Some of you are aware that my doctoral dissertation focuses on examining GenZ. In recent years it's been interesting to witness how socially acceptable it is to publicly scrutinize our emerging generation. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Disparaging younger generations has been around for a very, very long time.
Ellen Page wrote, “I want to beg all you parents, and grandparents, and friends, and teachers, and preachers--you who constitute the "older generation"--to overlook our shortcomings, at least for the present, and to appreciate our virtues.”
Page wrote these words almost a century ago.
Her words first appeared in Outlook magazine on December 6, 1922. Now, students at Oklahoma Christian Academy examine the article in world history. I was lucky to stumble across it recently.
Do you remember the biblical phrase, “there is nothing new under the sun”? Well, criticizing emerging generations is definitely not a new cultural practice. I guess we get some satisfaction out of feeling ‘grown-up’ or ‘more sophisticated than them.’
Whether it’s 1922 or 2018, the fact is, kids will be kids, and the older generation will always believe in the degradation of the newer generation.
In this article Page essentially asks the rhetorical question, 'Do you know who's created the problems you are attaching to our generation?' She then proclaimed:
“You! You parents, and grandparents, and friends, and teachers, and preachers--all of you! "The war!" you cry. "It is the effect of the war!" And then you blame prohibition. Yes! Yet it is you who set the example there! But this is my point: Instead of helping us work out our problems with constructive, sympathetic thinking and acting, you have muddled them for us more hopelessly with destructive public condemnation and denunciation.”
So, how many millennial Facebook posts or videos have you forwarded or shared recently attacking this upcoming gen? Just a question…
She goes on, “Think back to the time when you were struggling through the teens. Remember how spontaneous and deep were the joys, how serious and penetrating the sorrows. Most of us, under the present system of modern education, are further advanced and more thoroughly developed mentally, physically, and vocationally than were our parents at our age. We hold the infinite possibilities of the myriads of new inventions within our grasp. We have learned to take for granted conveniences, and many luxuries, which not so many years ago were as yet undreamed of. We are in touch with the whole universe.”
In touch with the whole universe she says… I think our emerging generations could say many of the same things as Page, but ‘in touch with the whole universe’ is more of a reality today than ever before.
Page offers four statements that I want us to hear when thinking about how we can disciple, empower, encourage, and lead this next generation.
1) “We are the Younger Generation. The war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium. The times have made us older and more experienced than you were at our age. It must be so with each succeeding generation if it is to keep pace with the rapidly advancing and mighty tide of civilization. Help us to put our knowledge to the best advantage. Work with us! That is the way! Outlets for this surplus knowledge and energy must be opened. Give us a helping hand.”
I won’t go into this in great detail here, but I would like to encourage you to purchase Artificial Maturity by Tim Elmore. Dr. Elmore argues that this next generation has been exposed to concepts and ideas that have created a sense of ‘artificial maturity.’ In 1922 Page argued the same thing! Elmore gives some great practical steps for working with artificially mature teenagers. He suggests helping students find genuine projects versus virtual experiences. To offset all the of the virtual games and data in your teen's life, Elmore recommends finding a project that includes good, hard work: a project around the house, painting mailboxes in your neighborhood, raking leaves for a friend, or planning a charity fundraiser or donation drive. Why? "Nothing introduces reality to a young person (and polishes idealism's sharp edges) like real work in a not-so-glamorous setting… In fact, projects like these tend to diminish critical spirits, increase humility, provide a realistic perspective, and build discipline in kids," Elmore says.
2) “We have a tremendous problem on our hands. You must help us. Give us confidence--not distrust. Give us practical aid and advice--not criticism. Praise us when praise is merited. Be patient and understanding when we make mistakes.”
Page’s wisdom is remarkable. (a) Be confidence givers- push your children/students in a direction that forces them to do hard things, while providing them the resources to experience success. (b) Give practical advice and aid- stop being the parent that criticizes your kids during sporting events or anything else. (c) Merited praise- this has been emphasized a lot in recent years, but we should examine the over-utilization of unmerited praise. It is possible that we are rewarding too frequently. (d) In many ways we should be allowing mistakes. Currently, my generation of parents and older are afraid of even allowing mistakes much less being patient and understanding when mistakes are made.
3) “Spiritual forces begin to be felt. The emotions are frequently in a state of upheaval, struggling with one another for supremacy. And Youth does not understand. There is no one to turn to--no one but the rest of Youth, which is as perplexed and troubled with its problems as ourselves. Everywhere we read and hear the criticism and distrust of older people toward us. It forms an insurmountable barrier between us. How can we turn to them?”
This is a bold statement and one we should all take to heart. Understand them and tear down the barriers. It is crucial that students have mentors and older adults in their lives that walk beside them and disciple them. Chap Clark and Kara Powell have written a book called Sticky Faith. In this book they argue for a child to remain faithful after high school they must have five faithful adults in their lives. So, it is vital that we break down barriers in our relationships with those younger than us.
4) “In every person there is a desire, an innate longing, toward some special goal or achievement. Each of us has his place to fill. Each of us has his talent--be it ever so humble. That is why it is up to you who have the supervision of us of less ripe experience to guide us sympathetically, and to help us find, encourage, and develop our special abilities and talents. Study us. Make us realize that you respect us as fellow human beings, that you have confidence in us, and, above all, that you expect us to live up to the highest ideals, and to the best that is in us.”
Cultivate their CONTRIBUTION ability and skills. Yes, everything in faith and leadership formation of the emerging generations comes back to the concept of contribution. Why? Because it matters. Help them identify, foster, and build upon their gifts. Provide them opportunities to contribute to society.
Let me end this blog post with a powerful proclamation from Ms. Page:
“Oh, parents, parents everywhere, point out to us the ideals of truly glorious and upright living! Believe in us, that we may learn to believe in ourselves, in humanity, in God! Be the living examples of your teachings, that you may inspire us with hope and courage, understanding and truth, love and faith. Remember that we are the parents of the future. Help us to be worthy of the sacred trust that will be ours. Make your lives such an inspiration to us that we in our turn will strive to become an inspiration to our children and to the ages! Is it too much to ask?”
A FLAPPER'S APPEAL TO PARENTS BY ELLEN WELLES PAGE