Usually I reserve my blog to showcase current projects and sketches, but today I am going to digress and blog about something that has been on my mind a lot lately.
It occurs to me that the rising generation in America is more privileged than any previous generation. That being said, they are also, arguably, the most damaged. Why are they damaged? I think this goes so much deeper than bad media, over-indulgence in fast food, video games, television, or even the rise of cell phones. As a society we try to blame our maladies on these things all the time and consequently we ignore the real problem. The problem is that we don’t want to take the time or effort to teach them anything.
It’s easier to plop a kid in front of a TV show or movie than take them outside to play or read with them. It’s easier to tell a kid that there are no losers when they come in ninth, rather than explain to them that sometimes we don’t excel and need to work harder and practice more. It’s fast to pick up KFC or McDonald’s rather than have the kids help you make dinner; it’s far easier afterwards to toss the wrappers in the trash rather that have the kids help you do the dishes.
This mentality of “it’s not worth the effort” has lead to a generation of over-indulged, lazy, irresponsible people who have an exaggerated view of themselves. I don’t think it is coincidence that this same generation has had a dramatic increase in cases of A.D.D., A.D.H.D., and other behavioral problems. This hit home very suddenly this week as I was teaching an art class to a group of sixth graders.
I posted the work that had been done that past week up on the blackboard to critique it. I first asked d the kids what they liked about each piece and I got many responses, but when I asked what they thought could be improved about the pieces they were hesitant to speak up. I began offering my own suggestions for improvement. Some of the kids were defensive, others appeared hurt or offended. I can understand disappointment with critique, everyone experiences that, but by sixth grade I think you should be able to handle suggestions for improvement without becoming irrational. It was time that these kids learned that.
Today I sat them all down and asked them to tell me what “critique” meant. No responses, no hands, just vacant expressions. I asked them if they knew what a “critic” was. One hand. The response was , “I know a food critic says what restaurants are good and bad.” Good, we had a starting place. We talked about why that would be important. I asked how many watched “American Idol.” All the hands shot up (along with a lot of whispers about which contestant they liked best). I asked how many of them knew who Simon Cowell is. More hands and more whispering, mostly negative comments. I asked why they don’t like Simon. “He’s mean.” “He makes people cry.” “He doesn’t say anything nice about them.” Now we’ve hit the nail on the head. In their minds critique is an attempt by to make someone look foolish or feel bad because of poor performance. This seems to be most of America’s view of anyone who offers critique.
I think Simon Cowell is pretty much always spot on. I’ll admit that he can be a bit abrupt in the delivery of his critique, but he wouldn’t be doing those singers any favors by coddling them.