Millennials think authority figures are untrustworthy idiots, and modern culture is to blame

No matter what the explanation, when young adult fiction encourages reliance on transitory, peer-based relationships, it casts off the unifying role that classic literature once played. Our stories no longer bind multiple generations together. Instead they divide them. The mere existence of young adult and “new adult” fiction illustrates the way that we are continually adding new brackets to specialized and segregated age categories instead of expecting young people to integrate into the adult world. In fact, we even structure young people’s lives in ways that decrease adult influence and increase peer culture: our children are separated by age at school and attend age-specific youth programs at church (often never participating in traditional services that are designed for all-ages). They listen to their own music and text in their own language. The qualities which unify a culture, such as music, etiquette rules, and stories, are all things of which youth have their own…

This tribalism is damaging to children. Young people long to belong to something bigger than themselves (and this means bigger than their own generation). Children need community, structure, guidance, and history. In short, they need to belong to a culture instead of being left to form their own. When we adults are unwilling to take responsibility for our natural influence over the next generation (whether through modesty, fear, or laziness) we demonstrate cowardice. Of course, no matter what our modern entertainment portrays, children are still raised in families by parents. No one really turns five-year-olds loose with instructions to save the world. Yet the cultural message as seen in modern stories is pervasive, powerful, and damaging. Whether children are reading about Percy Jackson’s band of friends or situations where even the “good” adults are trying to use and manipulate Katniss, only one type of virtue is nurtured in their souls: the virtue of personal loyalty to people who are like themselves. People that they have chosen. People who, despite superficial diversity, cannot help them broaden their minds beyond a narrow tribalism. That is more primitive than the oldest folk tale. Yet fiction is one of the ways that we can provide comfort and help to children. Fiction reflects life, but it also shapes it. It forms young readers’ sense of normal. It shapes their imaginations by demonstrating that truth, goodness, and beauty can be pursued by all of us regardless of age. It is a way to overcome the tribalism of generation.