When I was ten years old, all the girls in Mr. Painter’s fifth grade class loved Kirk Cameron. The curly haired ABC TV icon of 1988 won the hearts of all the pre-teen females…and earned the ire of all their male counterparts. Because of this, we, the proud boys of Albany Avenue Elementary School, created “The Kirk Cameron Haters Club”.
Although this militia never advanced past the “Commodore 64 printed newsletter” phase, we were firm in our stance. Kirk Cameron must be stopped and our club was the way to do it.
Considering that it’s 2017 and Kirk Cameron doesn’t rule the world, I’d say our club was pretty damn successful. I had all but forgotten about our late ’80s mission (and Kirk Cameron himself, if I’m being honest) until my daughter approached me with a computer question.
“Are we low on ink? My PowerPoint document isn’t printing correctly.”
“Your PowerPoint document?”
“Yes. For Suzann’s club. I’m a board member. I’m just waiting on my official notebook.”
I laughed to myself as I envisioned my eight year old daughter sipping a latte at her board meeting while watching Phineas and Ferb. Quickly, though, my condescending mental mockery turned into confused pride as I caught a glance at exactly what she was printing.
“Suzann’s No Bully Club? Is this something they had you do at school?”
“No. We came up with it ourselves. We made the sign.”
Some proud parental moments can be seen coming. Graduations, birthdays, milestones – all easily telegraphed. Other moments of pride, though, hit you out of nowhere. This was one of them.
Up until then, I had only heard about anti-bullying campaigns through second and third hand sources. They usually involved extreme examples of college kids crying about “safe spaces” or “delicate millennials that can’t defend themselves”. Like many others, I had sneered at this downfall of Western Civilization and wondered why these “snowflakes”, as they’re often called, couldn’t be tough like us.
My daughter, though, is tough. She’s never come running to me to defend her and even has a nemesis in her school whom she trades threatening glances with (I think he likes her). There’s nothing delicate here. No safe spaces or sheltered upbringing exist in our home.
Instead, Olivia and her friends have learned something at eight that some adults still struggle to understand. Life is better when people treat each other right and stand up to those who don’t. There is not only strength in numbers but strength in conviction. The argument is made that today’s youth aren’t as tough as the generations before them. I’d argue that they are not only just as tough, but even more so. When you’re forced to fight a bully because “that’s what growing up is all about”, you’re learning to defend your own self-interests. When you choose to fight against bullying itself to help those who can’t, you’re learning to defend basic human decency. Of the two, that’s the most important principle.
Unlike my Junior High School, where everyone stood around watching the class nerd get thrown down the staircase multiple times without saying a word, Olivia’s classmates would stand up for him. Toughness doesn’t mean that you fight against people. It means you fight for people. You fight for those who deserve it and stand up for what’s right. In third grade, these kids are demonstrating the type of strength that many people my age still haven’t been able to embrace. It’s easy to keep your mouth shut about injustice until someone is in your face and attacking. It’s hard to see injustice from afar and step in to help those protect themselves from a situation that would never affect you otherwise.
So say what you want about the snowflake generation. They’re going to be just fine. Their priorities are straight and their intentions are good. Thankfully they won’t have to suffer through the same growing pains that we did.