April 2017

Line in the Sand

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman
Kids today, amiright? Always focused on themselves; it’s insane. I’ve never seen so many people so enamored with their own image, so narcissistic that it’s a wonder they can see past the mirror. Is any of this sounding familiar, members of the “Me” generation?

And all this hippy-dippy crap, occupying Wall Street and marching on Washington with their pink hats, waving their banners with this myopic optimism. Get a job.

Ring any bells, baby boomers? Sound like anyone you might remember from a long time ago?
And don’t get me started on the music. This dubstep garbage with all the wub wub wub; it sounds like a broken washing machine. Listen to something with instruments for a change.

Still gonna defend the merits of Chumbawamba, Generation X?

Hopefully by now you see where I’m going with this. Nearly everything people say about millennials, a.k.a the latest generation to take up the “kids these days” mantle, is the same thing that’s been said about the kids these days for half a century.

Fortunately, I’m uniquely positioned to moderate this debate and hopefully bridge the generation gap. As I was born in 1980, no one seems to know what generation to place me in. (Give big soda credit, though; they really tried to make “The Pepsi Generation” happen).

When the scowling faces of Generation X were being held up as the latest threat to youth culture, most experts set the cutoff for membership in the great angsty flannel mob at 1979.

And then, years later, when the iPhone-obscured faces of the millennial generation became our next scapegoat, these same experts agreed that anyone born before 1982 was just going to have to wear normal jeans since they weren’t invited to the millennial party.

Which leaves me, a man without a generation, left unlabeled and un-stereotyped. And as an outsider looking in, all I’m really seeing is that these generations have more in common than they’d probably care to admit.

Baby boomers, I don’t mean to be indelicate, but the things you say about the kids these days are exactly the same things the Greatest Generation said about you. The only difference is they spoke from a place of authority, having survived The Great Depression, World War II and Korea. All you did was ruin social security.

They looked at Woodstock the same way you look at the Internet—just a collection of whiny kids making noise that no one cares about but themselves. That gut reaction you get when you see some punk in skinny jeans and a vegamatic haircut taking a selfie? That’s exactly how your parents felt when you discovered disco.

And Generation X—if you think baby boomers looked at early ’90s MTV and saw a seismic shift in the way youth culture was produced and consumed, you’re sorely mistaken. They saw the same idiotic garbage you’re seeing now when some millennial makes YouTube video re-mixing “Bee Movie” so it gets faster every time someone says the word “bee” (which is an actual thing the kids these days are doing—one I will not defend).

As I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m neither Generation X nor millennial. I’m just a guy who served his time as one of the “kids these days” during the transition between the two. It didn’t mean I wasn’t self-obsessed, supremely arrogant and predisposed to jump on some bafflingly stupid trend. I was. I was just lucky enough to do it at a time when we weren’t looking for the next generation to blame for everything.

So, to boomers, echo boomers, Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and all my fellow in-betweeners, I say this: Let the kids have their fun. Let them enjoy the fruits of youth and grow old as you did. Let them look back at the people they were, the things they thought were cool and important, and be as embarrassed about them as you are (admit it).

And if it makes you feel better, try to imagine the look on their faces when the next generation becomes the kids these days. Just imagine the garbage those kids are going to be into. 

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Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

At the gym, I witness cheaters. I don’t know why it bothers me, but it does. People who are so focused on “winning” (by the way, there are no awards) that they cut corners with every workout while I finish last pretty much every day. I am okay with being last. I am not trying to beat anyone else. I move at my own pace (slow) and modify a movement based on what is hurting that day (something is always hurting these days), but I never skip a rep. In fact, if I lose track counting (likely because I am counting someone else), I will start over, because I want to do it right.

These cheaters work in our community. And that irks me even more. If they cheat at the gym, do they cheat in life; do they cheat at work? And, what message are they sending to others?

I know, I should only worry about myself, and if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. Of course, if I followed that rule, this column would have been defunct years ago.
This month, Barry asked, “Which generation is the worst?” I had two quick answers. How old are the gym cheaters? And, whatever generation is currently attending college. I then realized that I have been teaching for 15 years, so I may be straddling generations. And then of course I had a debate with myself about the Millennial and Z generations, and got all kinds of confused. Is there that big a difference?

My guess is that the gym cheaters are of the Millennial generation, about a decade younger than me. According to Pew Research Center, Millennials are those born after 1978 up until 2000. A 2015 Pew Center study found that, “while 59 percent of Millennials describe the members of their generation as self-absorbed, 49 percent say they are wasteful and 43 percent describe them as greedy.” Millennials have the highest average number of Facebook friends. 55 percent have posted a selfie or more to social media sites, and they send a median of 50 texts a day. So, is it fair to say they are all about me, me, me?

My students today are of the Millennial and Z generation, those born after the turn of the century. Generation Z has never known a world without a cell phone and/or social media. They get iPhones for their tenth birthday. (I got a bike.) They get vacations for high school graduation. (I got a bracelet.) They find the answer for everything via Google or Siri. (I used a library.)

“Dear Professor Champson…” This is how one of my favorite e-mails from a student began. I used to take personal offense when a student didn’t try, or didn’t seem to care, or couldn’t quite figure out that C was my first initial and Hampson was my last name. You know, despite the fact that it says it on their schedule, their syllabus, and every single class assignment and document, I would agonize… what am I doing wrong? What can I do better? Soon (okay, it was longer than soon), I realized it’s not me; it’s them.

Today, when a student is unprepared or disappears from class (only to return three weeks later to ask, what did I miss?), I choose to look around at the students who are prepared and present; that is where my effort goes. Yet, I still lament about the “kid who just doesn’t get it,” and then I wonder where he/she went wrong. And what will become of him or her? Yes, these are the things that keep me up at night, the things I cannot control.

I don’t know that a couple people at the gym and a handful of students each semester comprise a trend, but the world is different today. When everything is at your fingertips, you don’t have to make an extra effort, or go the extra mile to get satisfaction. No one is walking uphill, both ways, in the snow, to school in 2017. So, what does that mean for future generations? I’m afraid to find out. 

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