Who are today’s children?


We live in a society that chooses to rear children inside cocoons of endless directed activities, ones that drain them of energy and creativity as they contend with our invasive culture. They appear suspended lifeless between two foci: one in face-to-face relationships to family and friends and the other in a faceless relationship to their electronic “family and friends.”

Children have less time to choose, and less time to play and relate to peers as they spend more and more time alone. They shuffle from one activity to another after school and on weekends, and in between spend time before televisions, computers, cell phones electronic games, and the Internet. Arriving in our classrooms, they appear less able to initiate, decide, and inquire. They wait for our direction. They seem uncomfortable in face-to-face encounters, and perhaps feel naked without their electronic devices under their thumbs.

Despite the allure of glitzy new technologies, ironically, our children may be living inside stagnant elliptical galaxies with little or no self-generated energy. I recall Susan Rubenstein’s commentary more than ten years ago about her high school English students who claimed that they could not have a discussion at the dinner table because they did not have dinner with their parents.

Our latchkey culture has left children and adolescents at home alone; the myriad of electronic technologies only adds to the isolation. Schools lament the listlessness of increasing numbers of obese children who have little desire to participate, to seek, to understand. Classroom teachers notice greater and greater apathy among students. Art teachers in schools and museums express frustration with children’s lack of imagination. The image of our children having two foci living inside elliptical galaxies is compelling. In essence, children act as texts without context.

Can we find the gifts in today’s children?

 Image: fotosearch

For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 19 “Invoke the Cosmos” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.