Three Things This Week
1. The Kids Are Still Alright
What it is: University professor Rob Jenkins believes today’s students are in many ways more advanced academically than students from previous generations.
Why it’s hopeful: As parents and teachers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging this generation for their foibles (small attention span, addicted to technology). “Youth is wasted on the young” the old saying goes. Instead, Professor Jenkins encourages us to “Look for the good” and “expect excellence” from them. “I find myself being reminded by young people every day that life is good and beautiful and exciting and worth living.” We can learn a great deal from our students about racial equality, social justice, saving money, and how to use the new iPhone X! Teachers, here are four quick ways to grab your student’s attention during the first five minutes of class.
What it is: A new social media app exploding on college campuses designed to connect students through like-minded activities, interests, and hobbies.
Why it’s kinda different: Designed as a “Swiss Army knife for all things on campus”, creator Greg Isenberg believes the app will change how university students communicate with their peers. Unlike Facebook or Snapchat that connect students who already know one another, Islands introduces students to new peer groups by unlocking all the different group chats on campus. So far, freshmen are the largest group of early adopters. Look for Islands to jump markets and move down into high school by next semester.
3. Call it What You Want
What it is: Released just after midnight last night, it’s the fourth single from Taylor Swift’s upcoming album, Reputation.
Why it’s sad: If the “old Taylor is dead”, the new Taylor still has something in common with her former self; she’s vindictive. From “Picture to Burn”, “Bad Blood”, “Look What You Made Me Do”, and now “Call it What You Want”, Swift has built a career out of making revenge songs sound like love songs. In part because her consistent solution to relational problems is not only a new boyfriend, but a “scorched earth” policy toward her enemies. The pop diva has the platform to empower an entire generation of young girls, but we mourn the fact she’s using her influence to communicate that being strong means burning bridges, seeking revenge, and harboring anger. Real strength lies in the ability to forgive, reconcile, and move on. Ask your daughter what takes more courage: to live in anger with classmates who have wronged her, or forgive them. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Releasing on Netflix November 17, Marvel’s newest show is about a “brutal, assault rifle-toting” anti-hero Frank Castle and his violent mission to fight crime. Unlike most Marvel heroes, the Punisher is known for his incredible arsenal of firearms.
The Punisher was originally scheduled to release in October, but Netflix and Marvel delayed the premier and felt it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to hype the show in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. But they’re still releasing it. “For an industry that excels at selling spectacular depictions of violence — especially with guns — does moving off a release date really mean anything?” And what about us, the passive consumers? If our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of violence, yet our time and money are spent consuming it, are we not also complicit in our culture’s continual devaluing of human life? The Punisher may not look like the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, or Colorado killers, but “mass shooters style themselves to be men like the Punisher”, doling out their own version of vigilante justice. Scarier still, teens not only identify with their favorite anti-heroes, studies show they also mimic them in real life. Research proves that elevated exposure to violence increases one’s tolerance of violence, meaning, the more media violence teens are exposed to, the more normal it appears in real life.
And maybe that’s the real problem, we’ve just become so inured to it. We’ve welcomed it into our homes through TV and movies, and wonder why it breaks out in our churches and schools. If your son watches The Punisher, ask him how the violence is portrayed. Did they make it exciting and glamourous? Was violence linked with masculinity or “being a man”? Did the show make violence the only solution for eliminating evil, and why is that important?
If “every act of violence brings us closer to death” may we as parents and teachers create life-giving environments in our homes and classrooms that provide an alternative to the cultural presumption that violence is always necessary and inevitable.
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