It's what you say, not how you say it
For all that is said about the lackadaisical nature of today's youth, anyone who spends any amount of time with them at all will find that there is more to them than the text messages and myspace pages that seem to dominate an adult's perception of the coming generation. They seem unafraid of violence that has erupted within schools over the last decade and in tune with an increasingly complex economic and political future.
After interviewing a small portion of the students at Carbon High, I found that more than 75 percent of Mrs. Tubbs economics's class work at least part-time jobs and do so for a wide variety of reasons.
Many work because their parents have made it clear that if they wish to have their own cell phone, they will also have their own bill. But many reported that working is simply something they are doing because it is part of growing up and learning how to operate in the world they will one day control.
As electronic communication becomes more and more prevalent, work and school have become increasingly important to the way young people communicate face to face. And while every student I talked with said they do use text messaging as a prominent communication tool, there was a rift between those who feel it affects their overall interpersonal skills.
Alyssa Howell, a junior at the local high school has worked for more than a year at the same company. A job she says she got to pay for her phone and the clothes she needed for school. When I asked her about text messaging, she smiled shyly and did admit that it is something she does quite a bit.
"When I got back back to school I did have to think about punctuation and spelling things out because of all the texting I had done over the summer," she said.
She along with others at the school explained that there are so many acronyms used in the text messaging world that many students now say things like "lol" and "brb" to one another when speaking.
Kelcee Gilson, an honors student in Mrs. Tubb's class reported that her electronic practices have not affected her person to person skills and also stated that talking to someone is still far superior to sending a text message.
"I work as a waitress though," said Gilson. "So I get a lot of practice dealing with people face to face."
Some students including Merlinda Molinar stated that messaging can provide a type of shield between sender and receiver.
"There are things I will say to a person through at text message that I would say differently if we were talking," she stated. "Sometimes it is easier to text how you really feel."
Justin Child, who reported that he texts so much that he "definitely has to concentrate in order to not say things like 'lol' out loud," was in favor of face to face communication when it came to a serious issue.
The effect of electronic communication can be seen readily, according to Carbon Principal Greg Stanfield.
"When I was teaching a geography class in 2003, I wanted my students to write a pen pal letter," he explained. "And they had no clue. I had to sit down with every one of them and go through how a person writes a letter. They just communicate with one another very differently."
Stanfield did agree that today's youth will face social and economic challenges that differ from the ones seen in the past.
While school shootings were once something that only lived in the nightmares of parents they have become a very real possibility for today's youth. For that reason the school district will be presenting a special program open to the public called Rachel's Challenge to be hosted in Carbon's auditorium.
Rachel Scott was the first girl killed at the Columbine shooting in Colorado. The program will focus on kindness and compassion and will use the theme, "you just might start a chain reaction."
While violence was not brought up during my discussion with the students at Carbon High, politics was. For many the 2008 election will be the last that the young adults will spend on the sidelines. And even though, none that I spoke to will be able to vote in the coming election they have definitely began to draw their own party lines. They discussed the difference between Barak Obama and John McCain with a steady ease and ability to convey why they would pick one over the other. They also were very aware of the stir caused by the choosing of Sarah Pallin as republican nominee for vice president and why she may have been chosen.
There is a definite correlation between the amount of information and communication available to the youth of today and the power that they may or may not choose to wield with it. But after speaking with this small group of students it became apparent that their mode of communication is far less important than it content.
However, it is also apparent that it is no longer the pen that is mightier than the sword.