This month we are celebrating the end of innocence for the graduating class of 2000 and the start of their new look at the world we live in. Since infancy the graduates of today have been protected and educated by a long succession of parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. Mistakes have been overlooked and corrected, and ideas have been formulated and proposed till the graduates have finally reached this day when they will leave the cocoon of friendly benevolence and face the worldon its own terms.
According to several sociological studies, the graduates today have learned 90 percent of their social values by the time they were ten years old. At ten, when in the fifth grade, there did not seem to be any earth-shaking event to mark the passage of this great moment of reaching the 90 percent level of social awareness, yet it happened. Since that turning point of the tenth year, each of the graduates has added an additional 10 percent of knowledge and experience to their social makeup, but generally only in the area of filling in endless detail to their already fixed social values.
Soon after birth a child learns to identify mother and father and members of the family circle. At two or three years he makes the important discovery that food can be conveyed to the mouth by a fork or spoon, instead of by hand. So a value is fixed.Other values are fixed at the same time, depending on many factors that change from generation to generation, and indeed, seem to be changing on a cycle that lasts for only a few years at best. Attitudes about family relationships, patriotism, work, entertainment, and sex are also programmed by the ten-year level. Unless there is a significant emotional experience to change or modify this value programming, the attitudes will remain with the individual for the rest of his life.
Today's graduates are going to leave a protected environment
and face a hostile world. No longer will there be a benevolent teacher to counsel
them about career choices or a protective parent or clergyman to advise on what
is the right and proper thing to do in any given situation.
Some of the graduates will go on to college where their
courses and grades will be determined entirely by their own effort. They will
have to fight for the credits that ae necessary to them, and will probably have
to work hard to secure the necessary funds for tuition and board. Other graduates
will enter the job market, and will have to immediately adjust to doing things
the way it is demanded rather than the way that is most logical.Some of the
leaders today.....presidents, supreme court judges, principals, school board
members, will tell you all about the Great War. Things were very hard then,
and a youngster of ten was very much aware of the need for saving and making
every penny count.
So these are the values that were programmed into the
people who will hire or fire you.....the people who will decide your courses
in college and your grades, and, indeed, the people who will be the primary
elected officials who will decide the country's destiny in the years ahead after
cast your first vote.How can you communicate with them? Or, more importantly, how will they understand you? We have a very different set of values between the graduates of today and the leaders of today. It will be hard for communication to take place between two different philosophies, yet such communication must take place.The challenge of the future will be for the graduates of today to bridge this gap and for the leaders of today to adjust to a different world.
The age of innocence is indeed past. But you, the graduates,
were programmed differently. You are going to have to get the fifty-year-old
to change his prejudice and see that your ideas are just as right to you as
his are to him.
The 18-year-olds of this time (who have been programmed
to believe that any effort for political change was futile) did not take over
the polls and change the structure of politics. They defaulted to the 50-year-
olds and left things pretty much as they are today.
When you reach your twentieth year you will be immersed
in the problems of daily living, but may have time for consideration of the
political scene. When you reach your thirties, you will shift the emphasis of
your preocupatin to practical matters like buying a home, making a marriage
work and worrying about how to stretch your income to meet the outgo. In your
forties, you will worry about your career, and worry that the world is passing
you by without your having had a real part in it.
When you reach your fifties, you will reflect on the
past years and all of the things that were programmed into you at your tenth
year will become very important to you and will shape the way you judge the
youngsters that you have fostered or that you are coming in contact with.
Tomorrow, next month, or next year, you will become
angry at the older people who just don't seem to understand what your world
is all about. You will find it hard to understand why the truths that you are
so aware of, are not at all apparent to the older people you have to live with
and to deal with in everyday life.
It will be a hostile world you enter, but you will enter
it better prepared to face it and beat it than any other generation that has
gone ahead of you. Your social values have been based on a realism and a
cynicism that may prevent you from being taken in by false values and fake philosophies. You have had the best intellectual input that can be devised for you, and a world that is ready to listen to the winds of change.
We who are witnessing your emergence today, are counting on you to meet hostility with intelligence. It is now up to you.