The old order has passed – the one where parents and grandparents could teach their offspring everything they needed to know. Now, there’s no need to teach the kids even the basic three Rs of reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic.
Most have learned to read (if not spell) by themselves as they start texting each other even before they start school. In many places, cursive writing is no longer taught. We record messages by keyboarding or voice.
And arithmetic is done with the calculator that’s part of almost every electronic device.
Far from adults teaching the youngsters, the youngsters are teaching their elders, keeping the phones and the computers of the pre-digital generations running.
But there’s at least one very important thing the young generation needs that’s not being taught in schools: resilience.
Resilience is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
As most of us know, changes, difficulties and hardships are inevitable. How well we deal with them determines the quality of our lives.
And yet, under the guise of protecting children from psychological harm, schools are trying to cocoon students in a false world where setbacks don’t exist.
Children in the modern era are always to be encouraged and everything they do is to be treated positively. Hand in an inadequate piece of work and the teacher says that at least you tried. Don’t pay attention and learn nothing in Grade 2. You’ll be promoted to Grade 3 anyway and will now be in a position to learn even less.
The reasoning behind this is the fear that failure or learning that someone did better will devastate the student.
But students know how hard they tried or didn’t try, even when they’re patted on the back for sloppy work. They know who the most and least capable students are. They know when they’ve failed or messed up.
What they don’t know is how to deal with it because adults are all pretending the failure never happened.
Yes, we should acknowledge and reward all the successes of today’s youth. But we can provide more valuable input by teaching upcoming generations how to deal with the hardships and failures they’ll inevitably face.
We need to tell youth that failure is an event. You lost the game or flunked the test. But you’re not a failure. You can pick yourself up and go on from there even if it’s not easy.
This is something that now seems to be taught only in first-generation immigrant families. Avoiding failures and succeeding takes work.
You didn’t make the football team. Could you have trained more? You’re lost in math class. Have you been listening in class and doing your homework? Could you do more than has been assigned rather than less? Do you need coaching? But remember, the coach only coaches. You still have to put in the time and do the work.
Not everyone can succeed at everything but everyone can find areas in which to shine. I’m under five feet tall and not at all athletic. I’ll never be a pro basketball player or win a serious race. But I can still enjoy a fun run and beat everyone who didn’t finish or even start.
Finding areas where success is more likely is a big part of resilience. A close friend in high school was a musician. Both her parents were professional musicians who played the violin, an instrument where there’s much competition. My friend learned the double bass, a much less popular instrument. Unlike so many musicians, she had a very successful career with a good symphony orchestra.
A very important reason to instil resilience in young people is that resilient people can’t be bullied. That doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to them or that they’ll never receive a nasty message. But rather than letting bullies define them with bad names or worse, resilient people define the bullies as the bad guys and find different people and activities to fill their lives. When bullies see that they’re not devastating their potential victims, they often desist.
We may not be able to teach the next generations the technical details of how to survive in our increasingly electronic and automated world, but we can give them the tools all people need.
We can show them they can thrive because although there will be difficulties in their lives, they’ll have the resilience, the coping skills, to overcome them.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.