Like atheists, young people are one of these groups it’s okay to hate. It’s perfectly acceptable in every country I’ve lived in, and in many others I haven’t but know the politics of, for people to talk about how annoying, lazy, or degenerate people under 25 are.
Now Coturnix directs me to an article by one Taylor Armerding arguing that society’s troubles come from the fact that teenagers go to bed relatively late. Apparently the author would like people to start working at age 10, just like they did in the golden age that was the Industrial Revolution.
In previous centuries, adolescents in an agrarian society got up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. with their parents to milk the cows or do any other of a long list of chores. Did growth hormones pass them by? Where were the “studies” that showed they really needed to go to bed after midnight and sleep until 10? And why weren’t their parents all being reported to the DSS? Oh, that’s right, there was no DSS. How did that generation survive?
He assumes that in times before electricity, teenagers used to wake up and fall asleep at the same time adults did. Well, they did not. Studies of sleep patterns in primitive tribes show that adolescents are the last ones to wake up (and nobody bashes them for it – it is the New Primitives with access to media that do that) and the last ones to fall asleep – they serve as first-shift sentries during the night watch.
Even in this, the 21st century, kids who enter the military at 17 find that they can fall asleep easily at 9:30 or 10, because they know they’re going to be getting up at 4:30 or 5. Apparently the Army hasn’t read the study on circadian rhythms.
Actually, the military being the most worried by this problem is funding a lot of research on circadian rhythms and sleep and has been for decades. Because they know, first hand, how big a problem it is and that yelling sargeants do not make alert soldiers.
Whenever someone talks about the good old days, it’s generally out of ignorance. People who write about how great life was in 1950s America generally ignore details such as the teen pregnancy and poverty rates (both almost double those of today).
Armerding’s talk about the golden age in which everybody woke up at the same time is not particularly true, as Coturnix explains. What’s just as false is the idea that the medieval world had enlightened ideas about children. Despite the impression you’ll get from reading epic fantasy, pediatric care was horrific at the time; whenever there was famine, the adults let children starve and just had more the next year.
Ageism is based on a fairly unadulterated version of conservatism, one that even conservative intellectuals try to run away from, namely the ideas that all change is bad and that all modernity is decadent. If something worked a certain way on the farms of 1600, it must be good, and everyone who points out it wasn’t must be silenced.
Of course, since youth is associated with change, ranting about how annoying young people are is a natural consequence of that view. If the mainstream views of 18-to-25 year olds are different from those of 40-to-55 year olds, the younger cohort must be in the wrong, and to prove that it’s wrong, every myth about generational attitudes is a legitimate weapon. If young people dispute the 80-hour-workweek ethos that’s taken root in the US, it means young people are lazy; if college graduates try to get good entry-level jobs, it just means they hate working hard; if teenagers sleep the amount of hours that fits 15-year-olds rather than 30-year-olds, it just means they’re pampered.