For the “Kids Today” File

“When there was a novel approach in the classroom, it was geared for a generation indisputably weaned on the fast foods of television and the VCR, not the written word. To get students to learn history, one teacher played a version of “Jeopardy.” Another teacher in an honors English class, instead of having the students read The Scarlet Letter one year, showed them a video of it.”

“These kids don’t take responsibility, or they don’t know how….Kids used to worry about where they were going to fit into the world. Kids today don’t seem to worry if they are going to fit into society, because they don’t give a hoot. Twenty years ago I was working my kids to death, and now I have to remind my seniors to use capital letters and put periods at the end of sentences. They don’t seem to care about their grades. They don’t seem to care about each other. They seem to care about having a good time.”

The above quotes, and many more like them, are from Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights. The book originally came out in 1990 and Bissinger’s embedded year with Texas high school football was 1988-1989, which was when he got these quotes.

I’ve gone down this road before, but I have every confidence that we could have found an endless parade of teachers in 1968 (an Edenic era from the vantage point of 1988) to lament similarly about how much better students were in 1948, and in 1948 about 1928 and so on. (My all time favorite such lament remains the complaint, back in 1916, that “today’s ballplayer” only thinks about hitting homeruns. Three players tied for the major league lead that year in homers, each walloping – wait for it – 12).

If five starting freshmen win the national championship tomorrow night, the world will not come to an end. Nor will it if Northwestern’s football players vote to unionize in three weeks, Mark Emmert’s bleatings notwithstanding.

If you want to worry about the world coming to an end, there are better things to keep you up at night.

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