Cecilia Alonso Vigil
For many years, Spanish families have brought up their children on values of absolute respect and hard work, in total contrast to the way that adolescents’ behaviour nowadays, which is characterised by their challenging attitude, constant disrespect and dominating laziness. Obviously, not all the children from previous generations were saints, but lots of things have changed in recent years, and I believe that as a society what we should be asking ourselves is: are we making a mistake?
Relationships within families and society, in general, have developed throughout history. In order to get to know this evolution, the best we can do is read books from different ages. Nevertheless, the development which has taken place in the past few years is both recent and significant enough that we can easily start to understand the issue which we as societal observers are witnessing. There is no need to look a long way back in history to be aware of the obvious changes which our parents and grandparents have seen throughout their lives.
Until the 1950s, in Spain, children between eight and nine years old, sometimes even younger, had to work in order to help their families. Their limited education was based on a deep respect towards the people around them, and even though physical punishment was frequent, it didn´t prevent children from loving and admiring their parents. Moreover, not all of them were lucky enough to be able to afford to attend school. By the year 1960, there were only 8,648 university students. In less than 20 years, that number had increased more than a 1000%; in 1977 there were 108,722 university students. That way, many were for ages being kept from the great gift of receiving an education, which is something not as valued as it should, both for the cultural wealth and for the future possibilities it provides.
If we move forward a few years, a comparison can be made with the current situation. Spain has undergone years of economic and social development, and Spanish citizens´ rights and living conditions have improved significantly. Throughout the changes, all that the Spanish population wished was to obtain a better quality of life for themselves and their families. This feeling continues to develop today, and yet there is a stark contrast to the aforementioned past.
Today, eight-year-old-children cannot even be alone, as they have to be taken care of by a babysitter, let alone go to help a family’s economic situation. Their tantrums over any whim are incessant, and they seemingly get to insult anyone, adult or kid, with little or no reprimand. Nonetheless, physical punishment is considered heinous and reportable, and as other forms of punishment seem to be ineffective, parents prefer to give their children what they want or to keep them entertained playing with a mobile phone. This has even turned the tables, and kids are the ones hitting their parents now; more than 4300 parents report their kids´ violence in Spain, being these barely the 15% of the violence cases that are taken place.
School is now available for everyone; however, most kids, when reaching a certain age, learn only how to waste completely their educative experience, to which, nevertheless, once their obligatory education is ended at the age of sixteen, they refuse to give up on, in order to apply to university. That way, Spain is 7th in Europe for having the most students in secondary school, and 6th for students in universities. However, in 2017, 18.3% of those students between the ages of 18 and 24 gave up on their studies, which is a high percentage if compared with the EU’s average, which only registers a percentage of 10.6%. This shows that too many people get to go to university but lack the level needed to accomplish the results that are asked, and as they cannot depend on the teachers help as they did in middle and high school, they finally decide to give up on their studies. That way, kids grow to be careless about their studies, hoping that their teachers or their parents will solve their issues, and when their own effort is needed, they prove to be incompetent.
Therefore, if we analyse the Spanish youth nowadays, we can observe the wonderful evolution of the human being: a creature that adores wasting their opportunities and ruining the effort of their ancestors. If something is clear, it is that comfort weakens us: we respond to our parents´ reliance and affection with disrespect; to the minor work pressure and the growing facilities in schools with little effort and loss of ambition. We human beings are truly capable of destroying everything good we have and transforming it into something bad; we are experts in ignoring our good luck and closing our eyes, hoping every bad thing goes away or someone else fixes it for us. The problem will arise when, in a few years, we all think in the same way, and nobody will be able to do things for themselves. Then, we will all fail and will have to start all over again.