What’s the matter with kids today? Or should the question be, “What’s the matter with their elders?”

[With apologies to Bye Bye Birdie]

Compared to their parents and elders, kids are early adaptors. That’s life.

The newest music, the newest dances, the newest whatever. Something to give them a feeling of independence from the authority figures who’ve been directing their entire lives. Would we rather breed robots who goose-step to their parents’ drum – or individuals who, if we’re lucky, will respect our experience and opinions, but won’t agree with us on everything?

In the 50’s and 60’s telephones preceded rock-n-roll – but they both came together when Conrad Birdie went off to serve his country.

Today – it’s social media. As soon as their parents began using Facebook, kids moved on to other media.

When schools began banning cell phones from classrooms, teens began using ringtones at frequency levels their teachers couldn’t hear. As we age, most humans lose the ability to hear higher frequency sounds. The irony here? The ring tone was originally developed for Welsh retailers to repel the teenagers hanging around their stores. The thought was that it would drive them away while not bothering paying adult customers. [This got a fair amount of media coverage in 2006.]

More recently, in 2014, the FBI published – to much ridicule – a hopelessly “square” guide to Twitter Slang. If they’d stuck to “just the facts” they’d probably have been better off.

Tomorrow – who knows? Basically, it’ll be something new and beyond the comprehension and everyday use of their parents.

Kids are curious.

Let’s encourage curiosity, not crush it with the expectation that the next generation follow us with unquestioning religious fervor.

Is the American educational system stomping on the curiosity that leads to paradigm-busting creativity?

Where would we be without drop-outs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg? Outside of the computer field, we have David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, Whole Foods’ John Mackey and Ted Turner. The list goes on.

Years ago, Thomas Kuhn quoted Max Plank, in what I’d been [incorrectly] taught was “Kuhn’s Paradigm” – “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Let’s not take our country’s future to the grave with us.


Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers. Quoted in Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions 1970