Image by just.Luc via Flickr
“. . . I walked to school in snowstorms, uphill both ways.”
Okay, not really. But, I spent all day Saturday directing a group of high school students in a play for the Inge Center’s 24 Hour Play Festival, and my experience there have made me reflect on the differences between high school students today, and high school students when I was one of them. I’m not thinking of this in the “What’s the matter with kids today” kind of way; rather I’m wondering what’s the matter with our society that has allowed young people to grow up so much faster and harsher.
Now, I admit, I was a naive goody-goody when I was in high school, so maybe my perception of reality isn’t a true one. The students in my play did something that I would never have even thought of in high school; they made lots of sexual innuendos and told dirty jokes with me (a total stranger who is also an “adult”) in the room. I went along with it, trying to be the cool teacher in the room I guess, but I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.
I remember being a senior in high school when some male friends made reference to a sex act and I consciously made an effort to hide my embarrassment from them. I still remember the feeling of shock and maybe a little shame that I was so naive. Okay, I get it, people were having sex when we were in high school. But still, I don’t recall those jokes ever happening in the presence of adults.
The plays from the festival also reflect some kind of difference in society. Of the five plays, four of them were dark and dealt with issues ranging from incest to murder to psychological meltdowns. They were well written, but I did not expect that mix of topics from high school students. I thought there would be more humor . . . boy was I wrong.
I have to ask why? Have events like Columbine and 9/11 taken away innocence at a younger age? Are young people today inundated with images of sexuality, crime, depression, drugs, and murder to the extent that we are raising a generation not capable of enjoying innocent fun? Or am I simply still naive, hoping that the darkness of life can somehow be avoided in childhood.
These kids were great kids; fun, committed to creating good art and exploring things, very intelligent. At the same time, though, they were beyond me. I felt like the nerd in the group of popular kids. So maybe the problem is that high school really hasn’t changed. I don’t really think so though. I think we, as a society, are failing our biggest challenge–that of making the world a better, more peaceful place.
That makes me sad.