“‘You’re a decent young person,’ Deacon Brown said. ‘That’s a rare thing these days. Young people don’t have respect like they used to in the old days.’” – The Glory Field, page 195
One of my favorite books is The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers. It hits a lot of strong social themes, including racism and oppression. When I first read it 20 years ago – yes, I still have my original copy – I learned a lot about what other people go through. While reading the book in seventh grade, I was required to make notes of certain quotes that stuck out to me. The above quote was one of those, because I find it quite amusing.
Elders seem to always think that young people are disrespectful in comparison to when the older people were growing up. But I feel like that perception has been consistent throughout time. Each generation thinks that young people are disrespectful and irresponsible compared to when they were young. But are they really? Or are our elders seeing their own generation through rose-colored glasses as a group of classy young people who treated others with respect. Whether you read previous sections in this book or just think about decades ago, you can see that young people are often dismissive of their elders. Sure, there are always some who are good kids and have a good head on their shoulders, saying yes ma’am and no ma’am, acknowledging the wisdom of those that came before them. But for the most part, teenagers and young adults during any time period are known for being rebellious.
We’ve all had our fights that we’ve felt we need to tackle. Teenagers in the Civil War were dismissive of their parents’ wishes and went to fight in the war anyway. The hippies of the ‘60s listened to their rock and roll and protested against civil injustices. Medieval teenagers would run off and get married behind their parents’ backs, usually for love instead of the transaction it was supposed to be. I’m sure that even the Norsemen had to deal with hormonal sons and daughters who didn’t want to listen. The youth of today are more than likely no worse off than they have been in years prior. It’s just a matter of perspective and in what ways they rebel. We all want to see our childhoods and early adulthoods as “the glory days,” as if we and those around us were exactly who we were supposed to be.
While we have the opportunity to teach young people the ways of the world, we also need to meet them where they are. In marketing, this may mean reaching out to them (specifically Generation Z, as of the writing of this post) in manners that are uncomfortable to us. Using tactics such as highlighting social issues and protesting may make us uneasy but it’s the best way to reach them. Get the message through based on what matters to them. And remember that, many times, they’re fighting the same fights that we once did.