Monday, September 23, 2013

The Vitality of Youth

Much has been written about millennials and Gen Y students, a lot of it negative.  They have been variously characterized as lazy, self-absorbed, safely cocooned in electronics, and worse.  Some of this is based on real data.  But I am here to tell you, they may save us from the havoc we "adults" sometimes wreak.  We absolutely need them.

For one thing, they are apparently more optimistic than older adults.  They believe they will have more opportunity than their parents did, and that life is better today for them than it was "in the good old days."  It spite of the doom and gloom being written about the state of higher education in this country, they see it as a good investment in their future.  Who doesn't need freshness of opinion, and a hopeful view of the future?

I have written elsewhere in my blog about the energy and creativity of youth, so this item is really just another snapshot of the gifts they bring to the table.  As we older adults wrangle over chronic and confounding issues of our day, such as racism and military conflict, it is our youth who sometimes present brilliant and "never mind all your rules" approaches to problems.  Rule-breaking teens are even thought more likely to become successful entrepreneurs later in life.  I am reminded of a recent news item about a pre-teen who solved a centuries-old mathematical conundrum in just a few minutes, startling others in the room.  Their hopefulness and lack of constraint is very valuable indeed.  While adult members of faith argue over the "right" approach to inter-faith gathering and dialog, for example, younger folk go ahead and get together and talk.  This pattern has occurred among Christians, Muslims, Jews in the middle east, and among Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

If they can forge ahead there, what else can they do?  What will we encourage them to do?