I used to think it was a sure sign of middle age when someone complained about "kids today." But now it seems like a serious reflection on the sort of generation poised to become the nation's leaders someday.
The most recent example comes from upstate Greece, N. Y., where young children taunted a grandmotherly-looking bus monitor with insults and profanities until she broke down in tears. Fortunately or unfortunately, one of the children caught the scene on a cell phone (parents apparently think it's important to give techno toys to their young children, but not teach them basic respect and manners). At least there can be no dispute about what happened, and there's something encouraging about the fact that people went online and donated some $100,000 to send the bus monitor on vacation.
We worry about kids being bullied. But what about when the kids themselves—in this case, middle-schoolers—are the bullies? Kids, especially children that age, do tend to engage in a little rank-setting and score-settling among themselves. But with a 68-year-old bus driver? I shudder to think of how abusive or violent these kids will be when they grow up.
If we could convince ourselves that the children will outgrow their bad behavior, we could perhaps write this off. But look at the low level of discourse on Capitol Hill, the interruption of the president of the United States both on the House floor by a congressman and at a Rose Garden address by a website reporter. Children learn by example. Maybe the people who deserve time outs here are the adults who set the pattern.
Teacher David McCullough, Jr. delivered a terrific graduation address recently in which he bluntly told a high school class "you're not special." He was right, and they needed to hear it. But perhaps he should be delivering the same message to adults. That way, future generations wouldn't have to be schooled in basic manners.
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