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We done alright

Steve Campbell

I recently had an epiphany. This usually only happens every week, while I’m asleep, and wakes me up at 2 a.m. and inspires me to write. Yes, that’s correct. I am possessed by a really pissed-off spirit who is channelling me to send my columns to you, loaded with observations which could change the world. Also it could be the Cajun Chili. Jury’s out.
Every generation considers their children to be spawns of the devil, once they become teenagers. As babies, they are angels, and we like to watch them sleep blissfully, and learned to love the smell of baby powder, and bought military-grade face masks for diaper patrol.
There are thousands of books out there with great advice on how to raise children. And damned if we don’t read them. They have advice like: “I know you got the scissors and cut all your sister’s hair off, but I want you to know I feel your frustration, and your possible resentment of your sister because she dressed your Wolverine doll in a ballerina costume.” Too sensitive? Damn right.
Oddly enough, babies – and even teenagers – grow up to be real people. They get jobs, and they don’t yell at their bosses, “I hate you! Leave me alone! It’s my life!” and fall down on the floor and scream.
In short, we have a problem relating our adult, totally responsible, totally reasonable us, with the wild crazies of youth.

Sorting it out
This falls into two categories: 1) I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made. Yeah I get that. But growing up is seriously about making mistakes. That’s called ‘learning’. Unless you are now a serial killer, you probably learned from your mistakes. Protecting your kids from mistakes is not helpful.
If you are a parent who says, “Be careful” all the time, eventually all the kid hears is “blah, blah, blah.” We all fall off the monkey bars as kids. Maybe we touch the stove, even though we were told to ‘be careful’. Their minds don’t go, “Oh, Mom told me not to do that.” It sends a pain message to their brain that says, “Well, that was stupid idea.”
And that’s learning. We do it all our lives. I still learn every day. No need for it to stop. This will create a smart kid.

Stories from School
I had the great gift of teaching at Loyalist College for two years. I had first and second year classes and they were brilliant. Totally inquisitive, and challenging every day. Each class was a huge adrenaline rush for me, to engage with minds that took nothing for granted at face value … just like me.
I had the great gift/curse of going back a couple of years later, and encountered GenX. That’s not so much a buzz word now, but this stint was a nightmare. Unlike my previous crew, this crowd knew everything, and knew nothing.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Keep in mind these were journalism students:
On the first day of class, I asked them, “How many of you read national newspapers.” No hands went up. Then “How many people read local papers?” Two hands. This is in a class of 30 journalism students. So I had to ask, “Where do you get your news?” Shrugs all around. So that was my starting point. Journalism students who don’t read, and have no interest in news. It got worse.
I had a student who did a story on the upcoming Santa Clause Parade. Yes, that’s right. I ran my pen through the delete symbol, and she said, “What’s wrong with that?”
“Santa Claus does not have an ‘e’.”
“I ran it through spell check, and it’s a word.”
“Okay, first, spell check has been defeated on your machines.” (This was an attempt to force students to learn to spell, instead of counting on machines.) “Second, clause is a word, as in ‘subordinate clause’ or ‘legal clause’.”
She snorted, “What difference does it make?”
I said, “So if I said you’re a little hoarse today, would your voice be raspy, or would you be a pony?”
She looked at me like I flew in from Mars. The exercise was totally wasted.

With another student, I assigned an interview with a Loyalist staff member who was a physiotherapist and a yoga instructor. Potential for a good feature there. Easy to do, just do an interview right in the building. Easy as can be.
In her submission, she opened with the teacher being a ‘certified psychopath’. (What’s the difference?) The rest of her story was also trash, so I had to ask if she actually interviewed the subject. No, she never did an interview. She only went onto the website and, since they can’t read (or write), got that wrong too.
Most of my students wanted to do movie and music reviews, known to be the pinnacle of investigative journalism.
Here’s an example, which I vividly recall. “The cop was really tough. That was cool. The car chases were cool, and something blew up. Then his partner got killed, and that was a bummer, but he caught the bad guy and that was cool.” I swear to God, that was it.
I gave him an assignment, and he came back with another movie review, because he thought that was better than his assignment. This one was pretty good. It actually explored the nuances of the movie. So I knew he didn’t write it. Sure enough, under pressure, he admitted his roommate wrote it. Wish that guy was in my class.
The whole experience was a nightmare.

So back to the original premise. If you created Gen X – a pox on your souls. Telling your kids they were brilliant when they were actually stupid did not help them later in life.
Fortunately, the next Gen of parents got it right. Nurture, but correct. Add learning. Give accolades when they are honestly deserved. Drive them to be better. And, for God’s sake, get them to read. Don’t care if it’s Hungry Caterpillar, Tintin or Marvel comics. Read. Build vocabulary. Build communication.
In today’s world, words are throwaways. Spelling is in the crapper, and considered unnecessary. Punctuation is a foreign territory nobody can use anymore. Just throw in commas and apostrophes anywhere, or nowhere.
I know I’m a little crazy about this, and not faultless myself, but I saw a Ford ad that read: “Its built Ford tough.”
Clearly this went through piles of executives, including the ad agency, and cost millions of dollars to produce and implement. And not one of them knew “It’s” is the possessive, a contraction of it is. I can only assume that all the rooms we’re full of GenXers, who knew how to bullshit their way through life, but never learned basic English.
And one of them may be a little horse.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Steve Campbell says:

    I didn’t think anyone would catch that. I put it in just for fun, but didn’t figure anyone would spot it. Sometimes I just do things that make me laugh, even if no-one else gets it.

  2. Micheline Mallory says:

    Thanks for a great giggle from Picton to Victoria, BC.

    Doug occasionally peruses news of the County and spotted this latest gem of yours. He made sure I saw it because I took journalism at Carleton in Ottawa and many decades later attended Loyalist as well. Your frustrations with the younger generation’s lack of interest in reading and being aware of current affairs is one shared by many, especially at election time when we always wonder what influences their vote. How long before we see Canadian versions of Trump or Hershel Walker on our ballots?

    BTW clever of you to substitute “we’re” for “were” in the second to last sentence… illustrating your point of popping apostrophes wherever, like Ford’s “its”?

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