A close friend of mine is a respected teacher at one of the largest high schools in Washington State. One of his responsibilities is an orientation class for incoming freshmen—9th graders.
In his two orientation classes he began by asking a series of simple questions. The first question was, "How many of you have cell phones here at school today?" Twenty-one of thirty in the first class and twenty-six of thirty in the second class had cell phones with them.
The second question was "How many of you have iPod or CD players here at school?" Twenty-one of thirty and twenty-three of thirty had players with them so that they could listen to music while walking the halls or sitting in class.
The third question was "How many brought a Game Boy or other video games to school?" Ten of the sixty students responded that they brought these items.
The final question was, "How many of you read at least one good book this summer?" Not one hand went up. No student out of the sixty had read a book during the summer.
These few questions asked in a 9th grade classroom in a typical American high school reveal a great deal about what is happening to our youth. All too often teenagers focus their lives on music and entertainment while neglecting the basics of education that will prepare them for a successful future.
The Plugged-In-Generation as it has come to be called is often bombarding itself with harmful and degrading messages. The teacher relayed to me that most of the music his students are listening to—often while class is in session—is "Hip Hop" or "Rap" which frequently contains foul language and messages of violence, abuse, and hostility towards authority.
This school allows students in class to be "plugged-in." A visitor would soon notice that about a third of students in a given classroom have their headphones on and are keeping time to music while the teaching is presenting subject material. The excuse given by school officials for allowing this is simply "behavior control." Teenagers who are "plugged in" are less likely to become behavior problems while at school.
This school, like almost all others in this state, had less than 50% of students pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) this year. The WASL tests for a minimum level of skills in reading, mathematics, and science required for graduation. Is there a connection here?
Our Creator has placed the heavy burden of teaching children on the shoulders of their parents. He stated plainly, "These words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
But parents today often think they are too busy—and in many cases they are. Both mother and father have careers that are "so important." They drive long commutes while youngsters who are in the most important formative years of their lives are left in day care with other toddlers who have absentee parents. The huge increase in the number of single parents raising children multiplies the challenges faced in properly educating children. Television or computer games often become convenient babysitters.
Children early on learn this important fact of life: TV or music box always has time for me but my parents do not. So they grow up plugged-in to electronics but often reach adulthood unable to form positive relationships with others. Perhaps this is one reason why over one-third of all adults between age 30 and 40 in this country are still single.
The plugged-in generation in most cases knows precious little about history or God. However, according to the Bible the two most important subjects to teach children are national history and knowledge of God. Deuteronomy chapter 4 is filled with instructions to teach children events of national history. Psalm 78:5-8 tells us that God "commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to … even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God and not forget the words of God, but keep His commandments."
If you are a parent or grandparent take time to read to young children. Most importantly, read God's Word yourself and teach any child you can how to read it with understanding. For great articles and other biblically oriented helps written just for young people today, subscribe to and recommend to parents, grandparents and youth alike our youth oriented magazine, Vertical Thought.