Generation Z: Is There Hope for the Future? by Christina Knowles

Generation Z Generation Z. We’ve heard a lot about them. And a lot of it is true. They are glued to their phones and computers, they prefer snapping pictures of the board to taking notes, and generally they would rather Google answers instead of reading a book. They are realistic and question the system they’ve been brought up in. They question tradition and think for themselves. And they are the sweetest, most compassionate, and socially conscious generation I’ve ever encountered in my teaching career.

My students realize what kind of world they live in, and they don’t accept the failed solutions of previous generations. They are cynical about bureaucratic systems, but they are idealistic about the world. They know they need to make money, and they usually have a plan of how to make it, but they want to make it while changing the world for the better.

They want to do something meaningful with their lives; they want to serve the community with their careers. Not like the Peace Corp hippies (which I love, by the way) of the past, but through their innovation and creativity.

Generation Z-ers are looking for ways to create the next big thing, the next big thing that will make them lots of money, and the next big thing that will slow climate change, feed the poor, and feed them organically. They want to cure cancer and AIDS. Or maybe invent the next trendy technology, and then donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity like some of their favorite socially conscious companies—Be Good, Fair Trade Winds, and Toms. Somehow, they learned to care about others even with their noses in their phones, maybe even using those phones to learn about what needs changing.

They are accepting of other people more than any generation I’ve ever seen. For the last couple of years, I’ve seen a change in the classroom—students who are kind to people who are different, students who have compassion for the developmentally and physically challenged, who have understanding and respect for their LGBT neighbors, and kindness for the socially awkward. Of course, there is a bully or a bigot here and there, but these kids are the most socially sophisticated people I have ever met. They discuss differences in civilized tones, make friends with people completely different than themselves, and stand up to these few bullies that rise up around them. This gives me hope for our future.

So, these kids may live at home with their parents a little too long, they may lazily Google their homework, they may decide college is too expensive after weighing the costs, and they may question everything I tell them (I love that, by the way), but our future is safe in their hands, and we definitely can rest in the knowledge that this group won’t simply cast aside the previous generations as useless because they are way too nice for that.

We can also trust them to find solutions to environmental problems, stand up for animal rights, fight for the rights of every oppressed group, they will raise their hands when they disagree with us, and jump up to help the transgendered kid who dropped his books. They will politely quote a philosopher they discovered on Reddit, Vine, Medium, or whatever social media site they are currently using. They will throw out our old ideas along with our misconceptions of their inability to take care of themselves and prove us right when we say, “Kids these days—there really is hope for the future.” –Christina Knowles

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“Country” by Christina Knowles

stones on riverCascading watercolor gravel

Winds and descends

‘round shady bends

Decaying pastel stones

Trip precariously over hills

The breeze

kisses the scented pines

Whispering clouds

Tell secrets

As the wind awakens

Russet leaves

Swoop and swirl in a mock tornado

While the maddening

Ticking

Of the insect population

Fades to silence

A dazzling autumn

Day in the country

Peaceful

and

Chaotic

–Christina Knowles

Photo snagged from wallpaperstock.net

Breathe

mediateJust breathe

Sinking deeper, I turn inward

Searching for me

Just rest here awhile

Letting the thoughts drift

Along the outer edges of my mind

Immersed in my inner sanctuary

I don’t need anything

Safe and alone

Peace settles over me like a soft blanket

Drift

Just breathe

The air filling my lungs

Satisfies me

I am content with nothing more than breath

Assuaged and serene

I rest

No expectations

With every exhalation

Taking me down

Further into me

A soft breeze kisses my skin

The wings of a bird flutter overhead

In a nearby tree

These images drift slowly in my mind

Before dissipating like fog in the sun

Just breathe

–Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from lifescapesolutions.com

Art by Christina Knowles

PALETTE KNIFE Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov
PALETTE KNIFE Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov

A canvas

Colors vividly swirl

A painted sky

Cloud-swept and clean

A sharp and jagged mountain

Cut with a palette knife

The paint tells a story of its own

Not realistic but real

More real than nature

The truth underneath

Revealing

What the soul sees

What the heart knows

Life uncovered

Art shows the true story

A story so important

Not everyone can understand it

The unfortunate go blindly

Through mountains and meadows

By seascapes and down winding paths

Looking but never seeing

While the artist strips away the veil

And brightens the picture

Revealing what was there all along

Hidden from the ordinary

Knowing there is no such thing

The extraordinary is all around us

Hiding, pretending to be banal, bourgeois

Until the artist brushes truth

On a canvas.

–Christina Knowles (2009)

Image: PALETTE KNIFE Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov

Transformed by Christina Knowles

Sun peaking through cloudsSleeping through the everyday

Unconsciously conformed

Never noticing my malaise

When brewing there a storm

Dark skies block the rays

Clouds twist and deform

It’s hard to find my way

Asleep, but in the form

Pain penetrates the gray

In loss I am reformed

In presence I appraise

The life I’ve lived and ways

Ways, my anguish informs

And in the balance weighs

Surviving pain transforms

Illuminated, consciously ablaze

Awake and knowing I will mourn

But joy I hold in yesterday

And love today is warm

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from shutterstock.com

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