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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parents a decade from now!

A teacher called Charles Sykes has written some wonderful advice for youngsters graduating from high school these days. It gives me nightmares to think they will start becoming parents within a decade from now! He had American kids in mind, but I am sure  it applies equally well to the ‘smart set’ of the same age group in India (some people were passing it off as a spoof on the Net, claiming it was a speech that Bill Gates has recently made. It wasn’t Bill, but that doesn’t take away one whit from the truth and importance of what is being said):
Rule 1:  Life is not fair - get used to it!
Rule 2:   The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3:  You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4:   If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5:   Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “FIND YOURSELF”. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one!             
If you agree, pass it on.
If you can read this - Thank a teacher!

Contrast the attitude manifest in the above sermon with the reality about today’s youngsters (again, I don’t see much difference between American kids and their wannabe Indian clones…): watch this sad and shocking video song on youtube: http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=7uSlqI1AVUk
I am thankful to Sion Chowdhury, in his third undergraduate year at Jadavpur University, Dept. of English, for kindly providing me with the above link. Do watch the video: you won't get the point of this blogpost without reflecting upon it!


Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

Good post Suvro. There's a limited preview of the 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School by Charles J. Sykes in Google Books.

Anonymous said...

Heh, heh, heh, I am going to save this and show it to my daughter about 10-15 years from now. Excellent advice. :)

Subhanjan said...

Now that was a very important video. I was really amazed by the juxtaposition of the extravagance of 'rock music' and extremely important and socially shocking issues. And that is a product of creativity.

All of these is so true for almost every youth of all cultures across the globe. And I believe the media is responsible for rotting the minds of the youth, as well as of many elderly people. And so is the lack of common sense and ideals in the sphere of education. These days I see small girls wearing such revealing clothes that I simply can not imagine what has gone wrong in the minds of their mothers. Youth as well as elderly people getting drunk and driving recklessly. Youth as well as the elderly wasting money with no concern at all for saving money for the future. Snazzy mobiles are more important to people than insurance policies. We gape at BMW s and dream of having one without even considering the fact that one needs to earn in crores for that and that it happens to one in a few lakhs of people. That too most of the money is filthy. No hard earned money is so cheap that one can easily go and buy a BMW or Mercedes. We have forgotten to read and write. We have forgotten what good food is and consider a cheesy Pizza as the best that a man can have. What the hell is going on?

Supra said...

The actual complete list of 14 can be found at Snopes(http://www.snopes.com/language/document/liferule.asp), which has the full-length versions of the first 10 as well.

"Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs." This one is truth.It is also true that not all families solve their problems in half-an-hour, not all cops are good guys, and that not all rich people are happy.. Enjoy this while you can. “Sure, parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be kid. Maybe you should start now.” This country would be much better off if they followed these principals. If I had to summarize the spirit of these rules, it seems to be, "Hey kid, just shut up and get to work." No wonder they have caught hold of the imagination of folks who feel that things have gotten out of control.

Tanmoy said...

Most parents have only one thing to say - 'don't teach me, how to treat my child'. Those same children when they leave their parents, I wonder what would the parents look back upon?

In this regard, I shall suggest these books - http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/23/how-children-learn-c.html

Please forgive me, in case I have suggested this before.



Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

The delay in posting this comment is because I was debating with myself whether I should comment on this at all. And the doubt was because I strongly disagree with Mr. Charles Sykes and with you, Suvro, for a change! (I know you would welcome contrary views; my inhibition was personal, I try to avoid debates and arguments.)

What Mr. Sykes has written would be relevant for only some young people. And the video represents an even more marginal fringe. The question is, can we, should we generalize?

I know some pathetic young people who have funny concepts of the world around them, who don't read anything, not even a newspaper, who live like princes thanks to their stupid parents, although their parents might become pauperized in the process.

But I also know many many young people who are much more focused, competent, aware, and socially responsible than what I was at their age. Some of the blogs of your students are a testimony to this statement. And I don't think I have any right or business to tell them how they should live their lives.

Even with the first group, sermons like the one offered by Mr Sykes don't help. You either learn from your experience or don't. If sermons served any purpose, everyone would have loved their neighbours by now.

Although I disagree with you, I thank you for initiating the debate. The issue is important and I would genuinely like to learn more from you and from your young readers.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks very much indeed for your comment, Santanuda. And my congratulations for being able to carry a much sunnier outlook on life than me into an advanced age!

However, while contrary views (especially optimistic ones) are always welcome, my entire experience of life, including 27 years of teaching at all levels from middle school to university students, makes me hopelessly bitter and fearful. I have been travelling recently, and 99% of the young people I saw all around me, including the ones I rubbed shoulders with in metropolitan cybercafes, only gave me cause for gloom and disgust. Beneath their snootiness and smart chatter lies only a filthy morass of stupidity, vulgarity and ignorance: I could very well make out what their IQ, EQ and GK levels would turn out to be if they were subjected to tests without preparation. Those young people who comment sanely and intelligently and courteously on my blog are very much the exceptions that prove the rule: for every one of them I can think of a hundred who are as inarticulate as they are rude, uninformed, aimless, greedy, unthinkingly cruel and, in short, a burden to the world.

And one more thing: some of us will carry our (hopeless, maybe) idealism to the grave. Sermons don't work? Fine. Infinitely greater men than me or Mr. Sykes have nevertheless passionately sermonized down the ages. Maybe we are all very stupid, but we'll go on trying till the end. However, be it noted that even at 45 I do not think that the Buddha, Jesus, Sri Ramakrishna or Gandhi lived entirely in vain. Indeed, I haven't heard of too many men who have lived worthier lives, according to my lights.

Rajdeep said...


1. "Be the change that you wish to see most in your world." - Mahatma Gandhi.

2. "There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone's house. That says enough." - Mother Teresa.

3. "To grow and multiply it is necessary to plant the wheat grain in the darkness of the earth and my failures, my despairs, my ignorance, and my inabilities are the darkness in which I have been planted in order to ripen." - Og Mandino.

Rajdeep said...

Good book related to this topic:
"Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Values," by Dorothy Law Nolte, Rachel Harris.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

I am sorry if I have offended your feelings by using the word “sermon”. I didn’t mean to hurt.
Almost every parent tells their children to study seriously, but many, if not most of them are anything but serious students.

On the other hand, so many people do wonderful things despite no one asking them to do so. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin and Charlie Chaplin are possibly examples of such people, but let us leave these great men aside for the moment.

Closer home, Hariprasad Chowrasia was beaten by his father for playing the flute. But it did not change him because his desire to be a musician was far too strong.

We all do well in something when that something becomes an inner calling. If the desire is missing, one doesn’t perform, and all well intentioned advices fail. All that parents and teachers can hope to do is to help inspire and shape such a calling. But who would teach the parents and the teachers?

I recall a recent post of yours where you retold a story by Tarapada Ray about honesty. That story reminded me of this:

A young boy filched a pencil from a classmate and brought it home. His father was furious. He said to his son, ‘Don’t you know what it means to take someone’s things without telling them? Don’t you know it is called theft? Don’t you know that everyone hates thieves and they are put in jails? Besides, why didn’t you tell me? I could have brought any number of pencils for you from my office.’

What message would the child get?

By recalling this story, I want to say that we do not do what our parents tell us to do. We learn from how they live their lives.
Extending the same logic, the uncouth useless shallow young people of the stinking rich you met during your recent journey have become so through a process, and no amount of advice will help them change their way.

That brings me to your last point. Throughout history, countless individuals told people to live their lives differently. But only some of them made a real difference: Buddha, Gandhi, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda were four of them. …. Why did only so few of them succeed?

I do not know the answer. But I guess that people followed them because these messengers were as important as their messages.
People do not see the logic of generalized advices like those offered by Mr. Charles Sykes, even if the advices are fundamentally correct.

I know that you have influenced many young men and women in a positive way. I am sure you were successful with them not only because you told them to do the right things, but also because they respected you as an individual.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

No offence taken, Santanuda.

I am disappointed, though, that so few observant and thought-provoking comments have come in.

Also, the commentators seem to have gotten distracted. No one has yet made any observations on the core issue: my horror when I contemplate what sort of parents today's high-school graduates are going to become in 15-20 years' time. From what I see around me of parents who could have been my pupils 20 years ago, I cannot feel anything but disquiet!