One of the Tokyo missionary jobs is working at the Hongo Student Center. The staff teach English to adults and once a week even to children. Their clients come from a wide variety of occupations, backgrounds, and age groups. Recently I started attending their Friday night Bible studies and coffee hours. Surprisingly, coffee hour doesn’t actually include coffee; instead it’s a time for conversations, snacks, and tea.
Last night’s coffee hour involved 18 adults in an intriguing discussion about what’s the matter with kids today. Yes, I instantly got the song from the musical Bye, Bye Birdie stuck in my head where the main characters inquire, “Kids, what’s the matter with kids today? . . . . Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way? What’s the matter with kids today?!” The song says it all because regardless of how old the adult, they inevitably think that things were so much better when they were growing up. I’ve heard this question come up numerous times in teachers’ lounges, on talk shows, and even in musicals. I was curious to see how people in another culture would answer that question though. What surprised me was that although the Japanese and the American cultures are quite different, many of the opinions about the problem with youth remained the same.
What’s the matter with kids (18 or younger), according to our surveyed group:
--Not playing outside any more these days
--Talking too much in school
--Technology making things too easy and students not learning to think for themselves
--Kids not knowing how to communicate face to face
--Having parents who don’t respect authority so they don’t teach their kids how to respect authority (I definitely agree with this one)
--Using cell phones too much
--Lacking in involvement with/the influence of grandparents and the extended family
--Constant distractions caused by the internet world
--Parents over-indulging their children
--Parents and children needing better communication
--Needing more discipline to become better behaved
--Being easily influence by extreme ideas
--Not knowing how to communicate with peers
--Being too busy
--Taking many things for granted (such as having a good education)
What I especially enjoyed about this discussion was the follow-up question: what’s something you’ve learned from a young person? Yes, there may be problems with how young people are raised and influenced by society, but even in the midst of that, there is so much that young people can teach us. I am a teacher, but I am the first to admit that my students regularly are the ones teaching me new things. So, I pose this question to all you people out there reading—What’s something that you’ve learned from a young person?