Sunday, September 06, 2009

Somewhere the Greatest Generation is Weeping...


When the next generation makes me look like a hard-ass, there is something wrong here...

I posted on my Facebook a while back that I had been told by the school that I was no longer allowed to cross out student's wrong answers, but was instead to circle them, because seeing a page with lots of crossed out answers would make the children feel bad. My question of why our response should be 'I'm sorry that seeing 9 out of every 10 questions crossed out made you feel bad, I'll circle them next time' as opposed to 'Well, if you don't want to see so many things crossed out then you should study more' went largely unanswered.

My first response to this was of course disbelief. I think that if I had told my teachers that they should not cross out answers because it made me feel bad, they would have responded exactly as I was want to; that the responsibility for their being so many red marks on my paper was not their responsibility but mine, and only I had the power to change it. If my parents had done the same, the answer would probably have been a more polite version of the same.

But here's the thing I realized: My parents wouldn't have gone to the school to make that complaint. With all the love of good parents they would have told me to study more if I wanted to see fewer marks on the sheet, and that it was the teacher's job to mark my answers wrong. And more importantly than the realization that my parents, who would go to bat for me for anything major that I needed, wouldn't have considered this a real complaint was this realization: That among all of the silly complaints I did have about school, this was never one of them.

I was never exactly a big tough guy during school, physically or mentally. The most common appellations I give to myself in conversation are 'doughy' 'pasty' and 'Jewboy', the last one not indicating lack of emotional toughness as much as a lack of ability to be a professional sport's star (because that's all that stands in my way). I've learned to have a pretty thick skin about a lot of things, but for a lot of years that wasn't true. I was very much desperate to be accepted, and totally retarded on how I went about it, while at the same time trying to hide that behind my (self-inflated) brilliance.

So what does it say that I apparently had, at my most emotionally frail, more emotional resilience than the kids at my school?

When I posted that Mom said that she was told the same thing, with the additional caveat that she couldn't use red pens any more for the same reason. I did not have one person comment to me that they supported this, and yet if it is infecting both Bangkok and Denver (not known for similarities or closeness), it must be fairly epidemic.

I think it's sad that the next generation doesn't have any appreciation of work or sacrifice, and I think it is sad that someone from the first mega-Instant Gratification generation is the one saying it. It makes me feel incredibly old to say, but how have we come to a generation that seems to have no concept of sacrifice for gain or reward for effort?

I realize that it is the fault of my generation and the one immediately before me. For a long time I was very self-centered and spoiled in that way, but I went to college and kind of mellowed the heck out (although I still blog, which seems to be the ultimate act of net vanity). If I hadn't had that mellowing out and space to examine myself, I can easily see me passing on virtues to my theoretical children that would lead to situations like this.

Add to this that Glory does not serve a poor demographic in general, given that our base cost is 60,000 per three month term when a lot of the people in the city live on 6,000 a month, and we are serving a solidly upper middle class group of people. The upper middle class and the lower upper class (confused yet?) have not traditionally been known for their restraint or humility, and between sports classes and private tutoring and easy to get out of mandatory military service and not seeing anything crossed out on their paper any more, I don't think there is a lot of time for these lessons to be imparted to the kids I teach.

I never had a great work ethic, and I still struggle with a finely tuned tendency towards procrastination, but at least I'm self-aware enough to recognize that I am not owed everything in life for nothing (although I'd like to be), and that the hardships I suffer are generally of my own making (although I'd like them not to be). While I did get the chance to move to Thailand and go to various Asian nations because of it, I recognize that I didn't work hard in college and so I ended up working at Sears, and had to pretty much leave the country to get serious professional experience.

I know I'm not the only one who cares that we are training a generation of whiners and sissies, and I'm not sure what I can do about it. I just know that every time we've needed to pull something major out in the USA, in the World, in the whole of History, it has come through hard work and sacrifice; nothing is ever given to us on a silver platter. And maybe it's just that I'm in this now; maybe the Greatest Generation were whiners before World War II and just got their shit together for a couple of years there. But I just wonder what we'll be willing to sacrifice in 40 years, when all of our leaders had to be protected from the evil of crossed out wrong answers?

1 comment:

  1. Incredible posting, Matthew. Very thoughtful and thought provoking. It is a sad statement on things today although I have not been told not to X or use a red pen. In my teaching classes it was SUGGESTED! :) A questions, though. Haven't all generations said the same thing about the one following them? Just wondering. There was a lot of talk about the baby boomers and how could they ever take over especially during the 60s and 70s. There has been a lot of talk about the 'me' generation throughout the years. Just wondering. As always, I love you and miss you.


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