Why are we producing so many incompetent young people? This may just prove to be the most important question of our time.
Why are so many young people incompetent?
Of course, the question is underpinned by the notion that we are producing incompetent young people - and more so than in the past. It also requires a definition of incompetent.
Let me address with the second issue first. Setting aside dictionary definitions, I am defining ‘incompetent’ as the ‘inability to function effectively and efficiently in the world, dealing well with the multitude of issues that life throws up, without the support of their parents’.
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To the first point, Australian social psychologist Hugh McKay's research suggests that counselling 19-22 year olds through their first and second years away from home is not only one of the fastest growing areas of psychology, it is at almost epidemic proportions.
There is a saying that if a pre-war child was dropped in the bush, 300km from civilisation, they would find their way home, while a post-war Baby Boomer would find their way home from 160km and Generation X adults could navigate 40km, while Millennials would struggle to navigate 3.2km.
Millennials may have mastered the digital environment, but all too many seem to lack the skills to navigate the real world and all the challenges it has to throw at us.
Hugh McKay suggests that Millennials are arguably the least equipped group of adults to ever exist on this planet.
They often stay at home well beyond adulthood, needing the emotional and practical support of their family as well as financial support.
There is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate that they simply lack the skills to deal with everyday life issues, which previous generations never gave a second thought – many still takea parent to the doctors when they go, ask a parent for a lift to and from university, seek parental support in completing simple government forms, and consider any conflict in the work environment as bullying or intimidating.
They are taking more sick days and needing much more emotional support.
Why is this so?
McKay suggests that there are a number of contributing factors, including:
To this list, I would add:
Young people are getting wrapped in cotton wool. Parents who think they are protecting their children are being selfish, condemning them to live with incompetence that will damage their quality of life.
In addition to the issues I have noted above, these young adults are less resistant to illnesses, more likely to have allergies, more likely to have emotional problems, less socially equipped and more likely to suicide.
When I was at school, I lived in the country. My teacher father used to kick we kids out of the house at 8.30am after breakfast on school holidays and tell us not to come back until lunch time. We would play in the bush and the river, and if we did remember to come back for lunch, we did the same thing in the afternoon.
What's more, there were no more child fatalities then and there are less child abductions now. The only thing that is different is the competence of our youth as they enter adulthood.
So tell me, has this been your experience? I'd love to know.