I’ve been hearing this expression since I was… a kid, usually uttered by adults with a shake of the head, followed by a litany of complaints. Kids have no respect, they do not listen, they have no work ethic, they are lazy, their music and clothes are terrible, and on and on and on.
I first noticed this when I became a junior high teacher and noticed that the remarks of adults sounded remarkably like the remarks of adults a decade earlier, when I had been in junior high. And the exact same remarks are still heard today, more than half a century later.
There are many reasons for this, which I will not bother to enumerate, but it has always been curious to me that so many adults do not hear themselves repeating the words of their parents or grandparents.
I had the terrific opportunity last week to be a guest speaker at a high school marketing competition and convention. My topic was on how to communicate more effectively in any situation. I did not invent this, but in short form it looks like this:
S. = SUBJECT – your responsibility
A. = AUDIENCE – who, exactly, are you trying to reach?
P. = PURPOSE – what are you trying to get done?
I. = Inform – they will learn what you know
E. = Entertain – they will have a good time
P. = Persuade – their opinion will align with yours
E. = Emotion – use their emotions
L. = Logic – let them think their way to agreement
When I first walked in to the large church complex being used as the convention center, I thought there must be some strict form of dress code. The young men and women were clad in outfits that were almost uniformly black and white. Turns out that today, for most young people, dressing up means black slacks and a sport coat and white shirt, and a black skirt of slacks with a white blouse and maybe a black sweater. In any case, they all looked very nice.
The speaker before me was an FBI agent talking about careers in the FBI, and I amused myself noting his mistakes. For one thing, he was very soft spoken. The coordinator had noticed this when he met him and had offered a mike, but the agent thought he would be fine. He was not. Even with my hearing aids in I could not hear a word. Then he went over his time. By quite a bit. A lot of the students had to leave to enter a competition or get to the next speaker, so by the time he was done he had lost at least half of the crowd.
When my audience arrived, I was immediately impressed. The first three were young men who passed the wait time poring over a biology book. Once I began, I immediately noticed that all were paying attention. I am a good speaker, or so I have been told, but this was for an adult they had never seen before, which is usually a tough teen audience.
At one point, for an example, I asked if any of them played any sports for their school. Several raised their hands, and the girl I selected said she ran track. I asked if she was good at it, and she nodded yes. I found out later that she is one of the best runners in the state- good selection on my part.
The example had to do with thinking about your audience, and how different your essay would be if you were communicating to an audience of third graders about track, or college seniors preparing for the Olympic trials.
As time ran out there were a couple of intelligent questions, and two of the students paused on the way out to tell me mine was the best presentation they had heard that day.
I took the time to talk to a few students, especially the rebels wearing other than black. Every student I talked to looked me straight in the eye (this is often difficult for teens) and answered me with enthusiasm and wit and humor.
You could argue that this was not a typical group, and to some extent that would be correct, but not much. These are not rich kids from an exclusive private prep school – just high school kids who happen to be in a business class or after school marketing club.
With all the fears we have for the future, given the gang of immoral scoundrels trying to ruin our country, I think we will be OK. The kids are just fine.
Copyright 2019 David Preston