“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect
their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control.“
This sounds eerily like comments which were made by a few of my high school teachers regarding me and some of my closest associates from those days. In fact, one of my English teachers inscribed the following tribute in my yearbook during my senior year:
“To a genuine failure of a student.”
Before I explain, or perhaps repudiate, the error in my English teacher’s assessment of my academic credentials, let me point out that the quotation which begins this post was found inscribed on the wall of a 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb, no doubt containing the mortal remains of a wizened Thebes High School language arts teacher.
In fact, I was a very good student. I took several honors level courses during my senior year and was accepted early in the fall of that year by N.C. State University’s College of Engineering.
In retrospect, I must admit that the early acceptance may have resulted in an ever so slight reduction in the intensity of my studies for the remainder of my senior year. I do have a vague recollection of a corresponding increase in my participation in regular weeknight poker games and occasional trips to a local Lums, home of the infamous “Yard of Beer“, with fellow scholars who had also received their college acceptance letters.
Nonetheless, the Egyptian tomb inscription and the gracious bon mots left by my English teacher cause me to wonder if, taken together, these somewhat barbed cross-generational assessments may be indicative of a socio-cultural trend which spans many centuries?
“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.“
There must have been a rambunctious gang of adolescents in Amiens, France for the local priest, Peter the Hermit, to make this scathing pronouncement, circa 1096. Peter would later let his feet do his talking by leaving Amiens for the relative calm of the First Crusade to free the Holy Land from the Saracens; not to be confused with the motorcycle gang of the same name.
Even Socrates found it difficult dealing with the teenagers who nightly cruised the Parthenon and the Agora in Athens.
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Another reference to youngsters being misunderstood by their teachers. How long has this travesty been going on?
I’m beginning to think that the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, was on to something when he wrote:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“
In closing, I leave you with the optimistic words of Hesiod, an 8th century poet,
“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.“
Yeah right! I’m fairly certain that ol’ Hes moonlighted as an English teacher.
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