by Rhee Gold
Almost every dance teacher who has been at it for a while says, “The kids today are not who they used to be.”
They may be different, but I am beginning to understand why. Our kids live in a world where they arrive at school or the movie theater looking for the emergency exits—just in case. They have grown up in an America that prioritizes politics over their safety. Yesterday’s youth did not experience that.
Kids live in a world where adults argue all day, every day, over politics, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and other divisive issues, with many adults completely comfortable insulting those who think differently. Their country, communities, and families are divided. Their leaders call each other names; say one thing, but do another. Integrity and honesty fall in second place behind the almighty dollar. Yesterday’s youth did not experience that.
Since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teens have risen up in a way that I had never seen in my more than half-century of life. The kids speaking up at marches and rallies are the same kids who dance through our classrooms.
No, they are not the same as kids in previous generations, but perhaps they are what they need to be for the times they are living in. They are smart and courageous, and they deserve our best.
Let us create safe environments where students can express emotion through art. Let us nurture acceptance by encouraging our students to use the common bond of dance to lift each other up, and work to instill positive self-image and confidence in every student. Years from now, our kids should look back at their time with us and remember the dance studio as a safe, nurturing, and inspiring place.
This year and beyond will only bring greater responsibility for dance educators to set a good example by respecting one another and becoming the best mentors, leaders, and teachers we can be.
No, the kids today are not the same. They are not outside playing past dusk when the streetlights come on or riding their bikes around the neighborhood, unsupervised, like we did. But they are teaching adults a lesson in common sense, and using their voices for change. I believe that they are doing an awesome job creating a better future for all of us.