When I start off a story with, “When I was a kid,” mine roll their eyes and their selective hearing tunes into something, anyting, else.
I don’t blame them because things today are not like it was when I was a kid. While I may find funny the bumper sticker that says, “Hire a teen-ager while they still know everything,” they know and I grudgingly admit that the parallels between then and now are few and far between.
In the next few weeks, a new crop of teens will be taking their next steps along the road of life, high school diplomas in hand. In the old days, that diploma may have been an appropriate end to a person’s formal education. That diploma is still a valuable and important piece but it is recognized as just that, a piece of what will need to be a life of learning.
The graduating class of 2003 has heard that message all along the way to the cap and gown ceremony and are well aware that this is a beginning, not an end.
The final few months leading up to my high school graduation were filled with concerns about a military draft for an unpopular war. This year’s group just witnessed a war of their own but saw a nation united behind the soldiers, if not the concept.
When I graduated, Boeing was an immutable force of nature. For these young people, the only immutable force is change and their need to adapt.
A few of my classmates had clearly charted courses upon graduation. Many more of us, while not exactly drifting, may have been rowing a bit aimlessly.
While that approach might not be too goal-oriented, it does have the advantage of giving one a variety of experiences. Today, high school students have more opportunities to pick a career early on. I lament that those opportunities can turn into pressure to make sure they don’t stray from a particular path lest dire consequences befall them.
When my parents were kids, they trudged through knee-deep snow to school, uphill, both ways. When I was a kid, we realized that it was pretty hard to trudge at all through the haze leftover from the late ’60s and it was time to buckle down. These kids will find out that by the time they make the trudge, the school will be someplace else.
Here’s wishing good luck to the Class of 2003.
Jim Hills is publisher of The Enterprise Newspapers.