Try not to judge a whole generation by its iPhones

By David Brock
The State Journal

As someone who is frequently reminded of my relative youth, it is disconcerting to find myself looking over my shoulder at those younger than me with diminishing familiarity and an inverse amount of suspicion.
It is easy to succumb to hand wringing about easy distraction by gadgets, entitlement, and aversion to hard work and civic engagement. The ominous alphabet generational naming protocol has already reached “Z.” Journalists and academics have gotten cute in borrowing from the ubiquitous technological prefix of the times and taken to referring to young adults as the “iGeneration.”
Just when my own rapid march toward early curmudgeondom seems assured, there are reminders how many of our young people represent our ideals — and should instill hope.
One of those reminders came this week during a meeting with a couple of stellar representatives of the Franklin County High School’s FFA program.
This week, Makaya Ballinger, the chapter’s reporter, and Taylor Risk, the group’s secretary, set a meeting with myself and our publisher in order to introduce themselves as media liaisons and offer some information about FFA.
They were not only poised and mature, they could have run a professional board meeting. In our brief meeting, they effectively communicated the structure, activities, goals and benefits of FFA — for those who didn’t know it’s not Future Farmers of America anymore and isn’t just about agriculture.
It is a testament to the kinds of skills FFA imparts, that they also demonstrated the group’s objectives. And without glancing at an iPhone.
There are no doubt shining examples throughout all our school systems — including other FFA chapters — of young people who care great deal about the world around them and have found their voice to communicate that. We will be working with the school systems over the coming year to highlight student stories and, we hope, to let them tell some of their own.
Another example close to our professional hearts here in the newsroom is emanating from the newsroom at The Kentucky Kernel in Lexington.
The school’s independent newspaper and its unabashedly brave editor, Marjorie Kirk, find themselves being sued by their school and slighted by its president. This comes on the heels of the paper’s report on a university professor allowed to slide out of town and leave multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with students in his wake.
A front page editorial and column by Kirk this week further explain the top-notch reporting that went on behind the scenes and cast the university in an even more unflattering light. The young journalists have now been joined by their faculty and several board of trustee members in their call for the school to back off its flimsy claim of looking out for the privacy of anyone other than themselves.
Those who draw a paycheck in the business have been rightly left in awe of the work and the resolve. It is inspiring stuff. And not an isolated incident for a cohort thought to be interested in trivial “likes” above all things of consequence beyond their screens.
Those generational glitches are no myths. There is some reason to be concerned. But don’t be totally taken in by the dreary signs and portents of a Western Civilization. And definitely don’t just blame the kids. It’s also healthy to turn the sociological lens on ourselves and consider the intractable burdens bequeathed to the up and comers by the boomers, Xers and those that came before. That’s best left for another column.
We can wonder whether the next generation of adults will be able to use their innate technological facility to solve the problems they have to solve. Rest assured that the best of them represents the best of us all.