Point of No Return: Are kids today lazier than before, or busier?


“Get off my lawn, you miserable kids.”

Buckle up, boys and girls. I’m turning down the volume on my “Murder, She Wrote” marathon, adjusting my Hubble-strength reading glasses and easing my aching bones into my “grumble seat” — the chair in which I gingerly position myself to pen pointed columns aimed at all those who are younger than myself.

Young people are a pretty easy target these days, to be fair. Just uttering the word “Millennial” in a crowd can generate a series of eye-rolls, head-shakes and dry-heave sounds. Like the critics of “Generation X” in the ’90s, and the “Baby Boomers” before that, Millenials have often been labeled in derogatory terms by most of those who came before them.

But, honestly, I do have some respect for this new wave of young people in this country. I read about members of this newer generation fighting to create more gun control legislation, or others steadfastly defending 2nd Amendment rights or others simply getting involved with wherever their passions lie. I sit and watch these young people speaking to Congress or leading protests and I’m reminded that when I was their age I spent most of my time having an internal struggle between the merits of chunky or smooth peanut butter...

But I digress. 

And while I do admire this generation of American youth for both their passion and relative intellectualism, there does seem to be a lack of, well, substance. Obviously, that’s a gross generalization of a large swath of our population. We’ve written story after story about remarkable and hard-working young people in this community, and I’ve seen a parade of all that is right about our youth come through this office in the form of interns or reporters.

But maybe the dawn of the participation trophy, the lessening of controlled corporal punishment at home and the removal of God from many of our institutions has helped foster a generation that no longer feels an immediate need to reach higher, fear repercussions or strive for moral and righteous conduct. Or, maybe that’s just a bunch of hooey. I grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons, and I never wanted to plug a hunter’s shotgun barrels with my fingers or drop a pile of TNT on an unsuspecting roadrunner. Well, I wanted to do both, but I never actually did them.

Maybe those outside elements aren’t the causes of a generation that has been universally panned as being “softer” than those before it, as much as it is the fault of older generations for not demanding more. I remember my mother driving me to get my workers’ permit on my 14th birthday, and immediately starting my first “legitimate” job that didn’t require me to launch newspapers into my neighbors’ bushes. Having a summer birthday, I worked from that very afternoon until school started up again, and then found part-time work for the school year to fill my weekends and one or two nights a week.

A-ha.

I can’t tell you how many local business owners this summer have told me they are having a hard time finding employees. Many of them have said that there haven’t been as many international students to fill these jobs, and then they add that the local kids and “summer kids” just don’t seem to want to work.

From my own experience, I can tell you that I didn’t want to work, either. I wanted to hang around my friends, chase girls, play ball and run sample surveys regarding different textures of peanut butter, but guess what? I went to work, and if I didn’t feel like waking up early in the morning to go to work, one of my parents was sure to be there to “gently” wake me up and send me along my way. And if I wanted to go to a movie with my pals or take out a girl, guess where the money came from to do that. Go ahead. Guess. I’ll wait.

That’s right. I earned it.

And earning it was, admittedly, pretty great. I didn’t have to try to beg for $5 from my dad, which often resulted in a 31-hour speech about how when he was a kid he held 19 jobs, then walked 48 miles uphill in a blizzard while carrying a wooly mammoth on his back so he could bring a nice cup of ice water to his mother, because kids back then actually respected their parents and...

Yeah, didn’t have to go through that if it was money I earned. In the process, though I didn’t realize it at the time, those jobs in my youth helped teach me about responsibility, following direction and, yeah, taking garbage from people without having a complete meltdown.

Of course, maybe the declining younger workforce is not due to laziness or a sense of entitlement. “The Atlantic” wrote a story suggesting that 60 percent of teens were working or looking for work in the summer of 1978. Conversely, according to the Atlantic, only 35 percent of teens were working in the summer of 2016. They also cite numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that say the percent of 16- to 19-year-olds enrolled in summer school has tripled in the last 20 years, as more kids are attending college, removing a big chunk of kids from the work force. I’d also add in that there are more kids involved in travel ball in the summer, as well as summer camps for football, soccer or other sports.

So, maybe it’s not that kids are lazier today, after all. Maybe they’re just busier. 

Yeah, never mind. I’d rather complain. Damn Millenials.

By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor