A lot of people give millenials a hard time: in fact, I’m one of them. Their positive traits do not escape me, of course, but I take a certain sporting pleasure in torturing my son over the more negative aspects of his generation. As a father I feel that this is my duty to bring these things to the attention of my son, as my father did to me, and his before him. Here’s the problem. Though this skinny jeaned, earbud wearing generation has an identity, I do not believe that they are old enough to really hold the responsibility for much of it. We are all, to a great extent, products of our environment, and if we consider the environment in which western millenials were raised, we see obvious examples of where parents, teachers, and society at large failed to provide them with a wise upbringing. It wasn’t some small thing either; words like “coddling” and “overprotective” do not do the issues justice. Through a thousand different actions, we sabotaged their ability to develop as full adults. We greatly extended the period of time in which people are expected to behave like children.
Safe spaces are a great example. A strong contender for “the most ridiculous thing ever”, they lamely attempt to address the fact that we have generally failed to equip our children with the mental and psychological capabilities to deal with ideas and concepts they don’t like. Where do you think they learned it was acceptable to “freak out and cry” when they don’t get their way? Perhaps it was from the same adults who do the same, or from the ones who defend the behavior.
Who was it that, on a long term basis, enabled and encouraged this behavior? Wasn’t it the “helicopter parents” who raced to defend their children from every harm to come their way, spilling hand sanitizer in their wake? Wasn’t it the teachers, and schools, for fostering an environment where achievement means less and inclusiveness means more? Wasn’t it the Government racing around to put pads and helmets on every kid wanting to ride a bike, to mandate 24/7 safety bubble wrapping? We live in an age where the game of tag has been banned in schools for being too dangerous, where free speech is curtailed in the interests of protecting fragile little egos and where once vaunted educational institutions have turned into some twisted adult version of a profit-centric kindergarten. It is unseemly, and I personally find it extremely embarrassing. Our halls of knowledge are about the last place a person should go today, for an education.
Parents. You raised them. Teachers, you “educated” them. Media, you lied to them. We coddled. We took away their ability to become real adults by shielding them from the harsher realities of life. We put comfort and safety before learning and discovery, and now that we have adults who resemble overgrown children, we are to blame.
The classic millennial was not created in a vacuum. A whole team of misguided fools, operating over extended periods of time, was required. As you look at the kids of today and wonder “how did we get here?”, look in the mirror and ask yourself what part you played. Were you the coddling, enabling parent? Were you a cog in the bureaucracy that wrapped them all in bubble wrap? Did you turn a blind eye to the idiocy being pumped into your kids eyes, and ears? Were you too busy to notice the train going off the rails?
By my eyes, many of us owe an apology to the millennial generation. We have saddled them with unrealistic views on reality and played a large, if not defining role in their troubles. Perhaps we can begin to make amends by recognizing our mistakes and taking action to repair some of the harm we have caused. Perhaps by taking accountability for our roles in all this, and making positive change, we can begin to help our children grow into the adults they were meant to be. With enough work, over a long enough period of time, we may be able to return that which we have stolen from an entire generation.