Accountability and Youth

| June 29, 2011

Today I came across an article on Flavorwire entitled “Anti-Domestic Violence Group to Protest Odd Future at Pitchfork Fest“. As I read the article I noticed the name of one of the members of Odd Future (a rap collective), Tyler the Creator. The name jumped out at me because a few weeks ago my younger brother told me to listen to the rapper, because he was doing amazing things within the genre of hip hop. I never got around to it, and after reading this article, I definitely won’t even look for his music.

For eons teenagers have been doing things to upset adults. I know I tested boundaries with my parents when I was a teenager. However, as someone about the enter the teaching field, I wonder about messages like what this group sends out into the world (messages of hate, homophobia, violence against women and violence in general) and how they will affect my future students.

Tyler uses derogatory words to refer to homosexuals and then responds in interviews by saying things like:

“If you call me a n—–,” he continued, “I really don’t care, but that’s just me, personally. Some people might take it the other way; I personally don’t give a s—.” (Hawking, Flavorwire, 2011)

My response to this is, “Why?” And I am not only concerned with the why of not caring, but also the why in regards to the shock of what he says. I guess that the point is shock, but what is his deeper message? Maybe there isn’t one.The commentors to the site, mostly fans of the group, roundly approved of his and anyone else’s right to say whatever and do whatever they want all the time. Sigh…who are raising these young people?

To me, his message says that no one should feel responsible or accountable for what they say, because words are just words and they have no meaning. What does this teach young, impressionable people – adolescents, particularly – about interactions and personal conduct? It seems so nihilistic to me, like there is no point in doing anything within the boundaries of society, because nothing should matter to you anyway.

This makes me wonder: what happens when I come up against a kid who lives in constant apathy, and has no care for what he or she says to others or what they say to her? Doesn’t that signal psychopathy? I have heard of the “Me Generation” and after this experience, it kind of scares me.  What are my best options for getting through to someone like that?

Veteran teachers, are you out there? Please respond in the comments!