Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

What in Tarnation Has Happened to Young People Today?Ask any aging Baby Boomer. Kids today are less educated, mannerly and industrious — not to mention more selfish, rebellious and lazy — than ever before.

Well guess what? It’s been that way for thousands of years.

Even geezing Greek philosopher Aristotle sermonized about the matter in the Fourth Century B.C. “They think they know everything,” he groused about youngsters, “and are always quite sure about it. This, in fact, is why they overdo everything.”

I recently stumbled upon Ari’s whippersnapper rant while searching for information on a totally unrelated topic. One thing led to another, and soon I was perusing results of a research project by psychologists John Protzko and Jonathan Schooler at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

They conducted online interviews with 3,458 Americans, 33-51 years of age. It would take this entire issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette to detail all their work, but suffice it to say they quizzed these adults about how life is today, compared to life they remember from their youth.

The key is “how they remember.”

After all the tabulations were assessed, the scientists boiled everything down to what they called the “Kids These Days Effect.”

Yep. It’s the same selective memory from a song made famous in “Bye, Bye Birdie,” the award-winning Broadway musical from the early 1960s: “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way, what’s the matter with kids today?”

“It’s the exact same complaints time after time: They’re disrespectful, they don’t listen to their elders and they don’t like to work,” Protzko was quoted in a publication from the university. “There is a psychological or mental trick that happens that makes it appear to each generation that the subsequent generations are objectively in decline, even though they’re not.”

How well I know. I once had to give myself a personal dope slap while raising hell to my kids about rap and heavy metal music. About the time my pious fulminations hit third gear, I suddenly remembered my father raising similar hell about rock and roll. For once, I had the good sense to shut the hell up. Touché.

The two researchers also discovered that the more skilled adults were in any given pursuit, the more likely they were to complain about youthful deficiencies. Thus, if Glen Grownup enjoys (pick any topic, any hobby, any job, whatever), he often thinks younger practitioners are dumber than a sack of rocks.

OK, I get that. Times change; people don’t. I understand the “kids these days effect” completely. But there’s one thing I know to the pit of my soul that has, indeed, changed.


How come the gentle mountain trails I hiked as a teenager have become decidedly steeper and rockier in the last 50 years?

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).”
He may be reached at