets worse.

So, we’ve got two decades of kids growing up with mostly acquaintances, few friends, few chances to prove responsibility and gain independence, boredom, social media, and a world that discounts them at every turn.

They’re told to go to school, after school activities, and go home. Maybe to the mall to visit friends. Two of those choices usually requires a lot of time, a ride, and money… which parents would have to provide.

If they have lives outside of home, they’re mostly managed…and the other generations wonder why they are so “lazy,” “entitled,” “incompetent,” “crybabies,” etc.

When do they get the chance to prove themselves?

What do we expect of kids in America these days, of teens that are becoming adults?

Apparently nothing.

At least nothing I can find.

Maybe somebody else can figure it out, because I can’t.

Floor’s open to you.

2 thoughts on “#060–What do we expect from American teenagers today?

Penny for your thoughts? We'll listen...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s