Do kids care these days? — A kid’s perspective

By Rebecca Spicer   

There are a number of questions that have plagued our world for centuries. Which came first: the chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Is a utopian society possible? But the task has fallen upon me to examine what is clearly the most challenging and befuddling of them all: do young people care?

Young adults are an enigma. I actually am one, but our seemingly bipolar capacity to be both selfish and selfless, clueless and informed, and apathetic and enraged never ceases to astound me. For example, consider these excerpts from two real conversations I encountered after my most recent trip to El Salvador:

Coworker: “You’re back! I thought you quit.”

Me: “No – I was in El Salvador.”

Coworker: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a country. In Latin America…”

Coworker: “Oh. Whatever”

On the other hand:

Church friend: “So tell me about this mining thing.”

Me: “Seriously? Well, what do you want me to tell you?”

Church friend: “Everything.”

In both cases, I found myself caught completely off-guard. How could someone honestly not know that a country – not to mention one on the same continent whose name is probably printed on a number of her t-shirts – even existed? On the contrary, why did this other girl – one who no doubt had instant messaging, boys and evil teachers to worry about – want to know about the environmental and humanitarian implications of precious metal mining in a country the size of Massachusetts?

So what are we? Perhaps we are egocentric and lackadaisical, a demographic unconcerned with the “issues” until the consequences directly complicate our way of life. A group of individuals with so much potential (or so our parents tell us) disturbed only by the curse of our own hormones. Or perhaps we are irrational and idealistic, fresh young minds that have yet to be disillusioned by bureaucracies, red tape and the absence of ethics. People full of energy and ambition out to change the world before it changes us.

There’s no simple answer to this question. There are only generalizations – nothing more than oversimplifications of the issue at hand. Asserting that my generation is active, concerned and knowledgeable about global injustice would be irresponsible. Saying that we seldom turn our focus outside our daily lives is unfair. Call it a cop-out, but when hard pressed for an answer, it probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Then again, I’m just one teenager in a world full of people who will be, used to be or are teenagers. The answer lies in them as much as it does it me.

Rebecca Spicer, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, KS, is a sophomore at Colorado State University.

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