By MARK MAYNARD, Kentucky Today
It’s got to be tough growing up these days. I mean, let’s face it, most of us had our hands full back in our day when passing notes folded 18 ways was our social media.
That’s nothing compared to today’s world of social media, gender confusion, and cyber-bullying.
Of those last three, a form of bullying has been around for all of our generations, but our bullies were different. They were big, didn’t usually wear the best or cleanest clothes and had names like “Buster” or “Biff.” Most of the time, they weren’t the best of students and usually needed long sleeves to keep their nose wiped. But I wasn’t about to say anything to them. Like most people in my school, I was terrified of them.
Today’s Bullies duck behind the computer screen to do their dirty work. That’s much worse than a threat from “Buster” or “Biff” who, most of the time, were more misunderstood than bad guys.
Social media has changed the game for all of us. It has opened a whole new world that children have no busy stepping into. For that matter, I know a lot of adults who should sign off permanently before they do something professionally and personally damaging by offering their “opinion” on any number of topics.
News flash: Everybody has an opinion and minds aren’t changed by the Facebook post. No matter how much you like or dislike President Trump, or whatever the subject may be, you aren’t likely to sway anyone’s opinion on Facebook. At least I hope not.
Social media is where the schoolyard fights start these days too. And don’t even get me started on the whole gender situation. At least we didn’t have to worry about that when I was growing up. Everybody had a good handle on if they were a boy or a girl.
But on Friday a story in the Courier-Journal was, well, heart-breaking in every sense of the word.
Teachers at a Southern Indiana elementary school decided the fifth-graders at Riverside Elementary School in Jeffersonville were going to have to end all relationships. There was a zero-tolerance policy on dating. The kids could be friends but not boyfriend and girlfriend. At least not at school. Wow!
The note from the three fifth-grade teachers at Riverside Elementary said that while students are at the age in which “they become interested and develop crushes,” it is also the age that “hearts can get broken quickly.”
I don’t know about the rest of you but my elementary days at Charles Russell Elementary in Ashland in the 1960s didn’t include “dating.” I was probably more terrified of girls than “Buster” and “Biff.” If I remember correctly, those who were brave enough to have a “relationship” meant they were “going steady” or “going with you.” I’m pretty sure I never made it to that level in grade school although I was starting to notice the opposite sex even while being terrified of them. I never had to wonder if they were a boy or girl.
I’m sure it’s different today. Parents are different too. They “encourage” those early relationships between boyfriend and girlfriend in some cases. Nobody gets to grow up like we did anymore, and I’m not sure we’re better for it. Whatever happened to impressing girls by throwing paper-wads at somebody in class?
While I’m sure the teachers felt like they had good reason for the zero-dating policy it probably wasn’t a good idea. For one, how were they going to monitor that? But I also feel for the teachers, who were trying to protect these children from some early heartbreak. Apparently, children are experiencing it earlier and earlier. My grade school disappointments came when the Reds didn’t win the pennant (postseason baseball was only the World Series in my elementary days). I wasn’t going to be heartbroken by one of the girls because, as I’ve already said, I was terrified of them.
I eventually came around in junior high and heartbreak followed on multiple occasions. Maybe being terrified wasn’t such a bad thing. I survived through it all, got married after college and my bride and I will celebrate 39 years in April. So I wasn’t damaged goods after all (or maybe my wife just showed pity).
Today’s children are more worldly than we ever were (thank you, social media). You hear stories that can shake your core. But, seriously, why do first-graders need an iPhone 11?
Even though things have changed, this story about the school that was banning relationships was still a little shocking. The teachers had good intentions. They wanted to limit any disruption in teaching, which is, after all, their job.
It sure is a different world. I’m glad the bullies are gone and I don’t have any peer pressure to be dating in elementary school. I’m sure I’d still be terrified to talk to a girl about “going steady.”
Meanwhile, maybe Dear Abby could be made available for the under 12 bunch.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org