Something to think about...by Superintendent Westerberg
I recently joined Mayor Danielowski at her monthly “meeting with the mayor” at Coborn’s. During a conversation, I was asked how students have changed over the many years I’ve been in education. I believe the person expected to hear today’s young people are much different and not in a positive way. But, in my humble opinion, they are not. In fact, they do amazingly well considering how the world around them has changed.
During my youth, kids had far fewer activities and distractions pulling at them. Those of us who lived on farms had daily chores after school, then dinner, followed by some homework, then off to bed. I felt lucky that dad had quit milking cows so I didn’t have to get up before school to help with the milking like some of my buddies. Prior to school ball teams, the only activities available were “town team” peewee baseball, 4H and, for the town kids, Scouts. That was it. When there was time to watch a little television, there were three stations. We didn’t know any different, so that was enough.
Young people today are growing up in a very different world. Adults have come to believe it’s better if they organize virtually all youth activities and each activity must consume the child’s time for much of the year. Twelve baseball games a summer was enough back then, it left time for other activities for kids and their families. We now believe more is better. It seems activities have become less about kids having fun and more about winning and earning a scholarship. Unfortunately, today’s kids have been denied the opportunity to learn how to play by themselves, learn conflict resolution skills and problem solving strategies, which comes with organizing their own fun with friends.
Too many youngsters today learn at an early age they don’t measure up and quit competitive activities. Some others are so worn down by the number of games and time commitment they lose interest and quit participating in something they used to enjoy.
Electronics have also created a different world for young people. In the olden days, the only electronics in the house was a radio. Today toddlers use iPads before they can talk. Cell phones are in the hands of elementary-age children. The need for constant connectivity often results in less communication not more. Texting has replaced conversations around the kitchen table. For generations, the kitchen table and mealtime were where parents connected with their children, shared family stories and reinforced norms and family values. You more mature readers will remember the Walton’s television show, right? But, today’s youth learn many of their values and social norms from smart phones and video games.
It’s not easy being a kid these days. Between growing up with helicopter parents at one extreme and the disengaged parent at the other, being exposed to adult things at too young an age, unlimited distractions from technology, and constant pressures to succeed, no wonder mental health issues for children are a major concern for most educators. No, kids today aren’t worse than they used to be. They’re just doing the best they can with what they’ve been handed.