The "kids these days" fallacy

I remember hearing as a kid adults saying that kids these days are lazy, don’t respect their parents, and don’t have any manners. I knew that wasn’t true, and if it was, the older people were lousy when they were kids too. So I waited to see if my generation turned out to be terrible. (We didn’t.) Then people my age started complaining about how this next generation was awful, wears ugly clothes, and listens to bad music. Like it was a unique phenomenon! How short our memories are.

Here’s my question(s.) When did this start? Are there good examples of famous people/well-known books through the ages expressing this idea, preferably quotes that look very silly in hindsight? Is there a name for this phenomenon? Are there scientific/sociological studies that find that humanity is getting MORE considerate, more just, and all that–or just generally written to address this issue’?

I know it’s a broad and squishy question. But just a name or schema for what I’m talking about would help loads.

Aristophanes’ Clouds has a bit about how children used to be better behaved than they were in 423 BC:

PS, before someone else posts it, this quotehas been attributed to Socrates (or Plato quoting Socrates), but appears to be bogus:

This may be a paraphrase of the passage from Aristophanes.

Paul Lynde said it best,

I’m sure there were Paleolithic adults who bitched about the kids defacing their cave walls.

Pull your goddamn pants up.

It should be said that Aristophanes wrote comedy and The Clouds is satire. The passage quoted is a parody of people who went “kids these days.” It was a cliché even by 423 BCE.

It’s all free love and fight the power until you hit 40.

It’s known as the Golden Age fallacy.

As Colibri notes, it’s been around forever. The Greeks were just one of a multitude of cultures who believed that current humanity had fallen from a Golden Age. The Biblical myth of Eden is another variant.

I’m sure some studies have been done to address some aspects of this, but the broader notion is hopeless because it is so completely undefined and undefinable. What’s good behavior? What’s bad behavior? How often does it have to be exhibited to be general? The world is a giant moshpit of individuals behaving individually. How can that ever be numerated? And what difference could it make? Nothing can ever compete with selective memories and cherrypicked examples. Even the obvious reductio ad absurdum of how totally unlivable a world would be in which each generation was measurably and noticeably worst than the last for hundreds of generations doesn’t seem to phase believers. They just place the Golden Age at any point in the past they want to start from, a different time for each argument.

Really, what you’re talking about is life. You can’t expect that, of all things, to be rational.

Yes, I’m pretty sure boys have been “anointing themselves below the navel” since forever.

It’s simply that older people are usually nostalgic for their youth, while forgetting how questionable or terrible that youth likely was, even for them. It’s a trap that we all fall into simply because we find that our ability to accept change becomes lessened (if it was ever that strong) as we age.

What’s ironic is that according to many population experts, there will be FEWER children in the future meaning that, there likely be much for people of my generation (late 40s) to bitch about when we get older. I’m certain that we’ll find SOMETHING; we just won’t have as easy a time as our parents did.

As noted, this complaint has been going on forever. What is new is that this complaint has less legitimacy than it ever has in the past based on many measures. Dopers in general are not dumb yet we had a recent thread asking if homework and school requirements for our kids are much harder than anything we had to go through. The basic answer is yes, and the differences are measurable. My kids go to really good public schools in the U.S. that rank near the top of the charts worldwide (yes, they do exist) yet this is a widespread phenomenon.

There is a general phenomenon called the Flynn Effec that means that standardized tests have to constantly be re calibrated higher and higher over the decade to recenter average student performance. There are a lot of theories about why that happens including better general health to removing lead paint from the environment but the effect is extremely large. An average student in 1950 would be a special needs student today if they were dropped into the same classroom.

I grew up in the 1980’s and there was no way that we got better academic or social expectations than anything my daughters do today. We listened to Heavy Metal music and talked about satanic music while we smoked in the student’s lounge before we went to work after school with no homework.

Most kids today make me sick. All of their music is catchy, poppy and innocent. The most controversial thing they have is Miley Cyrus and that is pathetic on the rebellion scale. They just sit on their asses and do homework or official school activities and just hope that they will get into a good college based on hundreds of thousands of others just like them.

I laugh at their youth because I don’t think they are getting the most out of it compared to younger generations. Many of them won’t even learn how to drive until they are adults because they don’t have the money to do it. That is different from my Gen-X generation. I personally lost 5 friends to drunk driving accidents before I was 20 and two more by 25 yet the new ones don’t seem to be as keen on that idea. Who is better in that regard?


This being GQ, let’s not go on rants about “the kids these days” and how they make you sick. The first part of your post is more of what we should see in this thread. If you want to ask “who is better?”, then the proper place for that is IMHO.

Anyone who wishes to opine on this subject is welcome to start another thread in GD or IMHO, but let’s stick to the question in the OP.

General Questions Moderator

I am sorry. That was supposed to be satire although it obviously did not work. Kids today don’t make me ‘sick’. I think we have the most talented bunch of the lot so far in all of human history. I get irritated when older people suggest that there is something wrong with the current generation when the statistics suggest otherwise. Not all was rosy with any previous generation either. Everything I know about the younger generations is very mild compared to anything that both my parents and I grew up with.

There is a potential generation clash in every species. I’m sure the ‘kids these days’ notion appeared soon after an ape was capable of speech and reason.

I think I’ve posted a longer version of this anecdote here before. Suffice to say I know women who are middle aged with early twenties/late teen daughters now that I knew when they were themselves in their early twenties/late teens. And I’ve heard them expressing how scandalised they are about how slutty young women of today dress when going out in the evening. But I quietly chuckle and think to myself “if your daughters dressed any more scantily than *you *did when going out clubbing twenty five years ago, your daughters would be going out stark naked!”.

It’s not a fallacy. Kids have been steadily declining for 2400 years. Greek kids weren’t taking selfies and listening to dubstep, afterall. Imagine what kids will be up to in 4400.

It became more noticeable in the 60’s, when more than 50% of the world’s population was under 25.

Some people blamed Dr. Spock. Me, I blame Dr. Salk. Hard to get up to too much mischief in an iron lung.

I see a lot of kids and as far as I can tell they’re a pretty decent lot, with the usual percentage of inconsiderate jerks. They get worse during the puberty years but then who doesn’t?

It worked.