The mass school shooting in Florida has certainly produced one unexpected result, and that’s a startling transformation in how much of the media views teenagers and their place in society as compared to adults. While some of the underlying motivations should be rather obvious (which we’ll return to in a moment), one of the latest and most prominent examples of this newfound admiration for the social and political acumen of students can be found in this glowing piece by Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times.
Parker-Pope first dangles a few of the monickers being assigned to the next batch of kids coming up, referring to them variously as Generation Z, iGen or the Post-Millennials. (If these kids want to issue a list of demands, the first should be to ask for a better name.) The author wonders if all of this activism represents a cause for concern or if perhaps we should just “get out of their way.” She then goes on to deliver heaps of praise which would normally be reserved for a cohort of Nobel laureates, Congressional Medal of Honor winners and candidates for sainthood. (Emphasis added)
While there has been much hand-wringing about this cohort, also called iGen or the Post-Millennials, the stereotype of a disengaged, entitled and social-media-addicted generation doesn’t match the poised, media-savvy and inclusive young people leading the protests and gracing magazine covers.
There’s 18-year-old Emma González, whose shaved head, impassioned speeches and torn jeans have made her the iconic face of the #NeverAgain movement, which developed after the 17 shooting deaths in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Naomi Wadler, just 11, became an overnight sensation after confidently telling a national television audience she represented “African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.” David Hogg, a high school senior at Stoneman Douglas, has weathered numerous personal attacks with the disciplined calm of a seasoned politician.
I see. But before we get too carried away, I would ask Ms. Parker-Pope if she regularly reads her own publication. Specifically, did she happen to catch her colleague Niraj Chokshi’s piece from only three weeks before the Parkland shooting where he struggled to understand why so many in this same group (teenagers) were obsessed with eating “pods” full of laundry detergent? Has she read her own paper’s piece this past fall about all the schools where bullying and tribal tendencies have reached epidemic proportions, leading to children being maimed and killed? Just some food for thought.
This group of students from the Parkland shooting certainly deserve the chance to speak. It’s good practice for their adult lives which await them after graduation. But at the same time, there is actually very little to indicate that evolution has suddenly taken a monumental leap forward without anyone noticing and produced a generation of kids who are notably different than any other kids who came before them. Young Mr. Hogg, who the media dotes upon endlessly, has regularly embarrassed himself and frequently acts more like a spoiled child than a “seasoned politician,” as Parker-Pope described him. (Alright… perhaps selecting “politician” wasn’t the most apt analogy there, given the state of Washington these days, but you get the point.)
So does that mean we should be condemning Hogg as some sort of flawed, failed character in this passion play? No. He’s a kid. Many of us would have fallen into the same ditch with that much media adoration and public scrutiny suddenly dumped upon our heads at such an early age. As we already know, the liberal media has almost entirely ignored Colton Haab, because he was espousing views which didn’t fit the narrative. But the majority of the kids they found are pushing the furthest left-wing policies which most adult Democrats are afraid to endorse in public. In this regard, these kids are being used and simply don’t know any better.
In the end, these are teenagers. They will grow to be adults. Many of their now-cherished views will change over time as they mature and gather more life experience and information. Others may retain opinions similar to the ones they hold now. But they’re kids. They don’t need to be voting at the age of 13 (as some have already suggested) and they don’t hold any particular standing to speak on matters of public policy while the adults are shushed so we can benefit from their wisdom. This a game being run by the left-leaning press because they like what the kids are saying. And when their usefulness is done, both the Democrats and the media circus will move on and discard them. It’s how these stories always end.