These young people today, with their "knockout game," fight clubs and sagging pants. Oh, the horror—the horror!
Anyone reading local and national headlines the past couple weeks would arrive at the conclusion that kids, and black kids in particular, have lost their minds and are threatening to shred the very fabric of the American social order.
On the national scene, news of a so-called knockout game where teenagers go around attacking innocent strangers started out on conservative websites but has since been picked up by mainstream news outlets like CNN and USA Today. Despite the media hype, the New York Times recently reported of the so-called knockout game trend: "Police officials in several cities where such attacks have been reported said that the 'game' amounted to little more than an urban myth, and that the attacks in question might be nothing more than the sort of random assaults that have always occurred."
Closer to home, a spate of fights at Murrah High School spurred the same sort of overblown hysteria. News of a few recurring fights between the same groups of kids, some of whom unwisely created dedicated social-media accounts to enshrine and promote the skirmishes and rumors of more serious acts of violence to come, got picked up by local media outlets.
Things appeared to snowball from there as the kids, who now had the attention of the press, started ratcheting up their online antics, which fueled more media reports—including The Clarion-Ledger irresponsibly publishing videos of children fighting on its website—and, understandably, prompted parents to rush to the school to take their children out of school.
These are serious events that should provoke community conversation, but too much of the discussion in the aftermath of the Murrah fights has consisted of worn-out tropes about today's generation of youths lacking the moral character of generations past—to say nothing of today's too-anxious-to-coddle parents, the theory goes.
These stories we tell ourselves simply don't hold water. All the way back in 1922, a 14-year-old student named George Cisney died from the result of a fight at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. That deadly fight was preceded by another fight between two classmates, The New York Times reported at the time.
Two students were shot after a fight at Manhattan high school in 1971. And nationwide, news stories about school brawls by kids of all races were common in the 1980s, '90s and through today.
It's high time we admit that there is nothing wrong with kids today. But there is something very wrong with insisting that there is.