As a child of the 80’s, I remember several things about that period. I remember having hair cascading down the middle of my back, permed into a nice wave to emulate my favorite rock bands. (All of those pics have been destroyed, so don’t even ask.) I remember parachute pants and jumpsuits, although I never wore either of them. I stuck to the Levi’s 501 buttenflies. I remember trying my hardest to hit notes that came from Steve Perry of Journey or Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. (Massive failure on both.)
But aside from music and fashion, I remember Democrats dubbing us as the Me Generation and Generation X, as in we were doing so well under Reagan that the 80’s kids were growing up selfish, lazy, and unmotivated. We were the ones who were supposed to destroy the American Dream because we didn’t want to work for anything and we had everything handed to us.
A few years later, like the Baby Boomers, we didn’t exactly fulfill that prophecy, but I’m afraid that we are having a pretty good hand in doing so. The way a lot of today’s
kids have been brought up by the Me Generation has been incredibly different in years past, and it’s produced a generation of kids who have no clue how to handle…well, pretty much anything.
I use examples from teaching quite a bit because, hey, write what you know. The example that I’m sharing this time has been dubbed by me, the Rise of the Superhero Parent. I’m ashamed to say that these are people of my generation who have raised a real generation of entitlement.
Here are two stories.
Rick was caught cheating on a test. The teacher immediately sent Rick to the principal’s office, where Rick had to sit, staring blankly at the school secretary as she dialed up Rick’s mother or father. Rick nervously sweated out the next fifteen minutes waiting for the parent to arrive. Rick’s mom finally walks in the door and gives him a look that could set sirens off. The secretary walks her into Principal Skeleton’s office and closes the door, leaving Rick to wonder what was actually being said in there about him. Then the teacher would arrive and the principal, mom, and teacher would spend another five minutes talking amongst themselves, leaving Rick to sweat it out with the secretary. Finally, an eternity later, Rick himself was called into the office. Before anyone else could say a word, Mom jumped up and asked Rick what he was thinking, that she didn’t raise her son to be a cheater. She would spend almost as much time berating Rick as he had spent in the chair outside. The teacher and administrator just watched the show. When Rick’s mother had ceased her eruption, the principal would tell Rick exactly what his punishment was, usually a week of detention and an F on the test. This would pale in comparison to what he was going to get at home, giving rise to the now infamous saying, “You just wait until your father gets home.”
Rick has been found cheating on a test. The teacher takes his paper away, prompting Rick to curse her out, and writes up a referral to vice principal. Rick smiles as he watches the teacher write down his offense, and grabs it out of her hand once she finishes. He walks leisurely down the hall to the office and hands the referral to the secretary who tells him to take a seat. Rick spends the hour it takes for his mother to arrive thinking how nice it is not to have to be in class. When Mom comes in she grabs Rick by the shoulder and marches him into the vice principal, where the NEW infamous phrase comes into play, the mantra of the superhero parent, ” MY KID WOULD NEVER DO THAT!” The vice principal and Rick’s mother have a heated discussion in front of Rick, where Mom threatens to sue the school any number of times if they dare do anything to punish her angel. After deciding that an in-school suspension may not have to happen (although the school handbook clearly states that is the penalty for being caught cheating), the VP calls the teacher in. At this point, mom turns her attention to the teacher, letting her know exactly what she thinks of her teaching style and that she blames the school for things like this going on, although she still insists that Rick wouldn’t be caught dead cheating. When Mom threatens to take the teacher in front of the school board, the VP tries to make peace. Instead of punishment, the VP and Rick’s mother decide that the teacher will give Rick a 60% on the test that she took away so his grade doesn’t suffer too much. He stops just short of having the teacher apologize for scarring Rick in any way by bringing this to his mother’s attention. Rick’s mom signs him out of school for the rest of the day and buys him an ice cream cone.
OK, I made up the part about the ice cream cone, but the rest of it is more common than any non-teacher would believe.
You can really date yourself depending on with which of these stories you identify. I’m sorry to say that a lot of Generation X’ers have grown up becoming the superhero parent. These are parents that don’t spend a lot of time or attention worrying about their kids’ schoolwork or behavior, but when one of those kids is in trouble, they put on the cape and swoop in to save the day, thinking that they are fulfilling their parenting duty–to shield their kids from anything that may cause them any hardship.
Cut to this week at Emory University where some crazy, obviously deranged, student writes TRUMP 2016” in chalk around the campus. If you identified with the first story above, and you disagreed with the chalk message, you would probably pass by and think to yourself that the writer was an idiot. At most you would scrub it off. It is chalk, after all.
If you identified with the second story though, you would have a completely different reaction. Your first instinct would be that you needed to be shielded from any danger you now “feel” you are in, (just as your superhero parent used to do.) You would gather together as many other people who “feel” upset as possible– there is comfort in the embrace of others who thinks exactly like you do– and hold a protest, demanding that the deranged Trump supporter be found and put into stocks, so you and the others can pelt him with rotten vegetables, after which he is to be expelled from campus, if not sent to some reeducation camp that helps him think the correct way. You would also like any professor or administrator that disagrees that you are in any danger fired right away because they obviously don’t care about your “feelings” either. If any of this doesn’t happen, you will be scarred for life having been made to even contemplate a thought that contradicted yours.
The school in turn would organize a retreat for the offended students, hoping that the college wouldn’t land itself as a story on the news shows.
This is really where Generation X has failed. If we were the Me generation, this is the All-About-Me generation. We’ve raised children who believe that their ideas are the only ones who should be allowed to resist, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is completely evil. I wish that were an exaggeration, but it’s not.
They are a generation whose only argument when faced with contradictive philosophies is “You’re just wrong!” They will then spend the next two days calling you every epithet in the book rather than explain exactly HOW you are wrong. Their only response is to organize not just protests, but agitators whose only purpose is to shut down and shut up anyone that dares question their ideas.
If you identified with Story #1 above, chances are very good that you are a conservative. Likewise, Story #2 culminates in a lot of liberals.
Since the conservative reaction is not to shut down speech they deem offensive, but rather amplify and argue it, you don’t see a whole lot of conservative protesters at speeches given by liberals. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders don’t have to worry about a group of right wingers trying to shout them down and leave the venue. The only time that happens to them is when they offend groups of their own parties (black lives matter) or when one of the other’s supporters show up at a rally.
I often wonder what would happen if a right wing group, say 2nd amendment supporters, started insisting that only conservatives could come to a university and speak. How would the press report the story if conservatives made such a furor that Chris Matthews was forced to pull out of a speaking engagement? In that case, who would the press treat as the bad guys, Matthews or the protesters? I have a pretty good idea which way that pendulum would swing.
I’m not laying all the blame on the Superhero Parent, although they do deserve a big chunk of it. I also blame college faculties that actually lead these protests and just pick up where the parent left off. We used to say that those students would be in trouble once mommy wasn’t there to protect them anymore. That doesn’t apply today since they find plenty of surrogates among professors.
When colleges or people give in to the All-About-Me Generation, all we do is feed into their narrative that they are right and everyone else is wrong. In short, we raise kids whose egos are as fragile as…chalk writing on a sidewalk.