Give Nothing and Expect Everything!

Over the last number of weeks a meme has circulated over social media. It is a clip quoting a principal, John Tapene, who is sharing words from a judge who, according to the article 'regularly deals with youth'.

These clip and quote has received, from my experience, mainly positive reviews. Generally it seems that people read these words and react with some variation of "Yeah youth! Stop whining and do something!"

I can't stand this quote and am similarly appalled by the reaction. I can't possibly share all the reasons I dislike it, but here's a sample.

Individualism dominates our culture and this rant is yet another example of it. "You are on your own kid," it basically says, "Don't expect anything from anybody." It is the standard ideology that a person needs to overcome circumstances on their own and somehow become a person of integrity and a contributing, successful member of society, without any help from anybody.

That is just ludicrous. The article uses the idea of entitlement to belittle the youth. You could paraphrase that the judge is saying, "You think the world, your parents and your town all owe you something." Succinctly the rant concludes this is not the case, and then has the audacity in the next breathe to say, "You owe us something."

Let me get this straight; a person whose town and family does not in any way, shape or form give a child the opportunity to play, be a kid and youth, have a chance to discover their passions, gifts or give them an outlet for their creativity and talents, is then suppose to grow up with a sense of responsibility that they have to give something BACK to the world?

If I was in that situation I think I would be prone to give the judge a "one-finger salute".

The irony is that in a few short words the judge goes from accusing the youth of being entitled to becoming the entitled one himself; a part of the world that needs this youth to 'grow up' and 'get a backbone' and end war, loneliness and sickness.

Granted the quote sounds nice with the additions of 'visiting the sick' and ending war, sickness and loneliness but in the end the quote is barking up the wrong tree.

The quote seems to be meant for some spoiled, wealthy youth who has every opportunity but continues to waste their opportunity and potential on delinquent activities. The truth of the matter is that wealthy youth have parents that can afford wealthy lawyers... that's all I'll say about that.

Youth who end up in correctional facilities are far more likely to come from situations of poverty and abuse than not. In which case, we are talking about youth without the same opportunities and certainly without the positive, nurturing example necessary to reach their full potential. Certainly there are many stories of people overcoming adversity to accomplish amazing things; however this quote seems to suggest that should be the norm or the expectation!

All of this, while also thinking that this is a recent quote, when it is not! This letter was first published on December 17, 1959. When I found that out I just had to laugh. Many of the comments suggesting that this letter is 'right on the money' are inevitably from people who think that 'the youth of today' are somehow worse, or more whiny, or more entitled, or less equipped, then when they were a youth. Pretty much the same opinion of every generation looking at the youth of the following generations FOR CENTURIES!

It takes community to draw, with grace and love, the very best out of one another, not angry rants about how entitled you are and how you're pissing your potential down the drain. A town that cares about its youth actually participating in healthy community is not one that yells, "WE DON'T OWE YOU ANYTHING!" but rather gladly seeks to provide the very best for the health and well-being of it's youth, children, adults and seniors.

If a teen is asking "What can we do? Where can we go?” how is an answer that includes calling them a cry-baby is the best response?

I apologize to my teenaged friends, yet again, for our culture's seeming inability to stop repeating the cycles of the past. We have an incredibly negative view of such an amazing group of people!

How about a place that offers youth a place to go and stuff to do? Perhaps in a place like that where the community proves that it cares about what youth want and what they have to say, one might actually earn the right to attempt to walk with youth towards them exploring what integrity looks like, how we understand the world and what role we might want to play in it.

Of course, I just might be biased, because that is exactly the model The Dam has employed for over 17 years...

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