February 7, 2019

The Kids Are Alright

It is quite fun as we get older to complain about young people and their sense of entitlement, screen time compulsions, and general unwarranted lethargy. Fun, because it helps us feel a lot better about being old.

Yet tales of walking to and from school, uphill both ways, may be blinding us to some of the extraordinary achievements and qualities of the emergent generation. The digital natives who grew up connected to each other and to all of the world’s knowledge. Who walk around with the computing power of the entire human race in the smartphones that embellish the back pockets of their jeans.

Here is a groundbreaking way to look at it. Young people are different because they are young – and there is an awful lot that ‘young’ has to offer. Curiosity and an earnestness that comes where there has not yet been an experience of failure.

The Sydney Morning Herald this week published an article about the HSC showcase of senior student work, hosted by the Art Gallery of NSW, Powerhouse Museum, State Library and The Sydney Opera House.

A focal piece of the showcase is the student designed and developed shark-proof wetsuit prototype. In the article, the high school inventor Tom Denny, speaks about his industrial design process, material selection, prototype testing and product market fit like a seasoned entrepreneur.

There are also pieces of sophisticated wearable art, fine art and performance art all portraying the unique perspective that young people have on this world; a very different world than the world we saw walking uphill to school with no shoes through snow and such.

My memory of senior year was everyone trying to pass chemistry; there was no headspace for designing shark-proof wetsuits. No, it was all baking soda and food colouring volcanoes.

Here is some other cool stuff about the kids-of-today (*shakes a fist at the sky and reloads dentures) that doesn’t sell newspapers but might be helpful in realising that the kids are, actually, alright:

  • A recent study by Adele Pavilis, published in the Journal of Youth Studies showed that Australians between the ages of 18 and 29 are choosing to ignore social pressure and drink less alcohol than the generations that have preceded them;
  • Almost 64% of millennials, according to research by Morley Winograd (US) said that they would rather earn $40,000 a year in a job they love than $100,000 in a boring job;
  • The Brookings Report showed that Millenials were almost 90% more loyal to brands that were aligned to issues of social justice and equity; and
  • There are 3x as many vegetarian Millenials than Gen X.

I’ll finish on a completely speculative statement…I don’t think young people like avocados with any much greater enthusiasm than anyone else. There.